An electronic copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series Scarlet
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Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.
It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.
I admit that I actually didn’t bother reading the summary before purchasing this book. I had heard from countless trusted bloggers how amazing this story was so knew I needed to read it sooner than later.
Upon reading the first chapter I was excited to learn that I was about to embark upon a retelling of Robin Hood. I’ve always had a special place for the Prince of Thieves. I honestly can’t think of a version of the classic I’ve not enjoyed to some degree (even the movie remake with Kevin Costner). There is something so romantic, mesmerizing and engaging about this story.
In her book, A.C. Gaughen puts her own twist on the classic by changing Will Scarlet’s gender. Throughout the history of the Robin Hood story many versions of Will have existed. Some have him loving finery and being of noble birth, some have him as brooding. A couple of factors typically stayed the same and that was the he was always younger than the other Merry Men and had a close relationship with Robin.
My favorite depictions of him were those where he was mysterious and quiet. I was more than pleased that Gaughen took some of my favorite elements of this character while also portraying a strong, passionate woman. Since Will’s character has always been a bit elusive I loved the idea that he was really a she (I’m not sure I can ever get tired of the gender bending trope). Gaughen’s Scarlet is fierce without losing her femininity. I loved how brave she was but also her own internal struggles that gave her character vulnerability. I loved reading from the point of view of someone other than Robin Hood since he is always the character we follow in other interpretations.
I did run into one slight problem that eased as I continued to read–Scarlet speaks (and thinks) in the common tongue which used ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ and other grammatical mistakes. Of course, this was done on purpose to not only help the reader experience the book as a commoner but also to setup the historical date the book takes place in. Each time I came upon a ‘misplaced’ were I was thrown out of the story and had to force myself to not change it to ‘was’ in my head. This might just be me but it did cause a bit of disconnect at first. As I stated though, this issue eased and soon enough I was reading with no issues.
Scarlet was fast paced and the action scenes were written beautifully. I could see the action playing out in my mind which is always a wonderful touch. Not only did Gaughen excel at creating tension in the fighting she was also able to create an emotional pull within her character’s interactions. There is a love triangle but I would say it was written so well I wasn’t bothered by it.
Both relationships felt genuine and relatable. I felt that in Scarlet’s circumstances she would truly have encountered the attention of both men. To me, love triangles feel like a device to keep the two intended apart and to cause tension that otherwise would not exist. In this novel, the tension is ever present without the love triangle being needed. It wasn’t devised to keep anyone apart as much as to show the strain of Scarlet’s life and choices.
The villain of this novel, Gisbourne, was fairly elusive and spoken of more often than seen. I could feel Scarlet’s real fear of him but he fell just short of scaring me or convincing me he would really pose the threat alluded to. I felt that the story itself was fairly obvious as it unfolded but was still gripping to read.
I loved Gaughen’s vision of Robin Hood and characterization of ‘Will’ Scarlet. I felt that she was not only capable of creating tense action scenes but also heartfelt emotional moments. Though I was able to see where the story was going I still enjoyed the journey.
Look for book 2, Lady Thief out February 11 by Walker Childrens
Scarlet Book Trailer