Author: A.C. Gaughen
Genre: Historical Fiction YA, Fantasy YA
Publisher: Walker Children’s
Published on: February 14, 2012
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge
Source: Bought it
Summary: 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.
GUYSSSSS!! Robin Hood!! I hardcore love Robin Hood in any incarnation. In fact, after reading this book, I want nothing more than to watch all my Robin Hood movies. I just nerd out over the lore, even when different tellings put a different spin on things. Just the idea of a thief who steals to help the poor basically stick it to the man really appeals to my inner underdog-lover. SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen really takes things to a different level by morphing Robin Hood’s traditional right-hand MAN and turning HIM into a HER. Except Scarlet isn’t any kind of meek flower. HELL TO THE NO! She’s a pivotal member of Robin’s band of outlaws! She’s a sneaky good thief with lots of SEKRETS! She’s good with a knife! And, most of all, she doesn’t want any special attention or protection from ANYONE just because she’s a SHE. SCARLET is a really fun, absorbing take on Robin Hood, and I enjoyed just about every minute of it. Woot!
So, obviously one of the main arcs in SCARLET is about the sexytime tension between Robin and Scarlet. The romance between them was good and swoony, but before I talk about THAT, I had just a few thoughts about Scarlet herself. They are as follows: I think that my enjoyment of her relationship with Robin and of the book in general, at least for the first half or so, was hampered a touch by my difficulty liking Scarlet. She was hard and prickly and defensive, and it grated a little. Even after we find out why she was this way–and she has a legit, good reason–I had a hard time forgetting that she was a teensy bit unlikable and brusque, and it made it just that much harder for me to see her as a romantic, loving person. But she was, in her own way, and I enjoyed reading about her connection with Robin. There is an interesting little twist with Scarlet and her place in the Robin Hood mythology here that I DUG, not only because I think it’s fun (although perhaps other people figured it out early? I had no idea that A.C. Gaughen was going to go there), but because it has some major repercussions on Scarlet and Robin’s relationship.
Speaking of relationships, the romance between the Robin and Scarlet is always kind of THERE, affecting the way the two of them interact with each other, but it’s a little…frustrating, maybe. And I mean, yes, it’s a little bit frustrating for the reader because there’s not so much ACTUAL payoff, but the frustration is DEFINITELY worse for them. Scarlet and Robin’s relationship is not so much a slow burn as it is a mutual but unacknowledged major crushing. And I say unacknowledged not because their feelings aren’t obvious; THEY ARE. But neither of them really DO anything direct about it until nearer the end, and then things kind of turn into a hot mess a little bit. There’s lots of touching and hands grazing and other assorted things that gave me butterflies, and Robin is hot to trot, but SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen is light on the kissy-face/sexytimes, so here’s to more boom in EVERYONE’S pants next time! (And more about that “next time” in a sec.)
Gisbourne was a good villain, and by good I mean nasty. He kills innocent people without batting an eye, and is generally horrible, vindictive, cold-hearted, evil, and gross. He had no redeeming anything, though, and I like my baddies to be a little more rounded. But honestly, it was easy to see not only why he was universally feared in Nottingham, but also why a certain thing with a certain character would be such a driving force behind some SEKRETS that are floating around in SCARLET. (Ooooooh! AMBIGUITY!)
One of the things I wish had been different in SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen, though, is the Merry Men. I wish we could have gotten a little better look at some of them. Little John, of course, is the exception. We get to see quite a bit of him, and he was great. Kind of a brute who’s really just a big, doofy, medieval frat brother/teddy bear. I wasn’t so sure about his little crush thing on Scarlet, but his feelings come into play in a really great way that felt like a sincere reaction. No, my gripe is really addressed to the other Merry Men we meet, Much and Friar Tuck. We don’t get to see a great deal of either of them. In fact, Friar Tuck is mostly peripheral and barely has any scenes or lines at all. One of my FAVORITE things about the Robin Hood legend is the whole “Yo, these Merry Men are my BOYZZZZ!!” vibe between Robin and the guys, and between the friar being largely absent, Much being firmly secondary, and Robin and Little John dealing with some tension and strife because of their feelings for Scarlet, I thought that bit of the story could have been developed more. Granted, the book is called SCARLET for a reason; I understand why the Merry Men often took a backseat to Scarlet and Robin. Still, I felt the absence. Scarlet spends a HUGE amount of the book just wanting to be one of the guys, except the guys spend most of the book with their breeches in a bunch over HER, so…not much male bonding.
Now, about that “next time” from just before. So, the ending features this big face-off between the good guys (meaning the thieves and outlaws; LOVE the irony, guys!) and the bad guys (meaning the killers of innocent folk who are grabby for MOAR M$NEY, aka, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Gisbourne, his hitman/muscle/enforcer). But there’s a twist, obviously, and things don’t end so tidily. Indeed, the opposite is true: The ending of SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen is very much open. I hadn’t been aware that SCARLET was going to spawn sequels, but now there totally HAS to be one. (Even though A.C. Gaughen has said SCARLET was indeed written as a standalone. BOOO!) Honestly, if there’s not ever a sequel, I’d be bummed and also a bit annoyed. But this book was incredibly fun, guys, and I can’t wait for more! *hint hint* 😉