Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: June 7th 2012
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. 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.
(from Goodreads)

I have to admit that I liked Scarlet way more than I thought I would. It was one of those special books that not only had great and complex characters, but also had an exciting plot. In a lot of books, character development is sometimes sacrificed to create a more plot-driven story, or vice versa, but Scarlet was definitely the best of both worlds.

Will Scarlet, our heroine, was brilliant. It took me a while to get used to the way she spoke (all the “was”s being replaced with “were”s was a bit difficult to read at first) but I think it added to Scar’s personality in the end. A foul-mouthed thief and the best knife handler around, she was everything I wanted in a main character. She had a tough, fierce exterior, but what a lot of people (her friends included) failed to realise (at least, until later on in the book) was that she was actually quite selfless and self-sacrificial to the point of being almost self-destructive. Her past remained a mystery until the later part of the second half, so we didn’t really know why she acted the way she did for a large portion of the book. She often skipped meals in order to give food to people she thought were more worthy of it, and Robin (quite understandably) got angry with her for doing so. Starving herself like that was clearly stupid, because without food, she’d have no strength to fight or steal – and then how could she help people? It definitely made me wonder about her past and why she seemed to feel like she was so unworthy and unlikeable. She was a flawed character, but we all know those are my favourite kind. Perfection is boring, after all. I also loved the way Scar was her own person, and did whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Asking for permission was alien to her, and she hated it when people treated her like she wasn’t an equal, or like they owned her. Scar may have done and said some stupid things at times, but no-one could accuse her of being a weak girl just waiting for someone to rescue her.

Rob was probably one of the most intriguing portrayals of Robin Hood I’ve come across. I’m not an expert and only vaguely familiar with the story of Robin Hood, but I’ve seen a film or two and a few episodes from that BBC series and I have to say, Rob in Scarlet was quite fascinating. He wasn’t exactly merry (though the book was still really funny – but more on that later) and while he was a hero, it was like...I don’t know. He wasn’t just a hero for the sake of it, he didn’t just help people because it was the right thing to do (though of course, that did play a part). It seemed like he was helping people to make up for past mistakes. He regretted a lot, and sometime the things he had done years ago made him feel sick with himself, and trying to better the lives of other people was the only way he could atone for what he’d done. Of course, he could see that the people were being treated so unfairly, and would have helped them even if he weren’t trying to make up for his past – but I think the reason he did it all with such fervour was because of his guilt and even perhaps disgust for himself. He, too, was far from perfect. Rob’s relationship with Scar was also great to read about. He clearly cared about her, but didn’t seem t want to because it would disrupt the band. He got jealous and upset when John showed an interest in her, and then accused Scar of toying with people’s feelings, when he was the one who was constantly hot and cold. I thought I’d hate the whole love triangle with Rob, Scar and John, but I actually didn’t, mostly because it wasn’t really a love triangle. True, John did show an interest in Scar, but she never really reciprocated and it was obvious she liked Rob from the first page.

John was the most difficult character, for me. I liked him and thought he was funny, but he was also kinda sleazy and didn’t exactly help himself when he spoke to Scar :P. He did care about her though and helped her out when she needed him to (or when she needed to talk to someone). Much was awesome, and was like a member of Scar’s family. I liked the way Scar helped him with his weapons and the way Much was always kind and logical. One of the best parts though, was the conversations the band had with each other. They could be so funny – so funny! The situation with Jenny Percy made me laugh so much and another hilarious part was when John was talking to the rest of the band about Scar. So many funny moments, which I really didn’t expect.

I only had one real problem with Scarlet, and that was with the ending. It felt like it was just cut-off, like it wasn’t really finished. This would be perfectly fine if there’s going to be a sequel (and I really hope there will be), but if not, then I feel like not everything was as wrapped up as it could have been. I could have done with some more Scar and Rob moments and I wanted to know what the villainous Gisbourne was going to do next! But apart from that, Scarlet was a great read.

Overall, I really enjoyed Scarlet and would recommend it to anyone who likes retellings and really strong heroines who don’t take orders from anyone. 

11 comments:

  1. I really loved this book so I'm glad you enjoyed it. Have to agree about the ending thou - Im seriously hoping for a sequel, fingers crossed! Great review :)

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  2. I've seen this around a lot and felt a bit ambivalent towards it but from your review it actually sounds really good! I kinda like the idea of them feeling they need to make up for past mistakes and not just being all goody-goody and sacrificial because it's 'right'. thanks for the awesome review Liz!

    The Cait Files

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  3. I'm dying to read this book since I'm a Robin Hood fan. Glad to hear you enjoyed it! Great review!

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  4. So glad that this one was better than you expected! I have been on the fence about reading this one for some time now and I guess I should just give it a chance. I do like the story of Robin Hood so it should be interesting to see how it goes in this book.

    I know the cover for her newest book has been on several cover posts lately but I'm not sure if that is a sequel or a stand alone book..worth looking into though since you enjoyed this book.

    Thanks for the awesome review!

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  5. Oooh, a Robin Hood retelling/spin.. thing? Haha. Count me in! I'll have to look for this one...

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  6. This sounds so awesome! I really want to read it. Amazing review :) I am glad you enjoyed it.

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  7. I do have this one to review and I am looking forward to it. Your review just pushed it up the pile.

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  8. Oooh, I was interested before, but having read my first review for this? Brodie WANT. I'm so curious to learn more about Scarlet's past and how it's had such an affect on her now. She sounds like such an amazing heroine, I want to see more girls in YA who have both heart and the ability to kick your ass seven ways to Sunday :P

    Rob has also peaked my interest. I'm already loving how Gaughen has twisted on the original Robin Hood.

    Amazing review, Liz! So, so eager to get my hands on this now!

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  9. Hmmm - the dialect would drive me crazy. I hate dialect, but everyone raves about this book. I'm going to have to read it.

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  10. Argh, comment didn't post :/ Take 2!

    So... I'm going to have to read this book! Asher was raving about it a while ago and now you really liked it and so what else is there to do but read it for myself? :) Scar sounds like a genuinely awesome MC and I'm definitely intrigued by the whole selfless to the point of self-destructive point. I'm pretty much like you in the sense that I only know the basic rundown of Robin Hood but I'm certainly not opposed to learning more! :) This sounds like a unique twist of it, too... I love when authors do that - so much more fun! Great review, Liz! <3

    Sonia

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  11. Great review! I have been so super curious about this book for quite a while now. The characters sound SO great. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book!

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