Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen


Scarlet
A.C. Gaughen
Series: Scarlet, #1
Released: February 14th, 2012
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Rating: 4 stars
Word Rating: I should have read this sooner.
Reviewed by: Ellis

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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.


Scarlet is one of those books that come with a lot of hype. It is also one of those books I was only mildly interested in. Whenever I saw someone gushing about it, I adopted an "eh, we'll see, maybe one day" attitude. That person? Don't listen to her. She is wrong. Luckily, Meg (Cuddlebuggery) realised just how wrong the way I was living my life was and sent me a copy. I'm always in for a Red Riding Hood retelling, so I moved it up on the TBR pile. Then I read the blurb, because I'm always prepared with things like this, and discovered it was actually a Robin Hood retelling. Even better.

You see, as a kid, I used to read these "kiddie translations" of classics such as Ivanhoe, The Three Musketeers, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and, of course, Robin Hood. Behold my copy:


Meet Robin Hood and Will Scarlet. As you can see, they are both of the male variety. You know what A.C. Gaughen said to that? Let me quote from the acknowledgements: "Is it possible that Will Scarlet might have been a girl? Absolutely." You know what I say to that? "We need more people like you, Miss Gaughen. We absolutely do." Like her, I refuse to believe that badass medieval girls are some kind of anachronism. They have always been there, they will always be there, and in no way nor universe is that a bad thing. The more, the merrier! (Get it? Merry Men? Anyway.) 

Contrary to the kiddie cover, this Scarlet is not all smiles and high on life. She is grumpy. She is mean. She doesn't let anybody get close. She is hilarious, but that's more a side effect of her bluntness and her refusal to adapt to any norms and expectations. She helps Rob's gang feed and protect the people from Nottingham, but she makes it abundantly clear that she is not part of his group. She can walk away whenever she wants and she won't look back. She is that tough girl who gets shit done without making too much of a fuss. I loved every minute of it. 

Until you realise that, like any good character, there is more to her. It is clear that Scarlet is much more attached to the people around her than she cares to admit. Grumpy and mean is what she shows, in hopes that she won't have to feel the rest. In her scheme to not get emotionally involved, she often hurts people without meaning to. She runs from her problems and cries. She feels like she can't do anything right. The world may know her as Will Scarlet, the handsome lad who will risk his life to save the people of Nottingham, but in reality she is an emotional mess who struggles with her past and stays away from people because she thinks she will only bring them pain. 


It sounds like a whole lot of angst, but Gaughen manages to convey all this without making Scarlet's narrative frustrating to read. Maybe it's because of the dialect, which took some getting used to in the beginning, but which also added an extra layer of humour to the story. Maybe it was the fact that while Scarlet's struggles certainly do take up the focus of the novel, they never overshadow the action or the other characters. She might be reluctant about becoming part of the gang, but Much, Rob and John see her as one of their own and treat her as their equal. Much, especially, is integral to Scarlet getting more confident in herself.

It might also be because of the romance. See, I'm trying to act all cool and collected about this, but the romance caused me to repeatedly step away from the book and yell at people because I had thoughts and feelings that I needed to express. This is a good thing. There is a love triangle between John, Scarlet and Rob, but John is irrelevant. I guess it's admirable that of the two, he is much more straightforward with his feelings, but John is irrelevant. Scarlet wants Rob, even though she doesn't think she deserves him, so clearly John is irrelevant. 

For all his irrelevancy, however, I have fewer issues with John than I do with Rob. Make no mistake. Scarlet and Rob? I ship it. The accidental touching and the one-on-one talks had me making weird sounds of excitement. My only complaint is that I wanted more of that. A lot more. The problem with Rob, though, is his stupid honour code. He "treats Scarlet like a lady", which means he keeps his distance. In turn, it gives her the feeling that he isn't interested and that she shouldn't be surprised because she clearly doesn't deserve them. These two clearly have issues, but I have faith in them. They can work it out. Preferably with their mouths.

That being said, I did feel like there was too much focus on the romance at times. I would have loved it had there been more attention on robbing rich people and how exactly you go about that. You know, for science. I also wondered where the rest of the gang was. Rob, John, Scarlet and Much are the core of this crew, but there are others. They are briefly mentioned in the beginning, but it always seems to be just the four of them. That is awfully convenient considering they won't have to worry about revealing Scarlet's identity. Shhh, these are minor issues. The fact remains that this is one excellent book. You should learn from my mistakes and start it immediately. 


23 comments :

  1. HOW HAVE I NOT HEARD OF THIS BEFORE IT LOOKS PERFECT AND TOTALLY MY SORT OF THING.*deep breath* a robin hood re-telling with the narrator as a girl, a BADASS girl? gimme! *grabby hands*
    I'm so glad you enjoyed this because now i am totally totally getting it!
    I'm sorry about the romance having too much of the spotlight though because that's one bookish pet peeve that i absolute hate, especially if the main plot is very interesting (as this sounds) but i'm glad the romance worked and YOU HAD FEELS OVER IT. that's always good! ;)
    great review!

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    1. DON'T FEEL SHAME. It's been under my radar for a VERY long time. You know how sometimes you want to slap yourself because you didn't read something sooner? Totally happened here.

      The focus on romance didn't actually bother me. It was just something I noticed. What did bother me was that it took them so long to finally admit what the reader already knew since page 50 or something. Nevertheless, it was glorious.

      YES to feels. YES to this book. I would definitely give this one a chance! It seems like you might really like it and I've heard the sequel is even better.

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  2. Like you, I see this book and think that maybe I will get to it someday, but still haven't. After reading your review I am convinced that I need to do it soon. It's too bad there is a little too much focus on the romance, but it sounds really awesome so I think I could get past that. Fabulous review!!

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    1. Thank you! That's always so nice to hear! I feel you, but looking back on it, I really don't understand why I waited so long. The focus on the romance isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that there's a lot of it. Like you said, it's something you easily can get past when you're immersed in the story and I definitely was. I hope you'll like!

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  3. I really enjoyed this one too and like you, I kept seeing it around but I was like...maybe I'll read it. Then I finally did and wondered why I took so long to read it (the same thing happened with Cinder). Definitely Scarlet and Rob, no question and I completely agree that John is irrelevant. Can't wait for Lady Thief! Great review! ~Pam

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    1. Ah, both Cinder and Scarlet are meeting the same fate with me. I'm sure I'll like it but I never feel inclined to pick them up. But that will change sometime this year! Probably!

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    2. This. Exactly! Oh yes, I definitely had a similar reaction to The Lunar Chronicles. Cinder was solid, but Scarlet was great. Hahaha. Part of me feels bad because John does genuinely seem to care about her, but yeah, Rob + Scarlet forever. ZOMG Lady Thief. That's one advantage of reading it this late. I won't have to wait months and months for Lady Thief.

      Blythe, that probably should become a definitely.

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  4. I kind of skimmed this review because I don't tend to read reviews of books that I'm planning on reading...

    BUT between you and Gaby, you've totally convinced me to read this! I love Robin Hood (he was especially sexy as a fox), and I am very intrigued by this retelling. I don't like the sound of the romance, but I'm getting better at ignoring that. And maybe I'll enjoy it if I imagine Robin and Scarlet as foxes? Hmm.

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    1. HOW DARE YOU. No, I do this, too. Opinion influenciation (not a word, but let's roll with it) is the worst. I'm actually honoured that you'd still skim my review ^_^

      Haaa, Gaby is indeed one of the big pushers. Foxy Rob. I remember him well. The romance is actually good, though there are some frustrating and problematic elements about it. Maybe it's one of those things that you shouldn't ship when you think about it, but you do because feels everywhere. Um, that's some weird bestiality fetish you got there, but whatever works? Can't wait to hear what you think about it!

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  5. ELLLIISSSSSS! I did not know you had a new blog home. Very nice. I love that you love this, gives me high hopes whenever I finally get around to picking it up.
    eeeeee Jenna Marbles!
    I need to calm down.

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    1. BONNIE!! Yes yes, my face is making the rounds these days. Thank you! Do you want to know something funny? (Who am I kidding? Of course you do.) Scarlet reminds me of Georgia. I don't know if it's the dialect but they have a similar way of speaking and behaving. It's probably why I like her so much. Whenever she said someone was "fair serious", I automatically replaced it with "vair". It's The Georgia Reflex.

      Oh no, no calming down necessary! I think it's kismet that Jenna Marbles made it into this review. I once referred to Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging as "a Jenna Marbles video on drugs" or something in that vein. This can only mean good things, obviously.

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  6. This one is rotting away on my Kindle. Now I really want to give it a chance.

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    1. Tsk. I don't even know what to say to you two right now. I mean, it's not like I've been there or anything. It's pretty funny that many react to this with "hm, I have this, but I've been ignoring it." I hope you enjoy it if/when you get to it! Scarlet can be a difficult character at times, but I was obviously a fan.

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  7. okay I did not realize this was a Robin Hood retelling, now I am curious. Been putting this one off as well ;/ heh. But I am glad that you liked Scarlet, she sounds like a great character.

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    1. Ha, I've been there! Maybe it's because of the Marissa Meyer series, but I was convinced this was a Red Riding Hood retelling. I think that's why I waited so long to read it. Oh, Scarlet. I felt for her, but she can also get on your nerves. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to read it!

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  8. Just like you, this is a title that I have repeatedly passed by and not thought much of. Maybe someday!

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    1. I hope you like it if you decide to read it!

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  9. You were so wrong Ellis, and you didn't even know. I had to fix this.

    OMG LOOK AT THE ROBIN HOOD IN YOUR KIDDIE TRANSLATION! THE HAIR! ALL THE HAIR! THE HEAD HAIR AND THE FACIAL HAIR! HABANAAAA!

    I want to hug Scarlet so bad. But she'd probably bite me. Or stab me. In the face. There'd be violence of the unpleasant-for-me variety is the bullet point here.

    "…but John is irrelevant." <--- Bwahahaha, poor John. BUT SO TRUE. SHUT UP AND GO AWAY JOHN.


    "These two clearly have issues, but I have faith in them. They can work it out. Preferably with their mouths." <---It is possible you mean talking but the correct way to interpret this is making out because OMG THEY NEED TO MAKE OUT. NOW. GIMME. SCARLET/ROB. OTP.

    Too much focus on the romance? Go home Ellis, you're drunk.

    Fantabulous review. As always, I quite like your thoughts and words. FEBRUARY 11TH. THE LADY THIEF. IT IS ON.

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    1. That was the worst part. I didn't even know it. Dishonour on my cow and the lot. GOOD THING I HAVE YOU, DEAREST MEGGIE.

      Isn't he a striking lad? He's quite a striking lad. (ZOMG FINNIKIN.) No, the covers are tragic. I think I have a picture of my mini-collection somewhere. I'll tweet you if I find it. (I'm going to wildly assume that you check back for comments and otherwise it will be a Twitter surprise. Fun!)

      I could have said more about John, but this is a pretty accurate summary of my feels. He's a good enough character but yeah, go away John. SHOO.

      OTP. I HOPE YOU MEAN OUR KIND OF OTP. (Actually, I don't because you know how much I hate that trope and so do you but okay.) Of course I meant smooching. Kissing. There was not enough of it. At all. Buuuut, the less sexually frustrated people can assume I was suggesting they talk out their issues. Which I was not. I know people use mouths for that too and I'm all for that but what Rob and Scarlet need is less talking and more doing.

      SORRY MEG. I JUST NEED TO KNOW HOW TO ROB PEOPLE. FOR SCIENCE. Also, ROB people. Get it?

      Aw, thank you! They are inspired by the greatest ^_^ YES. LNMSGBT. IT IS ON.

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    2. HaHA! I do check back for replies (sometimes it takes awhile BUT I DO) so your surprise plot is foiled. Still, I can't get enough of hilarious bygone era hair (see how I neatly sidestepped having to figure out the decade and then ratted myself out?)

      Hahahahahaha Rob people. I see what you did there. I also see your logic and reasoning here, but still stand by my earlier assessment of drunkitude. (And yes to OTP in that way for comedy but not really because no. It makes me smile that this sort of makes sense. Maybe. The end.)

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  10. I love this book and you offer a great review of it.
    Yes, John was totally irrelevant!
    And I did want Rob and Scarlet to stop being stupid and figure more things out (with their mouths! ha! and also yes.).

    But more than all of that I loved the world and the characters and this is one of my favorite Robin Hood retellings. I can't wait for the sequel!

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  11. I just read this one this month! I have no idea why/how I waited so long. I really loved it too. Loved the original take on Robin Hood and wished that there was tiny bit less angst though it was done well. Hope you enjoy Lady Thief!

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