Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: Scarlet

SCARLET
A.C. Gaughen
Young Adult
304 pages
Walker Children's Books
Available February 14th
Received through NetGalley for review

THE STORY (from 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.

MY THOUGHTS
Scarlet is a story that despite the use of familiar characters and a familiar premise feels fresh and new, the world of Robin Hood looking very different through the eyes of a female Will Scarlet–a young woman who steals and swears better than the boys in their band of misfits but who can’t quite hide the flush in her cheeks and the beating of her heart at the sight of Robin behind her boyish fa├žade. Never before has the concept of thievery been quite so appealing, and while we know intellectually that stealing is not an act to be admired or glorified, our own fingers can’t help but twitch with the desire to be as sticky as Scarlet’s so that we might contribute to the fight against a tyrannical prince and sheriff no matter how illegal our choice of weapons. Into a classic tale Ms. Gaughen weaves a complicated and dark past for our young heroine, making her more than simple words on a page, more than a girl in boy’s clothing, and more than someone relegated to the shadows cast by the great Robin of Locksley.

It takes a couple chapters to really settle in with Scarlet as a narrator, the dialect wherein she often uses the word “were” in place of “was” (ie “I were looking right at him”) taking some getting used to before it simply becomes a part of who she is and therefore something we can’t help but love because we adore her so thoroughly. She wields her knives with unerring precision, pulling more than her weight in their band of four and proving again and again that she’s a force to be reckoned with. When the boys attempt to remind her that she’s a girl and could possibly need looking after, she’s quick to prove otherwise, repeatedly being the first into danger to save an innocent life and back out again before Robin, Little John, and Much even know she’s gone.

Perhaps most memorable and intriguing in this tale is the relationship between Scarlet and Rob, the two of them so frighteningly similar and so obliviously blind to their own similarities that they repeatedly clash, butting heads again and again without ever thinking to truly open their eyes and see what’s standing in front of them. Both are struggling to atone for past sins, using self-inflicted emotional pain as currency to pay the debt they both feel they owe to God and country for the blood they’ve spilled, never once allowing the health and safety they now provide to those around them to balance the perceived taint on their souls. They hurt one another both intentionally and unintentionally, but it’s abundantly clear to us that their actions and sharp words are never intended the way they seem, and we wait with breath held for the moment when they'll allow their hearts to communicate what body language and mouths cannot.

Overall, Scarlet is a wonderfully well-rounded debut from Ms. Gaughen; a layered tale where light attempts to fight the encroaching darkness through shades of gray, and where a young woman fights for a home and a family she doesn’t feel she deserves even though the opposite is true. Ms. Gaughen is an author I will be watching from now on, and I cannot wait to see what she will delight us with next.

Rating: 4.5/5

43 comments:

  1. I've had this one on my wishlist for a while now. Thanks for the review.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent, I love Robin Hood! Heh, good to hear that the story was so influential that it had you wishing you could be as good a thief as Scarlet! She sounds seriously awesome. Glad she can more than keep up with the boys!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Wields her knife with unerring precision." SOLD!

    I'm really happy to see that you liked this, Jenny. I've seen some meh reviews, but a blogger friend I trust recently gave this four stars and urged me to read it--and now that I've seen your glowing review, I'm definitely bumping it up the list! Sounds like this was one Robin Hood story that worked out well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Brilliant review, Jenny. I enjoyed this one, too! :) I also thought Scarlet's dialect took some getting used to, but it felt so natural after a short while that I stopped noticing it. My only problem with this book was the plot, which didn't grip me as thoroughly as I hoped it would. Other than that, I loved it! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Okay, WOW. I knew about this book but didn't pursue it because my schedule is like WHOA. AND your blog post is the first and only I have and probably will read on it. So yay for that!

    And I'm amazed. I do love it when an author puts their own spin on a story, especially a story that I love so much, but this one really sounds truly spectacular. Particularly when you discuss how deeply she goes with the characters - the guilt they feel for past sins, etc. And I love that she made Scarlet a strong protagonist...I'm always in favor of a kick-butt gal.

    I'm putting this one on my list to read. I won't get to it right away because I'm a little swamped, but I will be anxious to get to it as soon as I can! Thanks so much for such an insightful review, Jenny. I always know I can come here to find out the deal on the books I want to read!! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I really didn't know much about this one at all until you mentioned it. I'm so out of the loop! I know how hard it is to find a truly well-rounded book out there today though, so this one really sounds like pops! Fab review, Jenny :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Lisa - You're welcome, hope it was helpful:)

    Aylee - I adored Scarlet, she didn't take anything from anyone and she and Rob were just heartbreaking.

    Wendy - It was a really different read for me and I loved that about it. Took a little getting used to with the dialect, but then I got sucked in and couldn't put it down:)

    Sam - Exactly. The first chapter I was like "what is going on here?" but then it just became a part of her.

    Asheley - I hope you get some time to read this one, I thought it was truly fantastic. I loved Scarlet and Rob, they both felt so tangible, like I could touch the pages and find flesh and blood instead:)

    Melissa - READ IT:) It was so much more than I expected:)

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a wonderful review and how clever to make Will a girl. That is a great twist on a classic!

    ReplyDelete
  9. YAY! I'm so glad you loved this one as much as I did, Jenny. Scar was a great character that balanced confidence and insecurity quite well. I couldn't help but fall for Robin either and loved their scenes together. I really hope we get more books with this wonderful characters!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Aah Jenny, you make me so curious! I'm not even sure I've read anything about it, though I have seen it around. Now I sure want to though! I truly love the sound of it and I'm so glad you loved it so much! Time to go to Goodreads... ;)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Right?! Gosh, I loved this book. You know my thoughts, so I don't need to say much, but I would love to molest Robin, myself. And, it's funny how thoughts on thievery do change? I love that books like this can walk such a fine line!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yeah a female in the Merry Men. Fun idea. I have read so many great reviews on this book. I am just kicking myself for not picking it up on NG. I like the idea of the dialect I think it would lend authenticity to the book!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you for this review. I've had this one on my radar since I saw the cover. I'm super stoked to see you really enjoyed it. =)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm a shallow person and I judge books by their covers, so I was drawn to Scarlet almost immediately. I'm glad to hear it's good, especially since the idea sounded really intriguing to me. Thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Felicia - I know you're not a big YA fan, but I think you'd like this one:)

    Rummanah - SO GOOD! I loved every second of it:) I need more of these characters, I have my fingers crossed for more books.

    Rebecca - Highly recommended, it was awesome:)

    Jen - I would be right there with you pouncing on Robin. It needs to be done. He's delicious. Though Scarlet might stab us so we'd need to be careful.

    Heidi - Scarlet is an amazing character, I love a girl who kicks butts and doesn't apologize for it:)

    Jen - You're welcome! I hope you get a chance to read it soon, it's wonderful.

    Agnieszka - I judge books by their covers too, I can't help it! And the story more than lives up to the pretty cover:)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow you, Jen and Rummanah all liked this??? Once again here is me getting out my wallet to buy more books....

    Jeepers!! The hubs is going to kill me with all these books!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Glad you loved this one, Jenny. I'm not too sure if it's quite my kind of book, but I might give it a whirl at some point since I've been hearing good things!

    ReplyDelete
  18. "and we wait with breath held for the moment when they'll allow their hearts to communicate what body language and mouths cannot."

    Awwwwwwwww! Make me melt why don't you, Jenny. Love is so deliciously stubborn sometimes. *le sigh*

    I first read about this book on Jen's blog and I've been wanting to read it ever since. My dialect sucks, so I'm sure I won't have a problem with Scarlet's, though I think hers is just a indication of her time period whereas mine is because I have half a brain. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  19. Really glad you liked this one that much Jenny :) !! I've never read a retelling of any sort and I really like Robin Hood so I'd really like to give this one a try ..
    I'm gad to know that there's also a good romance in this one !!
    Fabukous review :) !!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Tina - GO BUY IT TINA!!! Hubs has just accepted my book buying, bless him:)

    Leanna - I thought it was great, definitely a different type of read but I loved that about it:)

    Missie - I LOVED THEM! They were so frickin adorable and they just couldn't get out of their own way enough to say to one another what they really wanted to say:)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Elodie - I think you'll really enjoy this one, it was a fun retelling:) And the romance felt like such a big part of the story yet it wasn't really, and I loved that.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Gosh, do you have an idea how much I love Robin Hood????? He's one of my most favorite fictional historical characters and I simply love this story!

    I am afraid a little of the language you mentioned, especially considering I'm german. I hope this won't be a problem ?

    I didn't really cared so much about this book, but as usual your review makes me want to read it ... Now! Thanks :))

    ReplyDelete
  23. Another great review Jenny! And I love the new banner! :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Why not :) I haven't really come across many Robin Hood books. Ok make that zero so it would be different

    ReplyDelete
  25. I will have to give this one a read since I never read any Robin Hood books.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I love mish mash books where they turn characters on their ear so to speak. Will Scarlet as a woman! LOVE! I also admit, I would probably like the dialect. Makes you more into the story. I am so getting this one!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Danny - If you love Robin Hood then I think you will thoroughly enjoy this one:) And you shouldn't have any trouble with her dialect, it's easy to pick up:)

    Jordan - Thank you on both counts!

    Linda - I haven't come across many Robin Hood books either, this was a first for me and I loved it:)

    Jenny - It's awesome, I highly recommend it!

    Melissa - yay for scarlet being a girl! Loved that little twist and how it changed the dynamic of their group:)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Wow, I believe I'm sold! This sounds like an incredible read!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm such a fan of this one! Rob and Scarlet are really what made the story great for me. Plus, I really loved the new spin on Robin Hood! Great review, Jenny!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Oh, yes! I was complaining to my husband just this weekend about her speech patterns and how jarring they were to me at first. I'm about 25% in and it's finally getting easier to read, but it really bothered me at the beginning. I almost quit reading. I'm so glad I didn't!

    ReplyDelete
  31. my dear!! what an awesome review! I really really want to meet Scarlet and Rob! everything you say about them and their situation makes me want to read this book asap! thnx for the review =D I havent seen many of this book around and it seems to be an excellent read!

    have a wonderful week ^.^


    Dazzling Reads

    ReplyDelete
  32. I've heard a lot of good things about this one. I really want to pick it up. The dialect would really bug me though. Dialect is one of my pet peeves in literature. Hopefully it's not too distracting.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Fantastic review and this novel sounds great! Love the cover too.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I was thinking of skipping this one but after reading your review I'm going to give this one a go! I'm looking forward to reading about the similarities between Scarlet and Rob :)

    Krazyyme @ Young Readers

    ReplyDelete
  35. Oh, I'm so glad to know this is good! I was hoping so. I read a different review, on it, but it couldn't seem to decide how it felt about it. I know exactly how you stand. It must have been fun reading Scarlet and Robin (only four total?)? I can't wait to read it. I'll have to, but I will read it, at some point! Really great review, Jenny!

    Heather

    ReplyDelete
  36. This has been on my list since I saw the cover and title. I've loved the adventures of Robin Hood and all the mythology surrounding him since my parents forced me to watch the cheesy old Errol Flynn version years back. Scarlet and Rob sound like a fabulous couple--I love when two "likes" clash so hard they can't see what's in front of them until it's almost too late. Definitely looking forward to this!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Great review! I have had my eye on this book. I love that it's from a female's perspective in the world of Robin Hood...such a brilliant idea!

    ReplyDelete
  38. This book sounds amazing! Loved the review Jenny!

    ReplyDelete
  39. I can not wait to read this one! I've always loved the story of Robin Hood, and getting to read a new twist on the story through a female perspective sounds awesome! So glad you enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Growing up my favourite book series was The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson- also a retelling of Robin Hood from a female perspective, so I am really excited about this book! Thanks for introducing it to us Jenny! Had you not, I know that I wouldn't have known about it (cuz I totally didn't see it on NetGalley ;) ).

    ReplyDelete
  41. I cannot wait to read Scarlett! I love me some Robin Hood, it was always one of my favorites! And per USUAL- your review makes me want to drop everything and beg, steal or barter for someone else's copy!

    ReplyDelete
  42. I really like the sound of this one! At first I wasn't sure, but the more I read about it the more I think I'll really like it.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I've been meaning to read this one, and this review confirms I have been missing out! I love strong heroines and Scarlet sounds completely awesome, diving into danger no matter that she's the girl in the group. Her relationship with Rob sounds like exactly the kind of complicated romantic tension I love reading about. Awesome review!

    ReplyDelete