Monday, July 10, 2017

Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

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Everybody knows Robin Hood. He's the ousted earl who's expert at the bow and he steals from the rich to give to the poor. Always present beside our golden-hearted thief is John Little--big guy, charming, and good with his fists. Few, however, know very much about Will Scarlet--the one with a knack for knives and knicking. For example, they don't know that Will Scarlet is a nickname. They don't know that beneath the skinny frame and the wide-brimmed hat, Will Scarlet is actually a girl. They don't know anything about her past in London or where she really came from. And that's just how Scarlet likes it.

But her past is coming back to haunt her. Guy of Gisborne knows her from well before she began to pilfer in Sherwood forest. He cuts a sinister figure, all in black, and he's working to turn the people of Nottingham against their thieving heroes. He'll stop at nothing until he kills the band of merry men--even if that means taking a girl with them.


I'm a sucker for a medieval story with a female lead, and I've had an affinity for Robin Hood ever since I was a kid. I remember reading his stories from a book that my grandmother had. Scarlet does a great job of giving you all the small details that you're familiar with about Robin Hood--his time in the crusades, his skill with a bow and arrow, and his friendship with Little John--while at the same time tossing in the unfamiliar.

Chief among the unfamiliar is Will Scarlet herself, who is a dark and difficult character. At times, her prickly, pessimistic nature makes it tricky to even like her. At the beginning of the book, I rolled my eyes every time she went back and forth between liking John or Rob. Which, incidentally, she does a lot of throughout the novel. It seems to be a sort of Peeta vs. Gale set up that works pretty well, although at the beginning it's a bit hard to keep track of. Scarlet, as a character, grows from a place of self-loathing to one that borders on self-acceptance.

The book is a slow boil. At the beginning, I did not think I was going to like it very much, but I stuck with it. By the end, I could not put it down. Its fast pace kept me fascinated. It does a great job of combining action (spinning, flipping kicks) with romance (who is she going to choose?). Guy of Gisborne is the perfect antagonist, menacing and corrupt, but clever and resourceful. The book keeps you on your toes from beginning to end.

© 2017, Copyright Miriam Braud.  

While I try to post content warnings if I, personally, identify anything that I think is not appropriate for my students who range in age from 11-14, I recommend that all content is perused by parents to ensure that the individual and unique values of each family is upheld.

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