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Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Young Adult, Historical, Romance
Hardcover $17.99 (304 pages, WALKER CHILDREN'S)
Release Date: February 14th, 2012
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.
Author Site: www.acgaughen.com

Rough Narrative for a Great Reimagining (4 stars)

There have always been reimaginings of the classic Robin Hood tale. It's themes have great appeal and will continue to do so for as long as people are telling stories. When I was little, and growing up in poverty, it was one of my favorites for obvious reasons. But I never wanted to be Marian, I always wanted to be one of the thieves hiding within Sherwood, fighting alongside The Hood. Why couldn't one of them be a girl? It is this thought that drives this imaginative retelling and appealed to me as a reader.

Though only Robin and his band of 'merry men' know that the infamous Will Scarlet is actually a young woman, her true identity—and the past that lead her to joining Rob's cause—remain shrouded in mystery. Confronted with the Sheriff's new guest, Theif Taker Lord Gisbourne, SCARLET must evaluate her position and the danger she's placing her friends in. For Gisbourne is part of her past and the secrets she keeps could mean the undoing of all the hard work they've put into aiding the people of Nottingham.

I really enjoyed the storyline of SCARLET so let me get the 'bad part' out of the way first. First person narratives are not my favorite but if the character has a great voice that makes them memorable I usually like them. In the case of SCARLET, Gaughen took a big risk. She gave her protagonist a wretched 'accent'. I'm not good with reading accents so from the first page to the last the bad English really grated my nerves. It was miserably distracting, especially once I had figured out the truth about Scarlet. It didn't make sense that she was narrating the story with the awful grammar of the 'common' people. It certainly lends a flavor to it but I know I won't be the only reader who loathes it. It doesn't help that she's the only character who seems to use it, not even the people of Nottingham speak in the same manner so I was honestly a bit baffled why it was necessary.

As to the actual retelling of the classic tale... I really enjoyed it. There's palpable chemistry between the characters and though it was easy to guess Scarlet's past it was fun getting to the big reveal none-the-less. This version of Robin is exceptionally likable but not very original. I enjoyed this tortured but not overly brooding Rob, especially as his friendship with Scarlet becomes obvious attraction. Though I wouldn't call this a romance there is definitely a thread of it here. Rounding out the cast of characters John and Much were great too. I loved John's confidence and flirtaciousness and Much's determination in spite of his limitation.

I wouldn't quite call this a girl-power retelling of Robin Hood but I loved the idea and the execution of it. While not without some flaws—I felt like sometimes Scarlet was a little too good at certain things—it's a great twist on a classic and well worth the read for fans of The Hood. Not a big fan? If you enjoy strong female protagonists in historical fiction you may still enjoy it.

Other Reviews:
Jillian -always aspiring on Goodreads
The Cozy Reading Corner

Notes: ARC received via NetGalley.

More strong YA female protagonists:

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