Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Post from Pither - Scarlet by A C Gaughen

Published: February 2012
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers, imprint of Bloomsbury Children's Books
Pages: 304
Copy: Netgalley and Publisher
Summary: 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

I picked up Scarlet because the legend of Robin Hood has always appealed to me. Yes, even the prancing about in tights version (best movie EVER.) It always feels like you’re going behind the scenes when you read a book based on the figure.
Gaughen’s take on Scarlet is an unusual one, primarily because ‘Will’ Scarlet is in fact a girl. Fleeing from a secret, troubled past, she joined up with Robin “The Hood”of Locksley, Earl of Huntington, in London. The book starts with the ‘Merry Men’ quite early on, Robin’s not long back from the Crusades, and there are only four members of the band: Robin, John Little, Much the miller’s son, and Scarlet the thief. (His character’s always been my favourite—brooding, secretive, the blackened thief with a conscience buried deep… What’s not to love?)
I liked the treatment of Scar’s character. She’s a strong female protagonist, gruff and removed, somewhat aloof.  We see glimmers of her battered heart as the book progresses, and I like how she gets all upset when she actually cares about people and the related hurt that can bring. Funnily enough, she battles against low self-esteem quite often, something which adds depth to the character. One of my favourite lines from her is:
“Honest, this were what I liked best about being a thief—even a dirty one at that. Sometimes, if you just had a bit of ichor in your blood, you could walk where no one else could and do things that no one else dared.” (p. 234)
I can’t say very much about the romance in the book without giving away some heavy duty spoilers. Suffice to say, it wasn’t too cloying, a few breathless moments and heavy blushes and whatnot. One thing I didn’t like was the back and forth between John and Robin. I get the fact you’re running around the woods with some pretty studly males, but jeez, just pick one and stop taunting the other!
Robin’s character was another thing I liked, the seeing the young man behind the legend. He’s struggling with the loss of his family and lands, the horrors he saw while on Crusade, and the suffering of the people around him. I think one quote in particular sums him up nicely:
“We do what we do—“ He halted, then stepped one foot closer. “I do what I do because I will always believe that no matter how awful life gets for however many of these people, there is something I can do about it. There is something I will do about it.” (p. 67)
The humour was great, just enough without turning it from a drama to a comedy. Scar makes for a spunky heroine, one that should appeal to Tamora Pierce fans. Little turns of phrase make you smile, and realize that girls just have more to think about when they traipse around in the woods on the run from the law:
“Staying in the darker bits, and watching John and Much, I changed quick into my gown, untwining the muslin that I used to pin my bits back. Couldn’t very well be running for your hide with bits jiggling all over the place, could you?” (p. 87)
Scarlet would be good for reluctant readers, as there’s a lot of action with a minimal amount of description. There’s some violence and cruelty (i.e. a traitor’s mouth being sewn shut, people getting tortured and hurt), but nothing was graphically described. I like Scar as a character, her gruff nature and the loyalty the band holds to Robin. I enjoyed watching her secret past come to light and her relationship with her chosen young man develop. The ending was good, and though it may have been obvious to some, it took me by surprise! Captain Oblivious rides again. Overall a solid, enjoyable read.
NOTE - quotes are taken from an ARC and may change in the final copy
Thanks so much Pither for joining us with this great review.  Scarlet was already on my TBR list, and it has been bumped up several noches now.

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