Friday, March 09, 2012
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Genre: YA, fantasy
Publisher: Walker Children's, 2012
Read for: Review
Robin Hood's gang of boys devoted to protecting Sherwood Forest from the evil, over-taxing Sheriff of Nottingham (endorsed, of course, by King Richard's power-hungry younger brother, Prince John, who will always and forever appear to me as the skinny lion from the animated Disney version of Robin Hood), is constituted of the usual suspects -- the tall Little John, the sweet Much, the crafty, stealthy Will Scarlet. However, known to few, Will Scarlet is actually just Scarlet, a girl who eked out her life by stealing in London, who managed to meet up with Robin and joined his band. The pressures for the villagers mount as a new thief taker, Guy of Gisbourne, comes to root out Robin Hood and his band. Scarlet has a history with Gisbourne, and knows she must avoid being seen by him at all costs. In addition, John is beginning to indicate that he is interested in her, when her heart really belongs to Robin.
However, there were some tricky elements to the book. It is told entirely from Scarlet's point of view, and it is told in dialect. While I eventually fell into the rhythm, it detracted from the story for me, rather than adding to it. As I learned more about Scarlet's past, it felt particularly contrived. While it ceased to distract me after the first hundred pages or so, it never seemed to quite fit with the rest of the book.
The love triangle in the book also became a bit sticky for awhile, leaving me extremely frustrated with the characters' behavior. I wanted to give John, Robin, and Scarlet all a slap for acting like dorks and not communicating. However, I do think that the love triangle was essential for the story, and in the end added to it rather than detracting from it. While the characters infuriated me from time to time, I think the love elements worked well with the story as a whole.
And it was the plot as a whole that was powerful, not the romance, although it had its moments. The heroism of John, Much, and especially Scarlet and Robin, were grand and sweeping. The last 50 or so pages were one passionate and adventurous and moving. I was gasping over and over again -- there was so much carnage and passion and drama. While the beginning of the story had been ho-hum for me, the last scenes redeemed it, to an extent, as everything came together and many of the characters' secrets were revealed.
For me, Scarlet lacked that absolute luster that makes me gush for days about a book, but it was almost there. If the entire book had been like the last several pages, I would be recommending it left and right. As it stands now, I can say it is a decent book with some excellent closing scenes, and that as this is A.C. Gaughen's debut I am looking forward to what she comes up with in the years to come.
Warnings: Violence (quite a bit of it), some references to the bedroom