Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review - Scarlet by AC Guaghen

by AC Gaughen
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published February 14, 2012 by Walker Childrens

Premise: Ganked 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 Review:

Just one page into this book and I knew I was either going to love it or hate it. The writing is unique and full of flavor, maybe old world slang?  And Will Scarlet is also unique and full of flavor and I knew in two pages that I would either love or hate her. When I started thinking in the writing style before reading three pages, I knew Gaughen had nailed it and I settled in for a delightful ride.

I can't read a retelling of Robin Hood without a bucket-load of expectations. I want Robin to be full of heart and courage, I want loads of character in all the "merry men", I want believable bad guys which have to include the Sheriff of Nottingham, etc, etc.  Even if you've only seen the Disney cartoon, you gotta have some expectations, like who's going to play Maid Marian?! And if Scarlet's a girl, is there going to be a cat-fight over Robin?

Lol.  Hey, that's what I was thinking!!  And I don't want to spoil this story one bit, 'cause ya gotta read this!!

The setting:  Sherwood forest and Nottingham and all the village people being persecuted by the local government is all well described. I felt like I crawled inside a real world that could have taken place in a fantastical setting or in real old England.  I could see the trees, feel the thatched roofs underfoot, shiver from the damp dungeon. This story has more of the feel of the realistic movie rather than the cartoon - you know, the ones with the hot-lookin' hero, who inspires awe. Plus, it's got all the grit I love.

The people:  Will Scarlet is amazing. I love, love, LOVE her character and the entire story is from her point of view. She's so skilled with knives, so fearless against the enemy, so full of heart for all the suffering she sees, exactly how I imagined Robin Hood, actually, only grittier. I especially loved the way she hid her secrets, not even allowing herself to think about things until cornered. I discovered her secrets as she was forced to leak them out, which was deliciously perfect. When I interviewed AC Gaughen, she mentioned how Scarlet came to life before the book, and I love that. She's so unique!!

Little John is full of life and fun. He's just like I imagine him, only more life-like, more flawed. Having read The Outlaws of Sherwood, I fully anticipated a relationship between Scarlet and John and the attraction is so believably perfect.

Robin Hood has every characteristic I desired, plus his own set of realistic flaws, seen entirely through Scarlet's perspective. She idolizes him while displaying the same characteristics and not seeing them in herself. Her view of Rob is like a mirror to her own soul, and the way she's so blind to it makes her that more endearing.

I will say this... there's only four in the band. It took me awhile to figure that out and I kept waiting for someone else to pop up before realizing there were no others. Much is the fourth and we don't see him as fully as the others, although he adds a kinda and gentle sounding board to calm down the others' arguments.

My favorite unique addition is Gisbourne, who is absolutely evil and ruthless. He enters the story already famous for hunting down thieves and he comes with tons of mysterious history that frightens Scarlet like no other sword bearing bully can.

I love the scarlet ribbons that Scar ties around her knives. I loved the fighting scenes, they were so detailed. I loved her spit-fire attitude and her fast fighting style. Scar is such a great, great name for her. It's short for the color of her ribbons, but she bears a scar on her face that's also significant. This story is how she deals with scarred emotions, too.

As much as you can, don't spoil this book!!!  It's worth it to discover Scarlet as Guaghen reveals it. WELL WORTH IT!!  :-D

My Rating: 4.5 - Great Book!!  This is one I'll want to reread, because I was not able to predict it all and that says A LOT for a retelling!!

The Amazing Author:

AC Gaughen - 

i’ve been madly in love with writing since I was in kindergarten.  not kidding–some of my earliest memories revolve around books and writing, like reading in front of the class, reading with my mother, and writing a story in first grade that was so funny (it dealt with a gorilla finding someone naked in the shower, and was, sadly, the culmination of my humor writing skills) it got me kicked out of class.  which was also the first and last time for that.
no that’s a lie. in third grade i got detention for ripping bark off a tree.
i know, i’m a rebel.
from there, it was a long road.  i wrote all through middle school and starting submitting novels (I hope I still have those very kind, gentle rejection letters somewhere) when I was thirteen.  ACK you have no idea how bad those novels looked.  All through high school I was writing in a notebook instead of taking class notes (explaining the less than perfect GPA).  It was always novels for me–the first time I seriously wrote short stories was at the end of my college career, to get into my graduate program, and it felt awkward and weird.

but i got in to grad school, wrote like a fiend, and when i graduated i spent three miserable years as a freelance writer while working on several different novels.  I wrote them, prepped them, submitted them, and kept on working, because as far as I can tell, the actual writing is the only thing that i can control, and it’s the part that really makes me happy.

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