by A.C. Gaughen
Read: March 21, 2014
Published: February 14, 2012 by Walker Childrens (Bloomsbury)
Category: YA, Robin Hood retelling
Series: Scarlet trilogy #1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon
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 am not a Robin Hood expert. I've seen several movie adaptations, and I've read Ivanhoe, but I will admit that until I read this book it was the animated movie that stuck most firmly in my head. Before I started Scarlet, I often thought of Robin in fox form, and the other character as woodland creatures. That changed as soon as I met Gaughen's adaptation. I read Scarlet and Lady Thief back to back. While I enjoyed Scarlet. I LOVED Lady Thief, but this is a solid series that I'm so glad I finally started!
Although I honestly don't remember the character of Will Scarlet from previous retellings, I enjoyed the idea of one of Rob's men being a cross dressing girl. Along with that, it was nice that the whole point of the plot wasn't a big "she's a girl!" reveal. Rob knows that Scarlet is a she from the beginning, though not everyone else does, and it was amusing to see how that affected her interactions with some characters. What Rob doesn't know, however, is where Scarlet came from, and that certainly causes conflict in this book. I liked the unfolding of Scarlet's story, and how she's fit herself into Rob's group.
The larger plot was interesting, but it was also a lot of the standard Robin Hood fair: stealing from the rich, giving to the poor, outmaneuvering and then getting thwarted by the Sheriff and Guy Gisbourne. But I really liked Scarlet within this setting, and how she changed the dynamic of the characters. Especially her blend of strength and vulnerability. Her struggles with identity, guilt and how to be a girl within her time period without loosing her will drew me to her narrative.
I wasn't a great fan of Scarlet's rough speech, though it did serve a purpose in this story. But my least favorite part of Scarlet was the 'love triangle,' though I will admit that it was more irritating than it was threatening. I liked to think of it as Rob and Scarlet circling each other, while John hovered around like a fly distracting everyone. I thought it had some purpose at first - especially showing Scarlet's naiveté about relationships and Rob's insecurities. But the fly swatting went on too long for my tastes. Thankfully, it did end by the end of this book, and it was very worth it to get to book two.
Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Low
by A.C. Gaughen
Read: March 23 - 24, 2014
Published: February 11, 2014 by Walker Childrens (Bloomsbury)
Category: YA, Robin Hood retelling
Series: Scarlet trilogy #2
Find: Goodreads | Amazon
Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, but her future is uncertain. Her forced marriage to Lord Gisbourne threatens Robin and Scarlet’s love, and as the royal court descends upon Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, the people of Nottingham hope that Prince John will appoint their beloved Robin Hood. But Prince John has different plans for Nottingham that revolve around a fateful secret from Scarlet’s past even she isn’t yet aware of. Forced to participate at court alongside her ruthless husband, Scarlet must bide her time and act the part of a noblewoman—a worthy sacrifice if it means helping Robin’s cause and a chance at a future with the man she loves. With a fresh line of intrigue and as much passion as ever, the next chapter in Scarlet’s tale will have readers talking once again.
For me, Lady Thief was a stronger book all the way around. It was much more intense as well as darker and harder on its characters. To counter that, the romance between Scarlet and Rob was a shining element, and a very refreshing contrast to everything these two were facing. Also, while the regular Robin Hood elements were present in this story - including an archery contest - so much of this book surprised me. Maybe it's my limitations with the mythology coming out, but I found this installment to be more exciting, and I loved the strong historical elements that came into play. They definitely have me wondering where the story will go next.
Three reasons Lady Thief stood out to me.
1) Complex characters. Even the bad guys. I was shocked to discover that Guy of Gisbourne wasn't the super villain I remembered from the first book. He hasn't suddenly transformed into a different person, but I actually found myself - begrudgingly - understanding and sympathizing with him in moments. But also hating him a whole lot in others. He definitely served to up the tension in this book, especially surrounding Scarlet's desire to be with Rob. In fact, all of the characters became much more complex in this story. They have shifting loyalties, long for power, or safety, and do a whole lot of scheming. But whether good or bad, their decisions make sense, and it made me see this story as something much deeper than just a popular retelling.
2) A+ Romance. The romance is also incredible in Lady Thief. Rob and Scarlet are devoted to each other, but pulled in different directions because of their obligations. Any moment they are together the temperature in the room increased. But I also loved seeing them work through conflict together. This is one couple where it's easy to see how well matched they are. Their trust and support of each other is just as wonderful to see as their physical interactions. I'm very anxious to see how they navigate the final book after what happens at the end of this one.
3) An impressive heroine. This story surprised me, both some of the plot elements, and also the things these characters were capable of. Lady Thief is a harder read than Scarlet in many ways. The situations Scarlet and the other characters encounter are not easy. Some parts shocked me and made me want to scream and sob. But I was so impressed by Scarlet through it all. Especially her indomitable will, and her desire to fight for herself. There's a strong message to girls in this book - learn to fight back yourself, because you won't always have someone to rescue you out of your circumstances. I liked seeing Scarlet teach other girls how to find their strength. But through that, Scarlet has also learned that there are people she can trust, and to accept it when it's offered. It's a healthy balance that shows her maturity. My one complaint in all this is that I really wanted Scarlet to fix her speech a little more. I got tired of the was/were switching. But besides that, this was a pretty perfect book for me.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: High - maybe I'm crazy, but this didn't stress me out as much as I feared. Mostly, I'm excited for book 3 to come.