Author: A.C. Gaughen
Publishing Information: February 14th, 2012 by Walker Childrens
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Retelling
Series Information: Standalone novel
Format: Hardcover, 292 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library
Recommended For: Fans of strong heroines, and lovers of historical fiction wrapped inside a bit of romance
Before I even begin this review there are some things you should know. First, there are probably three obsessions I have in relation to literature: Shakespeare, The Wizard of Oz and Robin Hood. I am so in love with Robin Hood that my thesis in undergrad was a 40 page cultural comparison of the original Gest of Robyn Hode and the 1991 film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. For those of you who majored in English and wrote a thesis, you all know that there is probably little I haven’t researched and read in relation to the famous outlaw. Second, I ADORE stories that showcase a female character that is feigning being a boy, which brings me right back around to my love of Shakespeare (my cat is named Celia only because the bf hated the name Rosalind!) These little tidbits bring us to Scarlet…
Scarlet is an important part of Robin’s band of outlaws, she is one of his most trusted allies and one of the most skilled thieves in Nottinghamshire. The band is made up of Robin, Scarlet – known as “Will” through town, John and Much. They work diligently to ensure that the townspeople are fed and protected from the sheriff – by ensuring that they have the funds to pay the increasingly high taxes. The story is reminiscent of the tale we all know and love but the tables turn when the sheriff hires and “thief taker” Guy of Gisbourne to hunt and kill Robin and his friends. Upon hearing the news, Scarlet begins to have misgivings about staying with the group as her old wounds are re-opened and her past is suddenly brought forward in a very real and serious manner.
First, let’s take a look at the characters. Scarlet is combative, abrasive and independent, and I loved her. I loved that she was all of those things yet also extremely sensitive, kind and a little confused about her feelings about those around her. I believed Scarlet to be immature when she ran away when anything (or anyone) came too close to picking at the scars she kept deeply hidden but I found that she balanced these moments with moments of sheer courage that allowed her to run toward an obstacle and handle it head on. Scarlet had a very intelligent head on her shoulders and I appreciated the balance between her kick-ass elements and her somewhat shy and insecure characteristics, it made her more real for me.
Robin was the perfect hero in this book (remember, I’m biased!) and even though he was a jerk often and I wanted Scarlet to slap him a bit he was still every bit the man I wanted him to be. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realized Robin’s reasons behind his somewhat arrogant and mean behavior. I think reading his comments and jibes toward Scarlet hurt me because I knew how much she was self-loathing internally and I just wanted him to see that and make it all better! John was the more flirtatious and fun between the two obvious love interests and I really loved him a lot too, though I knew he wasn’t the one for Scarlet. I adored the way in which Scarlet was oblivious to John’s affections at first and then still scoffed at the idea that he truly liked her yet she still somewhat tried to go along with it because she was young and confused and really didn’t know how to feel. Girl, we have all been there! John was the perfect big brother figure, the best guy to have at your back because he really was loyal to the cause and his band, despite how he let his feelings get in the way now and then. Much was a character I would have liked more from. I really loved every interaction with this character and thought he was a perfect balance to the other characters. Much was the calm through everyone’s crazy storms. Every character had their darkness but Much knew his use to the band and he excelled in his position. I really can’t stress how much I loved these characters and they way they looked out for one another. Though I know Scarlet was confused by how the band cared for her, it melted my heart at times. When Robin looks at Scarlet and realizes she has been harmed at Godfrey’s hands, I swooned a little (page 125.) It’s moments like those that really proved how much the band valued her both as a member of their group but as an important person in their lives.
We can’t forget about the villain, Guy of Gisbourne. As I am keeping this review spoiler free I can’t get into the real evil behind this character but here is a description of him from Scarlet’s point of view, just to paint a little picture:
“People stopped to look at him. He were wrapped in violence as if it were his clothes, his cloak like death, his armor like blades. His hair were shaggy as an animal’s and it looked like the Devil were trapped in his head.” – Page 74
One of my main reasons for adoring this story was the way in which it contained surprising plot twists that also felt familiar. It was somewhat clear to me what Scarlet was hiding from the band from very early on in the novel. However, there is no great reveal at the end but details given throughout the novel that make the reader piece together her past and understand her a little more as each chapter progresses. I also loved the ending. Usually I am not a fan of books that conclude without their loose ends being entirely tied. However, I think the ending of this novel perfectly represented the story in its entirety and it left me with a glorious feeling.
This book is easily one of my favorite reads of 2012. At one point the bf walked in, glanced at me and said, “Are you petting that book?!” and it turns out, I was. I was petting the book because that is precisely how much I loved it. It was a book that made me feel as if it was written just for me to enjoy, bringing me into the dark canopy of the trees of Nottinghamshire.