Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Scarlet series
Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: 5/5 stars
I had been wanting to read this book for some time. I love Robin Hood retellings and this was an excellent one. Gaughen does some interesting things with the story and Scarlet is a very compelling character.
Will Scarlet is the best thief in Robin Hood’s gang, Will is also a girl that the band calls Scarlet…however everyone outside of Hood’s band thinks Scarlet is a boy. When the Sheriff of Nottingham calls in Lord Gisbourne to deal with Robin Hood and his band, things get complicated for Scarlet. Her and Gisbourne have a past. Robin Hood struggles to save the surrounding towns from Nottingham’s taxes and dodge Gisbourne. Scarlet helps as she can, but her sordid past is finally catching up to her.
The whole book is written in slang, which was a bit hard to read at first. After a couple chapters I got used to it and didn’t have any more trouble reading this book. There’s a good reason for why the book is written that way.
I loved what Gaughen did with Robin Hood and his merry men. The story will be familiar to those who are fans of Robin Hood. This is basically a tale about oppression of the area Robin Hood is supposed to be ruling, but his rule has been taken away by the Sheriff of Nottingham by edict of Prince John. Robin and his band do a lot of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. In the case the poor are the townsfolk that Robin should be ruling.
Scarlet drives a lot of the planning and thievery. She is an expert at thieving because of her past life in London as a thief. Scarlet is a bit bitter and quick to anger. She is constantly very defensive and constantly feels like she has to prove herself over and over. Part of this is because of how she feels she’s wronged people in the past, part is just because she is hot-tempered. I did find some aspects of her character a bit unbelievable. For example once we learn her past I was curious as to how she became so good at acrobatic stunts, fighting, and thieving in such a short time.
Scarlet also has a problem with eating enough. This is talked about a lot in the beginning of the book, as the men in her life try to get her to eat more. The problem seems to stem from the fact that Scarlet thinks other people are more deserving of food than she is, so she is constantly giving her food away. It was an interesting dynamic to add to a historical fantasy like this one.
There is also a lot of action and thieving and sneaking. Scarlet is an excellent thief, agile and daring. However she has a lot of issues to work through. The band nicknames her Scar, both for the scar on her face and the scars on her soul.
There is also quite a bit of romance in the book. Scarlet is the only woman in an all man band of thieves. There is a lot of tension between her and Little John (who she thinks of as an older brother) and Robin (who she wishes was something more). It was very well done and the characters have excellent chemistry together.
I did have a bit of a problem with all the tension between the characters being believable given the timeline though. Supposedly Scarlet has been part of Robin Hood’s band for a couple of years; you would think in that time the characters would have worked through most of the issues together and been a cohesive team. Still I enjoyed reading about it all, so if you can get past the timing of it all it’s well done.
The book is very well written and engaging and I breezed right through it. There is a nice afterward explaining Robin Hood and what is confirmed and unconfirmed as far as history goes. There is also a list of references for those who would like to read more about the Robin Hood history and background.
Overall, despite a couple small inconsistencies, I really loved this book. I love Robin Hood retellings and this was a good one. Robin Hood and Scarlet are both moody and complex characters that were very engaging. The world is well done and I loved how Gaughen twisted the mythology of Robin Hood around some. Recommended to those who love historical fantasy and the tale of Robin Hood.
If you love Robin Hood retellings I would also recommend The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley and Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson.