Review: Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

Genre: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Walker Childrens (February 14, 2012)
How I got this book: Bought
Links: Amazon Goodreads

Blurb 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 rating: 3/5 – A decent read, but I had some significant problems with it.

Review:

Scarlet is exactly the kind of book I was in the mood for: quick, entertaining, and filled with adventure and romance.  I love the premise, and the characters immediately drew me into the story.  Scarlet and Robin are intriguing, flawed, and extremely angsty yet lovable heroes.  Their complicated relationship, along with the heart-pounding action and violent fight scenes, made this book very difficult to put down.

Unfortunately, I did have some issues with the book that tempered my enjoyment.  Most notably, it’s a tad soap opera-ish.  A lot of page time is spent dealing with love triangle drama, and at times it almost becomes too much, overshadowing everything else, including the plot.  I found myself wishing that Scar would sort out her feelings already; the guy she loves (and who loves her back) is painfully obvious to the reader even if it isn’t to her.  Speaking of the boys in Scar’s life, it’s extremely annoying to watch them make hurtful accusations against Scar, blame her for problems she’s not responsible for, and constantly manhandle her.  It’s incredibly irksome when a strong female character like Scar is undermined this way, and not by the villain, but by her own male friends and love interests!

In addition, Scar’s independent, self-reliant attitude and progressive views of women’s rights contrasts sharply with the boys’ protectiveness, traditional views of female sexuality, and narrow minded ideas about how a proper woman should behave.  Although it’s clear that Robin appreciates Scar for who she is, even his behavior falls into this pattern more often than not.  This tension could have made the story more interesting, but it is never fully explored.  I can’t go into detail without spoiling anything, so I’ll simply say that, disappointingly, the ending is not the celebration of girl power that I’d hoped.  In many ways, the ending betrays the strong, independent character Scar is built up to be throughout most of the novel.

Those are the main reasons why I couldn’t give Scarlet a higher rating, but if I were going to nitpick, there are a few other things I could mention.  First of all, as a very character-driven book, little attention is spared for the setting.  I would have liked to explore Sherwood Forest and immerse myself in another world, but we are given only the barest descriptions and few details.  The villains of the story also lack detail.  Defined only by greed, bad hygiene, and general evilness, they manage to be terrifying and loathsome without seeming at all like actual people.  Furthermore, I found certain aspects of this story rather unbelievable, especially the complete disintegration of law and order towards the end of the book and the fact that Scar passes herself off as a boy for years despite having long, beautiful hair.  Those two story elements just don’t seem plausible to me.

Now that I’ve thoroughly bashed this book, let’s come back to why I gave it three stars.  Despite the book’s many flaws, I finished it in a day and I enjoyed the heck out of Scarlet while I was reading it.  The story doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but it’s pure, escapist fun, and that’s just what I was looking for at the time.  The ending of Scarlet does not wrap everything up neatly, but instead leaves plenty of room for a sequel.   Though I will not be rushing out to buy it, I liked the characters enough that I might consider returning to Scar and Robin’s story in the future if a sequel is indeed released.

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About Lesley

I love big dogs, ravioli, and all things nerdy. Books are my crack.
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