Monday, March 7, 2016

Book Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Title: Scarlet
Series: Scarlet #1
Written by: A.C. Gaughen
Published: June 7, 2012 by Bloomsbury
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets - skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood's band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet's biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know...that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl. 

The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in a put innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more - making this a fight worth dying for.

Scartlet is a book that has been on my TBR for quite time. I even own a copy of the e-book which I bought about six months ago. So being that it's Retellings month, I thought I would knock this one off my list for the Rock My TBR challenge. And I'm so glad that I did because this was a fantastic retelling with a interesting historical feel, great characters, and plot development that was full of mystery and adventure.

As a fan of historical fiction, one of the things I love about retellings is when they have a historical feel to them. It doesn't matter if the author uses the period when the original story was written or perhaps they use a different period to build the story around. With Scarlet, it was the former. I loved the way that it tapped into the Medieval vibe of the original Robin Hood and developed an interesting historical story that could have stood on it's own with out the retelling aspects. It had references to the Crusades, King Richard and Prince John incorporated with fictional characters which I like in my historical fiction, for one. But really it used the historical setting and the unfair treatment of lower class citizens as the basis for an engaging story about characters fighting for justice and equality. It was a great setting for the story and it felt rooted in reality while crafting something unique and different.

It also created unique and interesting characters based on the original Robin Hood characters. This book had some pretty great characters and I'm interested to see where their stories go in the next books. I love the way the author played with the known folklore around Robin Hood and his Merry Men. One of the things I like about retellings is when we are able to see the story through the eyes of a secondary character. That was the case so we got to see Robin Hood through the eyes of those who support him which was great. I liked that he wasn't perfect and made mistakes. But he wasn't the only character different than you expect. I particularly liked Little John who was such a complex character, and of course Will Scarlet. A female Will Scarlet was pretty fantastic. I'm not always in favor of the girl in disguise trope but here it worked really well. Maybe it was because this book played with the known character in an interesting way or maybe it was because of the way her character developed throughout the book. She was tough and savvy with a mysterious past. I loved being in her head and learning her story throughout the novel.

In fact, that was the basis of the larger plot of the story. I wasn't the typical Robin Hood versus the Sheriff of Nottingham kind of story although that was a part of it. Scarlet was not only the narrator of the story but the protagonist that the plot was centered around. And what a great plot it was. The book too was full of action and adventure. It had the kind of things you would expect from a Robin Hood story. Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor most notable. But there was all kinds of narrow escapes and moments that had me concerned and on the edge of my seat. Things definitely did not go according to plan throughout the book and when we reached the conclusion I was left in need of the next book in the series because I needed to know what happened next. And not because there was a cliffhanger. Just because I was so invested and engaged in the story.

But I do want to warn readers that this is one of those books that immerses you in the book by using a particular manner of speech. Scarlet has had tough life and spent a lot of it on the streets of London, thieving naturally. So having her narrate the book she uses an accented cockney type speech pattern that is directly in the writing. It may bother some readers and at times it bothered me. It did make for an immerse experience and helped develop Scarlet's characters but it felt a little complicated at times.

On the whole, this was a good read and I'm glad I took the time to read it after it being in my TBR for a few years now. It was a great piece of historical fiction and a really creative retelling with great characters and tons of action.

I give Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. Definitely a good read that I would recommend to anyone who likes historical fiction or fairy tales. It's got a lot of action so if you're looking for a book full of adventure than pick this up. And of course it's a must read for Robin Hood fans.

Have you read Scarlet? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

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