Author: A. C. Gaughen
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Release Date: 14 Feb, 2012
Description: From Goodreads
Buy: From Amazon UK
A. C. Gaughen debuts with a historical re-telling of the renowned legend of Robin Hood - a legend of thievery, injustice, and the eminent bow and arrow that so many of us are familiar with in some form or another. What readers probably won’t be familiar with is the astonishing idea that Will Scarlet, a prominent member of Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men, is, in actual fact, a girl. Scarlet, this brilliantly clever idea of a story, turns the customary concepts of this English folklore on it its head. And it does so in the most entertaining and inventive of ways.
When I first stumbled across this book, I was instantly intrigued by the concept of a fearless girl banding with the ‘men’ (or boys, in this case). Who doesn’t enjoy reading about a kick-ass heroine? And kick-ass she was. Will Scarlet - Scar to Robin and the boys (Little John and Much the Miller’s Son) - is everything I was expecting her to be and so much more. She is impulsive, brave, and tough as bones, with her feminine locks locked away behind her boyish cap and a significant scar lining her face. From the very first page where her unique ‘voice’ makes itself heard, I knew me and Scarlet were going to get along just fine. As far as main characters go, she is hardly a model of excellence, and I say that as a good thing. She is so wonderfully and refreshingly flawed, that her rough edges do, in a sense I guess, make her perfect.
And Scarlet is hardly the only character who struck a chord with me. Robin - the legendary Robin of Locksley, the so-called Earl of Huntington – whatever you want to call him – is, without a doubt, a brilliantly crafted character. A. C. Gaughen impresses me with her character-building skills as she delivers, not one, not even two, but several layered and appreciable characters. Robin is one that stands out significantly in this story. Like Scarlet, he is cut rough and left to bloom, with all his flaws adding to his character and not taking anything away. He is exactly how all Robin Hoods in every play, show, movie or book should be portrayed. There, I’ve said it – A. C. Gaughen’s Robin Hood is the Robin Hood.
It’s obvious that the characters in this book are most certainly my favorite aspect. Apart from Guy of Gisbourne – who wasn’t ‘baddie’ enough for me – they are all wonderfully entertaining to read about. By the time I was pretty much most of the way through the book, I realised the characters were nearly the only reason I was still continuing to turn the pages. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – for some books. For a book like Scarlet, however, I was expecting a gripping and action-packed plot. There was a notable presence of action in this book, most of which I enjoyed reading, but I felt the overall story line was lacking in substance. It almost felt to me that the author re-created these old characters but hadn’t quite built the story necessary to do something with them. I did mention while I was reading this book, that the plot was terrible – it’s not terrible (and quite a few readers will find it more than entertaining, I’m sure) but it just didn’t impress me enough to have me interested in actually what was happening as opposed to just the characters.
Having said all that, the lack of a remarkable plot doesn’t completely ruin the reading experience. I know I still thoroughly enjoyed most of the book and would be happy to visit it again or read more of Scarlet’s story. Overall, A. C. Gaughen gets a round of applause from me for plucking perhaps the most iconic tale from English history and moulding it into her own. If this is a stand-alone book, I will be contacting the author and forcing her to write another. Because frankly, who can get enough of Robin Hood?
Rating: 3.5 stars