Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

Scarlet--A. C. Gaughen
February 2012 by Walker Children's
292 pages--Goodreads

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.

Aaarg!!  This book was such a disappointment.  I wanted Scarlet to be an awesome adventure about the girl hiding in plain sight among the Merry Men.  I wanted to know where she came from and why she was hiding from Gisbourne and how she got so good at knife throwing and why she dressed up like a man and why she joined Robin's group and how she hid her identity from the world.  Basically I wanted an Alanna-esque character inserted into the Robin Hood mythology.

Of all the stories that didn't need a stupid, stupid love triangle!  This could have been such a good book with knife throwing and daring escapes and hangings.  But instead, we spent the whole book listening to Robin, John, and Scarlet angst about who would get together with whom, completely ignoring the more important and deadly things going on.  Yes, Alanna had a love triangle too, but the adventure and the fate of the kingdom always came first.  The external plot or internal non-romantic conflict in a novel will always be more interesting to me than romantic angst.

And the best part of the awful unnecessary romance:  Robin, who never said a word to John about sleeping around, calls Scarlet a "whore" for accepting a little comfort in a moment when she is scared and injured and in shock.  And his reason for doing this?  "Hurting you is the best way I know to punish myself."  What kind of messed up crap is that?!  That statement is so close to justification for domestic abuse, I can't believe it made the final cut into the novel.  We'll just log it away with Carosel's If-he loves-you-it-doesn't-hurt-when-he-hits-you message.

The slightly less annoying or unsettling problems in the novel include:

  • The trust timeline was unrealistic.  Scarlet had been working with Robin and company for almost two years before the book gets started, and she didn't trust them at all.  Then, once we finish the first few chapters, she suddenly trusts them.  Because reasons.
  • Robin needs to be an adult.  Otherwise, the myth loses a lot of its significance.  Robin has to be a man when he returns from the crusades to find his lands seized and his people starving.  You can't blame a mere boy for letting his people down, but Robin the man has to accept that responsibility.  If you're going to make Robin a teenager, you better have a very good reason for doing it, and angst is not a good enough reason.

Scarlet was so disappointing, and yet frustratingly addictive.  I couldn't stop reading, even though I didn't like it.  This book sullies the good name of Scarlet.  Go read a good Scarlet instead where Marissa Meyer proves that a romantic sub plot can enhance rather than completely derail the main plot.

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