While, strictly speaking, this is not a fairy tale retold, Scarlet is an alternate version of Robin Hood. And yet another tale that everybody knows and that is possibly best known by me for its Disney adaptation. After a while I found it almost a blessing that my head kept picturing friar Tuck as a badger and Robin Hood as a fox. Because there isn’t much originality in this novel. Man, fairy tale retellings month is letting me down!
by A.C. Gaughen
published: Bloomsbury USA, February 2012
my rating: didn’t finish
first sentence: No one really knows ’bout me.
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.
I know a few versions of this story. The Kevin Costner movie, the Disney adaptation of course, and I saw one episode of the BBC show (I think). I wouldn’t call myself a Robin Hood savvy person and other than the basic names of his band of thieves, I really don’t remember any details. The idea of turning Will Scarlet into a girl sounded intriguing though and, let’s be honest, reading about thieves and criminals is usually fun. Sadly, my bad luck when picking YA novels seems to continue.
Yet another fail in book-picking, this book was a terrible bore, despite its short chapters and easy readability. Not only is there nothing new to this story, what is there, is incredibly lame and none of the capers, awesome thievery and outwitting the sheriff that I was hoping for, was delivered.
The language is very basic, which is due to Scarlet being the first person narrator. The author susbstitued every single “was” with a “were”, I’m guessing to make Scarlet sound less educated and more like a scoundrel. The problem with that is that otherwise she uses almost perfect grammar. I got annoyed with the many “were”s extremely quickly and it diminished the reading pleasure a lot. A sad mistake because it could have been remedied by some simple editing.
The plot utterly failed to engage me. Nothing really happens and the initial spark that’s supposed to set up the plot is Guy of Gisbourne appearing in Nottinghamshire to catch Rob and his crew. However, as I didn’t care about Scarlet one bit, and Robin is only there to make her blush whenever he smiles, I also didn’t really care if this particular version of Robin Hood gets caught.There is some mystery surrounding Scarlet – the fact that she’s a girl is never a secret – but the solution is blatantly obvious to anyone with imagination (or anyone who’s read a handful of books before). So I kept asking myself (instead of paying attention to the book) why I’m still reading this? All we find out in the first half of the novel is how wonderful Scarlet is. Robin, Little John and random townspeople simply can’t stop mentioning just what makes her special. Be it her pretty long hair, how quickly and silently she moves, how tough she is and her deep-down kindness. Perfect characters don’t interest me. Even if they’re rude and can’t speak properly.
Genderbending alone does not make a retold tale interesting. So Will Scarlet is a girl, a nice idea. It opens the road to romance not invoving Maid Marian but even what little romance there is, is badly executed. All Scarlet seems to do is blush furiously (14 blushes only in chapter 4!) and speak English badly. After about a quarter of the book I was ready to lem it… I struggled on until about half but if a book still hasn’t gripped me at the 50% mark, it’s just not meant to be. Bear in mind though, that this review is only for the first half. Who knows? The book just may turn awesomesauce in the second half, though I stronlgy doubt it…
THE GOOD: Will Scarlet as a girl is a cute idea.
THE BAD: I was bored to death, the writing was bland, the protagonist’s style infuriating and there was no plot I could detect.
THE VERDICT: Did not like it. In fact, it was so boring, I actually didn’t finish it. The characters are one-dimensional and since there was nothing happening, I don’t feel I missed anything.
RATING: Didn’t finish the book. What I did read was a waste of time.
After all that negativity: Big thumbs up for having an original song written for your debut YA novel, though. It’s called “Scarlet” by Jenna Paone. While it’s not entirely my kind of music, I had it on in the background while reading and it did add to the atmosphere. It’s certainly awesome that you can download or listen to it for free here.