Book Review: “Scarlet” by A.C. Gaughen

Lina Benich ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Books Editor

Photo via www.turn-the-page.net.
Photo via www.turn-the-page.net.

I have always been a follower of Robin Hood. Whether it’s the animal-animated Disney version, the BBC’s highly reviewed television series, or Cary Elwes singing in tights, I have always loved Robin and his merry men. And recently I have found a new favorite view on Nottingham.

Published just last year from Walker & Company Publishers, A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlet tells the story of the Robin Hood gang from the point of view of Robin’s most trusted member, Will Scarlet. Who, as it happens, is a girl. Gaughen plays this well: Scarlet is a girl who ran away from home early in her teens, and has been living with six teenage guys for the past half-a-decade or so. And because of this, it makes sense that the character Gaughen creates to be Will Scarlet is rough around the edges and hell to face off against when Scarlet has her knives. Of course, her being a girl is a secret, and the boys Robin, John, Much, and Allan protect her. And of course, being a YA fiction novel with a mysterious cross-dressed girl, there is love interest. But I think it pushes forward the narrative rather than holding it back.

Robin is ever the do-gooder, for-the-people charming man he always is, though for this story he is a wee bit younger, with a little more brooding teenager lurking beneath his eyes.

The crux of the story revolves around the daily attempts by the band to make sure the townsfolk have enough to eat and also pay their sky-high taxes (sound familiar). This is disrupted when Guy of Gisbourne is hired to capture and kill Robin and his Merry Men, forcing Scar and the boys to get creative to get things done and still outwit the great thief hunter, Lord Gisbourne. Problems arise, however, when it seems that Guy might know more about Scar’s past than she likes to admit to anyone.

The most interesting and page-turning part of the story is the way in which Gaughen spins “fact” into her story. Gaughen herself is an avid fan of the Robin Hood lore, and so many of the little parts of the characters come from the stories about Robin Hood. Will was a historically real part of the Robin Hood band, and is often described as a dark and mysterious part of the group, always with his knives, and also Robin’s most trusted friend.

Though this adventure of the Merry Men is completely new, Gaughen finds all kinds of threads of the popular tales to incorporate, and every new reveal of the characters will blow your mind at the way A.C. crafted this story. I won’t give anything away about that, but suffice to say that if you are a fan of Robin Hood the tale, you will be gripping the seat of your chair as you read.

I absolutely adored this book, and in looking up A.C. Gaughen, found out there will be a second book in the series out sometime in 2014. So look out. Because Robin Hood is coming back, Scarlet might just become the next green tights. Sorry Cary Elwes.

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