Walker Children's Books
Available February 14th
Received through NetGalley for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.
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.
Scarlet is a story that despite the use of familiar characters and a familiar premise feels fresh and new, the world of Robin Hood looking very different through the eyes of a female Will Scarlet–a young woman who steals and swears better than the boys in their band of misfits but who can’t quite hide the flush in her cheeks and the beating of her heart at the sight of Robin behind her boyish façade. Never before has the concept of thievery been quite so appealing, and while we know intellectually that stealing is not an act to be admired or glorified, our own fingers can’t help but twitch with the desire to be as sticky as Scarlet’s so that we might contribute to the fight against a tyrannical prince and sheriff no matter how illegal our choice of weapons. Into a classic tale Ms. Gaughen weaves a complicated and dark past for our young heroine, making her more than simple words on a page, more than a girl in boy’s clothing, and more than someone relegated to the shadows cast by the great Robin of Locksley.
It takes a couple chapters to really settle in with Scarlet as a narrator, the dialect wherein she often uses the word “were” in place of “was” (ie “I were looking right at him”) taking some getting used to before it simply becomes a part of who she is and therefore something we can’t help but love because we adore her so thoroughly. She wields her knives with unerring precision, pulling more than her weight in their band of four and proving again and again that she’s a force to be reckoned with. When the boys attempt to remind her that she’s a girl and could possibly need looking after, she’s quick to prove otherwise, repeatedly being the first into danger to save an innocent life and back out again before Robin, Little John, and Much even know she’s gone.
Perhaps most memorable and intriguing in this tale is the relationship between Scarlet and Rob, the two of them so frighteningly similar and so obliviously blind to their own similarities that they repeatedly clash, butting heads again and again without ever thinking to truly open their eyes and see what’s standing in front of them. Both are struggling to atone for past sins, using self-inflicted emotional pain as currency to pay the debt they both feel they owe to God and country for the blood they’ve spilled, never once allowing the health and safety they now provide to those around them to balance the perceived taint on their souls. They hurt one another both intentionally and unintentionally, but it’s abundantly clear to us that their actions and sharp words are never intended the way they seem, and we wait with breath held for the moment when they'll allow their hearts to communicate what body language and mouths cannot.
Overall, Scarlet is a wonderfully well-rounded debut from Ms. Gaughen; a layered tale where light attempts to fight the encroaching darkness through shades of gray, and where a young woman fights for a home and a family she doesn’t feel she deserves even though the opposite is true. Ms. Gaughen is an author I will be watching from now on, and I cannot wait to see what she will delight us with next.