Scarlet Book Review

No one really knows ’bout me. I’m Rob’s secret, I’m his informant, I’m his shadow in dark places.

-pg 1

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Recently I was accused of skimming books but hey– here’s a book that I read all the way, so you can put that in your pipe and not smoke it because duh cancer.

Well the short of the long is that I loved this book. Sometimes I wish that books were like candy in that I can have a pile of Twix and that is good, but having multiple copies of the same book does nothing for my happiness and this frustrates me. Because I want more of this book.

This book was about Robin Hood. I adore him. I host equal love for retellings of legends. This book was a blend of both and it was indeed a potent mix.

For those of you who don’t know, Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men had quite a few characters besides the well-known Little John. There was his pal Will Scarlet. Now in the original tale, Will’s a boy. But here, the main character is a female Scarlet, masquerading as a boy (the gang knows her secret) in order to hide from certain men (don’t want to spoil anything). The traditional story of thieving from the rich in order to give to the poor is carried out, but more emphasis is put on the fact that Robin is the rightful (though currently displaced) lord of Nottinghamshire. This gives the plot a firmer structure because the Merry Men have an overall goal of getting Rob his land and titles back as opposed to just being outlaws forever. Since we’re talking plot here, I’d just like to throw in that there was good suspense and plot twists that I never saw coming. Snaps for Gaughen!

Now Scarlet is the main character of this book and she has her own set of secrets and problems, but her focus, as a loyal member of Rob’s group, is on helping him. Scarlet never told the group about her past and I won’t spoil it here for you, but as she wants to keep her true identity hidden, it makes utter sense that she won’t be setting up her own agenda anytime soon.

Scarlet was the type of character I can really get behind. She was brave and fiercely loyal to Rob, a whizz at knives (as was the traditional Will Scarlet character), and she even had some flaws. Scar had an eating problem (not like anorexia). As she described it in the book, Rob felt the injustice of his people and she felt their hunger; it made her sick to think of eating when others couldn’t. Admittedly this fizzled out a bit towards the end, but it was an interesting trait to give a character. Scarlet was also stubborn to a fault and it got her in trouble many a time.

The nifty thing about this story was disbursement of personality among characters other than Scarlet. I felt like Rob and Little John and the other Merry Men had their quirks, their habits, their ups and downs. For instance, Rob had a serious hero complex which really defined his actions in the story. At times, his desire to be a martyr was even a little frustrating— but in the sort of way that brings me glee because he wasn’t perfect.

In fact, as far as casts go, this one was particularly lively and engaging. Part of that can be attributed to Scarlet’s narration. She had such a strong voice— I could pick her out of a sampling of first person characters. Mainly because she spoke like a commoner with funky grammar. Initially I was like, what the cabbage? But it grew on me quickly and really made Scar’s world pop. In general though, the writing was excellent. Well paced, great dialogue, good vocabulary. I mean, it was just a delight to read this writing.

If you were to look online at this book, it would certainly come off as a trashy romance novel because the descriptions focus obscenely on the fact that Scarlet (understandably) likes Rob. Well let me tell you that it is a feature of this book but not the highlight. The romance was very tasteful. It’s slow building and they’re both a little thick but in a sweet sort o f way. But it does not overwhelm the action or the greater plot. It adds to the story, like icing on a cake.

I mean, if I really had to think about, this book was like icing on the icing. Better on great. I just really enjoyed it in a way that I haven’t enjoyed many books recently. It was original and so very different from the dystopian cesspool out there. I loved that it managed to mix elements of adventure and romance and folklore in a really approachable and enjoyable way.

When I first read it I was so impressed I was shocked at my feelings so the next morning I woke up and read the whole thing over again. And I still loved it.

If you’re still not convinced I will let you know that WordPress’ recommended link right now is for a Wikipedia page called “WOW.” Even the internet is impressed and if that doesn’t get you readings this– there is no end for that sentence because you should be reading this.

Ri’s Rating:


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Leave a comment


  1. Rebekka

     /  September 1, 2012

    Hi Ri

    I’m just curious; How come you have only given this book 3.5/5? It sounds in your review like you would want to give it a 4/5 :-)
    Btw thanks for all the reviews. I’ve just recently stumbled upon your blog, but I’ve already read two of the books that you have recommended and I’m looking forward to reading more :-)

    • Hmmm… no idea. I probably should change it to a four. Sometimes I get caught up in the excitment while writing and then when it gets to assinging a number I feel like I should tone it down. But thanks for commenting and come back soon!

  2. Hmm . . . might have to add this to the eternal to-read list. How clean is the romance?


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