Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
As soon as I finished reading this book, my immediate thought was "I need there to be a sequel in my hands NOW! Stat! Ready go!" This is very much a case of almost wishing I had waited until the series was further along so that would be the case. Almost, but not quite because that would have meant missing out on this amazing book at the moment.
In her debut novel Scarlet, A.C. Gaughen puts a twist on a classic tale many of us are familiar with: Robin Hood. In this telling, Robin and his Merry Men are still teenagers, including Little John, Much, and Will Scarlet. Except this time around, it's just Scarlet - she only pretends to be a boy to the people of Notingham (only a few, including Robin's band, know she's a she) because she is someone with a past she doesn't talk about, a thief who is not to be messed with, and a master with knives that you really don't want to be on the wrong side of.
It's nearly tax time in town and the sheriff shows no mercy in continuing to demand everything of the people in his jurisdiction. Not only does the group have the challenge of getting the people food and money, but the thief-snatcher Gisbourne has been brought in from London to try and catch Robin and the band. Hard as it may be to believe, while this is bad news for Robin, it's actually much worse for Scarlet.
If retellings and twists on classics and fairy tales is the new trend, then please count me in! Gaughen does a fantastic job of giving a fresh face to a story that's literally hundreds of years old. I truly felt for these characters, delighting in seeing them up to the antics that are traditional to the tale but there are also plenty of fresh twists and turns. The relationships and friendships among this group felt incredibly real and relatable, even though the story takes place hundreds of years ago. My only criticism is the use of "dialect" by the narrator, Scarlet herself, because it didn't feel like a full commitment. Mostly, she seemed to substitute "were" for "was," like "I were going to keep waiting, but night was falling" - that sort of thing. As the story went on, it became very clear to me why Gaughen made this choice and I like that reasoning, but I'd like to see it as a full, true dialect in the future.
Given the cliffhanger ending this book has, there better be a sequel, though there's not one currently listed on Goodreads at the time of this post being written. If you like stories that put a new spin on the tales we all heard in childhood, then don't pass up Scarlet.
Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!
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