Action/Adventure

Scarlet: A New Take on an Old Tale

3.5/5 Stars

Author: A. C. Gaughen

Publisher/Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Edition: Paperback, 292 Pages

Publication Date: June 7, 2012

A Spine that Shines? Ehh … Almost

Initial Thoughts, Characters, & Problems

This will be a shorter review since I don’t have very much to say about this book. Overall, Scarlet is a creative retelling of the old Robin Hood tale. It added some surprising elements. The main character Scarlet has a secret past that she doesn’t want anyone to know about. She disguises herself as a boy who is part of Robin Hood’s crew in the forest. However, when Gisbourne comes to town, his presence threatens to unleash her secret.

My main issue with the book is the writing style. The author made the decision to use intentionally bad grammar; Scarlet narrates the story using “were” instead of “was” and other improper phrasing as well. In my case, the problem is that this technique severely hampered my reading experience – both the flow of the writing and my understanding of the story. I had to stop and re-read things often to try to make sense out of it. The entire story is narrated in this manner. After a while, I really got tired of reading, “He said he were there,” or, “She decided she were going to do this as he were going to do that,” etc. (Perhaps it bugs me a lot because I was an English/Creative Writing major in college.)

My other criticisms have to do with the characters and the romance. I have to be honest; I didn’t love the characters. Scarlet, John, and Robin often act like immature teenagers.

  • Scarlet thinks she’s such a tough girl who can get the boys in the group to submit to her every whim. She cries frequently or goes off and hides whenever the boys get mad at her. She becomes a bit whiny at times.
  • I felt like John was just in the story to function as an obstacle to Scarlet and Rob’s romance. He’s always trying to kiss Scarlet at times when she doesn’t necessarily desire his affectionate behavior. Yet, she does let him kiss her sometimes and observes how Rob responds.
  • Robin is not quite the brave hero I was expecting. The love triangle thing appears to take over the story. Whenever Scarlet is injured, both Robin and John react in a dramatic fashion – perhaps a bit too dramatic. Also, Rob easily becomes jealous of John and Scarlet and, in a fit, threatens to make Scarlet leave the band (even though he doesn’t really mean it). In my opinion, that’s a pretty childish threat to resort to.

Final Thoughts & Content Warnings

For some reason, there is also more violence in Scarlet than I was expecting. So I would definitely include violence in the content warnings: attempted rape, bloody torture, fighting, etc. For these reasons, I wouldn’t suggest this book for very young readers.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed despite the creative aspects of Scarlet. Nevertheless, there are some pretty exciting action scenes throughout that I did find entertaining. If you really, really love Robin Hood retellings, feel free to give this one a go. You may enjoy it more than I did. Thanks for reading, and I hope this review was helpful!

Spines that Shine

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