I enjoy a good Robin Hood retelling. I truly do. And because I don't have a great love for the source material I don't really care what people do to it. I was looking forward to reading Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen. Unfortunately the experience did not quite live up to my expectations. It is a good swashbuckling adventure story. But I had some issues.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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
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 knife wielding loyal member of Robin's band. She feels the desperation of the poor they help deeply and works hard to help maintain them. It is her brilliant thieving skills and espionage tactics that keep the band in gold and information. There is a lot of worthiness in her character. When you add to that the camaraderie of the band and the action, I can see why many have enjoyed this one. The plot is predictable but action filled, and there is plenty to keep you on the edge of your seat.
I couldn't fully enjoy it though because I really couldn't like either Scarlet or Rob. Much of Scarlet's worthiness of character comes at the expense of his. The two of them have zero chemistry too. All of their conversations are miserable competitions to prove which one is more awful. (I'm the worst most despicable human ever. No I am. No I am. Seriously do you know how many awful things I've done? I bet I've done worse. Repeat. Repeat. Ad nauseum.) This is their bond. Despite being "the hope of the people" Rob was a complete and total jerk. His whole I-hurt-you-because-that's-the-best-way-to-hurt-me routine should send Scarlet running for the hills, particularly after he called her a whore. And then barely apologized for it by using the self loathing excuse. John isn't much better with his inability to understand that no means no and "I don't want to be grabbed and kissed" is not an invitation to do just that. And for those paying attention, yes this means there is a love triangle here. Scarlet has all the boys wanting to love, protect, and kiss her. She is one of those special ones.
For those who, like me,
are history nerds and care there are some anachronisms that may bother you depending on how exercised you get about those. One of the
guards searching the forest at one point says, "That's not on." The word
fiancee is also used several times and that word wasn't being tossed
around 13th century England. Betrothed. It's betrothed.
There are many people who have adored this book. I am in the minority here. If you are in the market for a swashbuckling adventure then this might work for you. What bothered me clearly won't bother everyone.