Book Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen

I’d had my eye on this book since it was featured in the monthly new releases post on Pub(lishing) Crawl.

The cover is gorgeous, and once I read the blurb, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I didn’t have to wait long as it turned up at the library in a new haul a few weeks ago and I snatched it right up. I didn’t get to it as soon as I’d have liked, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. I devoured in whole.

The hook is fantastic: “No one really knows ‘bout me. I’m Rob’s secret, I’m his informant, I’m his shadow in dark places.” It’s such a strong opening and sets the tone for the rest of the novel—so very intriguing. I’ve always been rather taken by the legend of Robin Hood, which was only fuelled by the fact I grew up only an hour away from Sherwood Forest. The book is written in dialect, which is absolutely spot on. Seriously. While in other books I’ve found that dialect has distanced me from the story, Gaughen’s use drew me in entirely. It definitely added another dimension to Scarlet’s character.

I actually think Scarlet might be one of my favourite heroines—ever. She’s strong and kickass and totally able to hold her own, fiercely loyal, smart, and so cunning. Yet she’s still unsettled by Robin’s mere presence. She wasn’t the little damsel in distress just waiting around to be rescued like Maid Marian was in the legend. In my opinion, Scarlet is a much worthier love interest for Rob. She’s as capable of saving him as he is her—and she’d do it without a second thought as we see repeated throughout the book. They’re equals.

There was just so much I adored about SCARLET. The characters were so beautifully crafted and complex, especially Robin and Scarlet and Much. Gaughen does a wonderful job of capturing Scarlet’s medieval Nottinghamshire—it’s clear and richly detailed and obviously well researched. The backdrop of Nottingham, especially Sherwood Forest, almost becomes another character. But honestly, the romantic tension between Rob and Scarlet was my favourite aspect of the book, besides the constant threat on their lives. Rob is just… so good, but ridiculously hard on himself. Just as Scarlet is. They really do make a right pair—in only the best of ways, of course. It all left me gushing.

Seriously, if you haven’t read this yet, please do! It’s such a wonderful play on the original legend—rewriting Will Scarlet as a girl posing as a boy. And definitely makes medieval England that bit more accessible, especially if you don’t usually read historicals. You’ll love it.