Hi everyone! This is Julia of The Broke and the Bookish, formerly blogging on my own at The Competitive Bibliomaniac.
I read mostly historical romance, but can often be found reviewing paranormal romance, young adult books (mostly distopian/fantasy), fantasy/sci-fi, classics, and the occasional non-fiction book about languages.
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I have so many opinions on this book. Some of them I just need to rant and get it out, and because of this there will be spoilers. For those of you who have not read this yet and want an honest, spoiler free review, check out my blog.
So continuing now means spoilers. You have been warned. I tried to use spoiler tags though as well...
Scarlet is a retelling and reimagining of the Robin Hood legends, and the one thing that you can tell right off the bat, the author knows her Robin Hood. The things that were included were a mix of different legends. I really got the feeling throughout the story that she knew the time period as well, from the crusades to the Catholic nation. The one thing this book does really well is the early middle ages of it all.
But let’s go back. The book is a look at Robin Hood as a younger guy then he is usually depicted. Is this to cater to the YA crowd? I’m not sure. I was warring with that inside of me. On one hand people died earlier in the middle ages so life started early (yay marriage at 14….). On the other hand, it's YA lit so we need a younger cast, but not only that, a moodier cast. More on that later.
So we have our Robin, 21 just back from the crusades. We have our Much the youngest of them at 16. We have our Little John, 18 (which I can’t get over that. I’ve always pictured him as older than Robin but loyal to him to a fault and thus I think his age changed rubbed me wrong the most). And then Will Scarlet, 18. Who of course, is not “Will Scarlet”, just Scarlet.
And let me just say that if she was as pretty as the cover, the whole world would have to be populated by dumbasses to not know she was a girl.
Anyway, they are this ragtag band, and there is stealing of riches, giving to the poor, getting threatened by the Sheriff and then of course Gisbourne. An aside about Gisbourne. I could not help picturing Richard Armatige who played him in the BBC Robin Hood show, and it me smile at random inappropriate moments.
So the plot. Overall the plot was pretty good. It moved well. There were things from the legends worked into a main plot that surrounded Scarlet. Of course there was a love triangle. OF COURSE! I am actually really mad about that. It was completely unnecessary. There is no question in the Robin Hood legend who the main girl ends up with (Robin) so it just seemed shoved in their because a publisher said “You know what is hot now? Love triangles. Try to write that in.” I think the plot could have been served just as well if there was just tension between Scarlet and Rob. It was just, bleh and it served to make the characters whiny hormonal teenagers.
The other thing that is not so much plot but stylistic choice that annoyed me at first was the voice. Scarlet is our narrator but does not talk in proper English. So there is a lot of “I weren’t doing anything wrong. I ain’t his girl” If you can’t take that sentence you won’t be able to read the book. I got used to it, and it ceased to bug me. I get that she is a commoner and that is how they talked. Whatever. I’ve got other fish to fry.
I don’t want to talk too much about the plot. It was fine, engaging actually and I can’t complain (much) about it. I more want to talk about the characters.
What I liked. Well she was her own woman. In a time where women had absolutely nothing for themselves, she carved her own thieving way and knew what she wanted and what she didn’t. Well for the most part. She wasn’t cowed by a guy giving her eyes, and I don’t think was ever defined by any man in this book. Which is awesome.
What I didn’t like: She was too awesome. She was more awesome then Robin Hood! Consistently more awesome than him. She planned the plans, she showed them how to thieve, which seriously. How the hell did she learn how to do that?! She was a noble, then her sister protected her, then she immediately met Robin. I may be able to believe that she had a natural tendency to thieve well. But the knife work? What, did she learn that in between embroidering?! Arg! Robin Hood is the Hero. I get that Scarlet is supposed to be badass. That was the intent, but I really don’t think she should outshine Robin. And I felt she did. I mean, I have no problem with her being awesome too, but she was too awesome. She planned every raid, she almost made all the decisions, and she was too good of a fighter. Plus I think Robin only got to shoot his bow once. Sad day!!
What I liked: Hmm.. I liked that he was noble like normal in the legends and all for the people. That was good. And I liked his talks with Scarlet. Those were cute. I wish it was just them so much… Again though, more arrows! More Robin!
What I didn’t like: There was not enough of him and his amazing, for one. For two, I felt like we were missing his amazing. And for three, he was kind of a moody meanie dick. This is almost a real quote. “Because I can’t have you I am going to make you feel like shit. Really, it’s the best way. That’s why I distance you with insults.” Are you fucking kidding me?!
What I liked: …??? He hit things?
What I didn’t like: He was a foil for Robin. Sometimes he was nice, I guess, though mostly protective to a fault of Scarlet. Possessive really. I don’t know. He was fine I guess, just that love triangle thing bothered me so much that it’s bleeding into the characters involved.
Much: He’s awesome. Nothing more to say, except MORE MUCH! :)
So let’s talk about the big reveal.
The one thing I think authors that are doing reimaginings have to worry about it messing with what people already have in their heads. It’s almost like a fan-fic where you don’t want to make the characters too AU.
The funny thing is, despite all my complaining, I liked it. It was a fun story that kept me turning the pages. I love Robin Hood and this story wasn’t bad, just frustrating because I could see how it would better serve my image of the story. And I really wasn’t as frustrated as I make it sound during the reading. It was after I closed the book that I really thought about all the things that bothered me.
There are things I didn’t like, there are things I did. I am not sure if it is a series or not. It was just open-ended enough that it could be, or it could be an unsatisfying conclusion to a standalone. If it is a series, I’d continue. If it’s not, I would recommend it to someone with the caution that if you have a strong opinion on Robin Hood legends (and love triangles) then it may not be your cup of tea. Also if you can take the “I were” and “I weren’t” writing.
Originally posted on GR in 2012