SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen

I’m a very lucky fellow for a lot of reasons. But for tonight, let’s just go with the fact that I’ve read three books this month and they’ve all been great books.

And they’re all signed copies from debut authors who donated the book to a charity auction.

An auction for what?! You ask. Because you’re an awesome, good person and you want to help whatever charity would be so equally awesome as to offer novels for an auction of The Apocalypsies, the 2012 debut author group. I know, no matter when I manage to trick the world into publishing my stuff, I will never be part of a group with as badass a name as that…

I want to take this moment to ask you if you have a few bucks you could spare for the wonderful charity that put on this auction. Every little bit helps, folks.

They help homeless animals. Do you hate puppies so much that you can’t donate $1 on Paypal? 
$1 kissing booth. You know you want to.
And now on to the review!!!
SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen

Most of Nottinghamshire knows Will Scarlet: a quick and clever thief that sticks to the shadows and protects the band without question, but even those that know Scarlet’s really a girl don’t know the secrets of her past, like how she got the scar on her cheek. Guy of Gisbourne may be the one person who does: and he was just hired to bring Robin Hood and his gang to the gallows.

And now you get to hear my flowery words.

Cards on the table, SCARLET is not a book I’d typically pick up. Don’t misunderstand me, I was immediately intrigued by the premise and cover, but if you look in my Young Adult library, you will find very little that doesn’t have some fundamental tweak on reality. I’m not a historical fiction kind of guy, and there is absolutely nothing world-bendy going on in SCARLET. You won’t hear about any dragons or magic or any such things. I use my reading as escapism and, while jumping into a new time period and character is escapist fare extraordinaire, it’s not really up my alley.

But now, because of SCARLET, I may have to tweak that assumption.

Y’see, dear reader, SCARLET does pretty much everything it sets out to do. Gives you a narrator with enough personality to hook you in about a page. Gives you a mystery for that character that’s fairly intriguing and unravels at a speed just slow enough to keep you digging for more. And for you ninja/explosion/Matrix-Lobby-Scene fans out there, this book has more than enough action to keep you clawing for the next knife throw.

The Leading M’Lady
So, first off, yes. This is a YA book with a heroine as the main character. Shocking, right? But in the same vein as Katsa from the Graceling series, Scarlet is as badass as they come. This is not some Bella waiting around for a dude with emotional issues to come and save her. Scarlet does most of the saving in this book.

But don’t worry, she’s not some robot. She gets herself wounded aplenty. A sure sign that the author wants us to realize that we’re dealing with a human. Nothing worse than a flawless heroine who can save the day every time and still keep her hair looking gorgeous and flash a smile to any nearby men to make them all swoon and forget what they were…what was I talking about…?

Add to this that the intense Scarlet is accompanied by three men of varied abilities, goals, and personalities, and you come up with a pretty strange “family” of sorts. You’ve got Much, who is the peace keeper of the group. Not overtly, but he breaks tension in his own way. Then you’ve got John, the brawn, who is a bit of a lady’s man and a little tunnel visioned. And of course, Robin Hood. The leader and arguably just as mysterious as Scarlet. His past is fairly up front, but he’s smart. Cunning. So it’s never quite clear what Robin’s thinking or feeling.

And you have Scarlet. The rough-edged girl who has to deal with all of these personalities. Toss in some rubber walls and you may not notice a difference between this band and a psych ward…

Villains Be Here
Robin Hood story? The Sheriff of Nottingham must be here, right? YEP. And he’s an evil bastard, to be sure. Oppressing the people and shedding more blood than a blind barber.

But I think the real villain here is Gisbourne. He’s a bounty hunter after Robin and his crew, and he’s even more ruthless than the sheriff. I always like to point out clear psychological disorders in villains and there’s little doubt that Gisbourne is a sociopath. Someone kicked this guy in the face when he was a kid (or they should have) and now he’s got a few screws loose to show for it.

And he’s got a history. That much is instantly clear when he saunters onstage.

I won’t say I was particularly disturbed by these villains as I have been by others, but they are intimidating. It’s rare that you see such a complete disregard for life in villains. In most stories, when the villain kills someone it’s of direct importance. They mean something to the hero, or they’re critical people. In this story, of course those people are targeted. But the sheriff and Gisbourne have no problem just killing because it’s a way to show the people that they are all expendable.

Here’s Your Knife
I’m a guy. So I’m a fan of weaponry. In fact it’s vaguely well known that I collect medieval weaponry of sorts…

Scarlet is good with knives. Like really good. You know how Jack Bauer can bring down a helicopter with a 9mm pistol, or John McClane can kill Severus Snape with a wristwatch? That’s what Scarlet’s like. She could probably give you a buzz cut with a few knives if you didn’t breathe too deeply.

And there’s some significance to her weapons. Some of them are deliberate, sure, but let’s look at it a little deeper.

Scarlet throws knives. A weapon that, usually, is for the up close kill. But she keeps her distance. For what other people need to do real personal-like, Scarlet does from afar. Knives are offensive weapons only. It’s very hard to deflect any sort of weapon with a throwing knife.

In many stories, weapons serve as a means to an end. In this story, I believe Scarlet’s weapon choice represents how she deals with the world.

And to illustrate that further, and end this review of a great book…

The Perfect Line
“He tugged my hand again, and we started walking. I pulled my hand out. He didn’t need it no more, and if you weren’t careful with things like that, it could go on and on, never letting go of the hands.”

DISCLAIMER: Book Review Friday here is an enjoyable affair. I don’t review books I don’t like. Why bother wasting -my- time typing something negative and waste your time in having to read it? I usually don’t read a book unless I have a strong feeling I’ll enjoy it. And if by chance I don’t enjoy it, you won’t be seeing a review here. That’s just how I view reading and this site. My blog library will only contain books I enjoy. I keep bad books in the cold, moldy blog garage. As a warning to future books…

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One Response to SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen

  1. kiperoo says:

    Nice! Love this book too, especially the kick-assedness of the heroine and the spot-on voice. I LOVE the "perfect line" you highlight.

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