Will Scarlet likes to slip about unseen. It’s only natural. A thief, and a fine one at that, Will’s livelihood depends on it. But Will has well-kept secrets of another kind too. Will is actually a she, and the less people outside of Robin Hood’s band that know she is a girl the better. Walking unnoticed through taverns and sneaking soundlessly into prisons in Nottingham is easy enough for Scarlet, who honed her stealthy skills on the streets of London where she was forced to fend for herself for years before Robin took her in. More difficult for Robin, John and Much is getting Scarlet to open up about her past. When the infamous Thief Taker Guy Gisbourne is hired by the sheriff to sniff out Robin Hood, she’s forced to either face her demons or let her unflinching loyalty to Robin wave. But everyone knows that won’t happen. The past it will be then, with any pain and humiliation that may accompany it. Perhaps Scarlet’s better-forgotten memories deserve less suppression than she hitherto thought.
Scarlet caught me off guard. I’m not a die-hard fan of Robin Hood by any means so I wasn’t sure what my reaction would be to this latest retelling. Admittedly after rather happily being approved on Netgalley I didn’t rush to pick it up. Again, I’m finding myself regretting my hesitation, because Scarlet was more than I could’ve hoped for.
Entertaining from the first page, I loved Scarlet for a myriad of reasons, the first for Scarlet herself. She is such a strong protagonist, a fact that is sure to polarize readers. But I absolutely adored her for the fierce, unapologetic way she conducts her life. The pain of her past is hers alone and only under extenuating circumstances will she disclose why she ran and why she robs the rich to feed the poor. I respected her pride and found her secrecy true to life. Besides the immediate connection I felt to her, Scarlet charmed me with her – ahem – more amoral skills. An excellent liar, a deadly knife thrower, and a vicious hand-to-hand fighter, Scarlet is one part fearless urban fantasy heroine and another part Megan Whelan Turner thief. Being a girl has no bearing on her integral place in the Hood, and I enjoyed the dynamic she brought to the band and her at times uneasy relationships with both John and Robin. So much is said in the pregnant pauses and meaningful glances between Scarlet and Robin – just how I like it. Add the characterization to the romance and the perfectly paced and spaced prison-breaks, roadside thieving, and character-driven scenes and Scarlet is a near flawless Robin Hood retelling. I hope AC Gaughen has something else up her sleeve because I can’t wait to read it.