Next up: “Scarlet”, “Lady Thief”, and “Lion Heart” by A.C. Gaughen.
This series is a retelling of the classic Robin Hood story, except from the point of view of “Will Scarlet”, who is actually a girl. This will be an odd one to rate, since I liked the first book substantially more than the sequels…
Again, this is a retelling of the Robin Hood story, so the plot isn’t terribly new, though there are some new aspects. The primary divergence is that Will Scarlet here is a woman, hiding in the guise of a young man. Her companions in Robin’s gang are the only ones that know the truth… at least about her gender. She is, however, keeping other secrets from them.
Scarlet is a thief, stealing food and money from the rich to give to the downtrodden poor. She is a spy for and confidante to Robin Hood, for whom she is harboring romantic feelings. She helps to pass messages to him from the townspeople, helps to plan and carry out jobs such as springing the unjustly imprisoned from jail. However, their activities have caused the Sheriff of Nottingham to call the Thief Taker Guy of Gisbourne in to put an end to Robin Hood and his band. And all of Scarlet’s secrets are suddenly at risk of tumbling into the light, as Gisbourne knows her… and not just as a thief.
There are good and bad things about this series. The good is that it’s a fairly unique retelling of Robin Hood. Scarlet’s true identity is well-woven into the story and was a fun revelation. She’s also shown by deed to be scrappy, not willing to be a damsel in distress.
The bad: Why is she the only one to use a bad-grammar dialect? It’s jarring when she’s the only one, and when it’s not consistent. It sounds so awkward and out of place. Also, I would dearly love for a little less love-triangle trope in the YA genre. It’s really not necessary to have every male character fall in love with the heroine. Robin and Scarlet have enough obstacles between them that adding a competitive suitors situation is aggravating.
While Scarlet is a constitutionally strong character–bound by her own code– she’s also kind of weakly characterized. We’re told a lot that she’s a good thief, but we don’t really see that. What we see is an impulsive and brash young woman who gets lucky a lot. She doesn’t really have good control of her emotions, and acts on her heart more than her mind, and she doesn’t really plan things all the way through. These are traits that make sense given her basis on Will Scarlet (who is often depicted as hot-headed in other versions of the Robin Hood tale), and her secret identity. But they do not make for good thieves. So, we’re told she’s the best thief ever, but it’s not proven by deed, and it doesn’t really even play that big a role in the plot.
The last thing that really bothered me was the continual use of the ‘oh no, she’ll be raped!’ danger trope later on in the series. Particularly since a fair amount of the fear of it comes from the fear that if she’s raped she’ll never get to be with Robin, and not the fear that it’s dehumanizing and denies her her agency. She faces other threats, too, like torture, or the torture/execution of her friends. You’d think that those would completely eclipse the threat that she’ll be forced to marry someone else. But no, that’s the one that keeps showing up like a bad penny.
3/7 stars. The first book alone would probably be 5, but the other two were pretty disappointing.
Particularly in the second and third books, lots of torture and talk of rape.