Robin Hood has never been one of my all-time favourite tales. (Neither has King Aurthur, so maybe English heroes don’t really do it for me?) I do have a soft place in my heart for both the Disney animated feature, and for the movie Robin Hood, Men in Tights, and I’ve read at least one decent Robin Hood Adaptation (The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, which I read ages ago). So I didn’t have high expectations when it came to Scarlet which is, naturally, a Robin Hood retelling.
Scarlet, known to most as Will Scarlet, has been careful to keep her true identity a secret. Only Rob and his band know that Scarlet, a skinny, agile, and quick thief is actually a woman. But even they don’t know where she is from or who she truly is.
Robin Hood and his band are trying desperately to keep the people of Nottinghamshire from starving under the steep taxation imposed by the Sheriff.
When Gisbourne, a thief hunter with a special interest in Scarlet, comes to town, only her fierce loyalty to Robin keep Scarlet from running, and keep her fighting. Scarlet’s true identity will come out – for better or for worse.
This is a pretty dark retelling, which suits it’s times better I think. It really underlines the power struggles of the times, including the gross power imbalance between men and women.
Both Scarlet and Rob have haunting secrets in their past. Scarlet makes a fine addition to the band – although there is a weird John – Scarlet – Rob love-triangle which is kind of annoying. (That could just be my dislike for love triangles in general speaking). Scarlet is tough, which I appreciate, and she is incredibly stubborn. She’s strong, but so very vulnerable, and pretty naive when it comes to love. She’s flawed and she’s got issues, including feeling guilty for a lot of things she can’t control. Although I liked Scarlet, I could see how she could be a very annoying character to read. I do take issue with the fact that there is zero explanation for how she became this apparently crazy talented thief who can move about the shadows like she owns them. With her background, it’s a little unbelievable that she suddenly develops all these mad skills.
Rob is brooding and pretty full of this burning anger he apparently picked up during the crusades. He is fierce in his defense of the people, but his noble sensibilities seem out of place with the rest of his personality.
John is a large also-somewhat-moody ladies man, and I can’t tell if he’s supposed to be humorous. I found him annoyingly overbearing. Both Rob and John are annoyingly overbearing, come to think of it, just in different ways.
All in all, it was an interesting book and worth the read! Especially since there is a sequel!