Friday, June 5, 2015

The Tale of a Thief

Scarlet / Lady Thief / Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
Series: Scarlet #1-3
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Publication Dates: February 14, 2012 / February 11, 2014 / May 19, 2015
Source/Format: Borrowed from library || Hardcover; NetGalley (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received Lion Heart from the publisher. This in no way affects the opinions in my review.]


I read Scarlet the year it came out, and was suitably impressed. But I held off on reading Lady Thief after I heard about the brutal ending, and I'm glad I did because binge reading all the way through Lion Heart was the best experience ever!

It's fantastic when an author draws inspiration from a famous tale, but spins a story that's all her own from it. That, in fact, is what Gaughen has accomplished with Scarlet, Lady Thief and Lion Heart. She studied the story of Robin Hood, his Merry Men and even the political situation of that era, and wove it all together into a series that's imaginative, innovative and intelligent. I'm obsessed with how she cobbled together the story of Will Scarlet, who she re-imagines as the sole girl among Robin's comrades, a girl capable of wielding a knife in a fight, a girl running from her past into an uncertain future. The story unfolds organically, beautifully, with nods to both history and legend. 

Scarlet is, by far, the crown jewel of the series. She's a complicated character, with a history she would rather not revisit because it only brings her pain, sorrow, anger and guilt. But in spite of all that she's been through, Scarlet is consistently a fighter. She's always going out of her way to do right by people, consequences be damned, and her bravery and cleverness is certainly worthy of admiration. And yet, in spite of her desire to do good and be good, there's enough darkness in her experiences to make her feel like that's too far out of her reach - and that leads to a complex inner struggle. Gaughen also manages to show how Scarlet embraces both her feminine and fighter identities, which lent even more complexity to her character.

Gaughen explores all sorts of relationships: family, friendship, romance and enmity. Each has an effect on who Scarlet becomes by the end of Lion Heart, particularly as Gaughen goes out of her way to make many of the secondary characters memorable in their own right. I really enjoyed seeing how complex Scarlet's feelings for the others got, good or bad, and felt like it was another thing to recommend the series overall. Plus, these relationships are the points around which this entire tale revolves - as you will see by the time you reach the end of it.

My only complaint? I wish that the ending had been extended just the slightest bit so that it wouldn't feel so abrupt. But all in all, ScarletLady Thief and Lion Heart comprise a young adult series that is worth a read.

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If you're curious about what I thought of each novel, here are a few brief thoughts:

Scarlet was a reread, and one that I daresay I enjoyed more this time around. I only remembered the barest of elements, which made it feel like I was reading it again for the first time. I was completely immersed in Scarlet's story, to the point where my investment became emotional. I loved Scarlet even more, because it was so clear to me how she rose from her past, fought to have better circumstances (for herself and others) and how she was just so good.

Lady Thief is the novel that is most brutal on an emotional level, since a lot of violent, terrible things occur within its pages. Readers will most likely be angry at the treatment Scarlet receives, but will do well to note that some of these things actually happened in the past and to real people. While I definitely do not condone these things, and found them hard to stomach, they are, in fact, essential to Scarlet's growth as a character. I raced through the pages of this one, dying to know how things would be for Scarlet by the time it ended.

Lion Heart is the finale of the trilogy, giving a definitive end to Scarlet's story. What makes this one different from its predecessors is who Scarlet chooses to be by this point, as we see her gloriously embracing her past, present and even the future. I couldn't help feeling a sense of pride for our girl, even as I feared for her and all the people she loves. There's a lot more political maneuvering versus action, but I didn't mind that! What I did mind was how abruptly it ended; it definitely could have used a chapter or two more, in my humble opinion. Still, it's a genuinely good read!

14 comments:

  1. I read Scarlet for the first time last month, and I really enjoyed it! Once I get my summer TBR out of the way, I am definitely planning to continue this series!

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  2. Ooh, lovely review! You really make me want to finaly get into these. I've always loved the Robin Hoods tales, too, so I'm not sure what I've been waiting for. I like that this trio seems to combine action with the local politics. It's details like that that make a historical feel truly embedded in its time.

    C.J.

    Sarcasm & Lemons

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  3. You know, I wouldn't ordinarily be into this book based on the cover alone, lol, but I do like the sound of the synopsis and the fact that Scarlet sounds pretty cool. I might have to give this series a try.

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  4. I tell everyone I know about this series because I feel like it does not get attention it deserves! This is such a great series and I am sad that it's over :-(

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  5. I loved this retelling! I've always loved robin hood and really enjoyed this series! I do have to say that I completely agree with you on the end to Lion Heart. Everything ended SO abruptly! I just needed a liiittle bit more to wrap things up.

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  6. When Scarlet was first released, the premise of the story piqued my interest, but I never actually snagged the books for myself. Dare I say it though, after reading this review, I feel like running out and buying the books RIGHT NOW. I appreciated how you reviewed the series as a whole!

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  7. Danielle @ Love at First PageJune 10, 2015 at 5:48 PM

    I recently binged this series as well, and completely fell in love! The last two books, especially, had my heart in my throat. These poor characters went through so much, but they're so strong through it all. I absolutely loved the romance too.
    Lovely review, Alexa!

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  8. I loved that about the characters - that they could be strong in the face of adversity. Glad you enjoyed this series as well, Danielle!

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  9. I think you should read them, Jackie! It's a great series, something different from what you normally read, and the characters are wonderful.

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  10. RIGHT? That ending made me feel a little cheated. I would have liked to see more of all the characters and their lives!

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  11. Yes! I feel that it doesn't get the reception it deserves for being such a unique, well-written tale. Hopefully, we can get more people reading it!

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  12. I highly encourage you to do so! It's such a good series, and it's definitely something unique.

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  13. I hope you give these a shot, CJ! It's a really fun series, very well-done, and I liked them all.

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  14. Yay! I hope you get to read Lady Thief and Lion Heart soon.

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Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

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