Review: Scarlet - K A Worsley
When a story is so old, so well-known and has been adapted so many times, it is hard to find a fresh way to present it. However, in Scarlet, K A Worsley has found a way to do precisely that. As the name might suggest, the author is related to Lucy Worsley the historian and I will admit to only being aware of the book because of a post on Dr Worsley's Facebook page. In our house, Dr Worsley can do no wrong, so her recommendation was enough for me to risk the princely sum of 99p to give the book a go. It didn't hurt that it was about a story I love and that it fitted nicely into my blog tour across the UK, given that it was only yesterday I reviewed the other Robin Hood books I've been reading/listening to. Not to mention that I'm currently researching the famous outlaw for my own series. Therefore, I had the perfect excuse to spend a couple of hours this morning reading the book. I have to say that it was a real bargain and a morning well spent!
Naturally, Robin himself is traditionally the hero of any adaptation, but this was not the approach taken here and it worked really well. Scarlet is very much the heroine of the book - she is at the epicentre of the action and it is her story being told. Robin and the gang act almost as foils for her and it is as much about her discovering her own strengths and forgiving herself for her weaknesses as it is about the legendary outlaws. Worsley has clearly done her research - there are elements of the original legends and the TV adaptations within both plot and descriptions of the characters. However, throwing Scarlet into the mix gives the whole thing a very fresh feel. Scarlet is - and this is so important for me personally - a strong female character given a leading role in a traditionally male dominated story. One of the reasons I love the Richard Carpenter approach in Robin of Sherwood is that Marion often fights alongside the men and when she isn't allowed to, she rails against the injustice of it and usually finds a way to help regardless. In Scarlet, Worsley has created a character worthy of following in these footsteps. She is gutsy and brave, but even in the height of battle she never loses her humanity. She does things she finds difficult to live with and never takes lightly the loss of life.
Some of the book is much more hard hitting than I would have expected for a YA novel. However, it works well within the context of the plot and accurately reflects what would have happened at the time. This is by no means a light and fluffy read - there are bits that made me wince - but this is absolutely the right choice for the story. The realities of life as an outlaw are never shied away from, but the ending is still very much a hopeful one.
I didn't really know what to expect from this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope that there will be more books to follow what in my opinion is a truly excellent debut.