Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book Review: Scarlet

Title Scarlet
Author Stephen R. Lawhead
Genre Science Fiction
Category Historical Fantasy
Rating B+

Summary The second book in the "King Raven" Trilogy, Scarlet tells how one follower of King Bran (aka, Robin Hood), namely Will Scarlet, gets captured by the evil Baron and his much more evil Abbott and much, much more evil Sheriff, and his escape. Horses and woods and sword play... oh my!

First Line "So, now. One day soon they hang me for a rogue. Fair enough. I have earned it a hundred times over, I reckon, and that's leaving a lot of acreage unexplored. The jest of it is, the crime for which I swing is the one offense I never did do. The sheriff will have it that I raised rebellion against the king. I didn't."

Review I reviewed the first book in this series, Hood, and had a few complaints--namely, the characters were hard to follow, the pacing was inordinately slow in the beginning, and the primary protagonist was too wishy-washy. Some of those were solved, some weren't.

The characters were trimmed down (or at least more familiar and there were very few new characters) in this book. Most of the Barons took a big back seat--it was Will, one key priest, Bran, and the band of Merry Men (and Merien) taking center stage in this book. The only truly new character who had a big place in this book was the Sheriff de Glanville (this series' reembodiment of the Sheriff of Nottingham). He was well characterized--evil, nasty, and downright ruthless (and a bit of a drunk, which comes in handy).

The beginning pacing problem was... still a problem. The book started off so slow with Will, a character you don't yet care about, telling a lot of back story and not getting to the meat of the problem--why he's wallowing away in jail--until nearly half-way through the book. The pacing of this book nearly requires that you know going in that it won't get really good until around page 250 or so... be prepared. In my opinion it was worth it, but just be warned that it'll be tedious for a long while.

The third problem, the vascillation of the protagonist wasn't so much a problem in this book. Will Scarlet is the number one guy (narrative-wise) in this book, and he's pretty much with you from jump, and Bran ap Brychan is more focused and reliable than he was in the first book; however, the "bad" characters are shams. Lawhead writes them as ruthless (which they should be), but also drunks who aren't that shrewd. Too many times Bran and his guys are able to easily outwit the Sheriff and the Abbott and the Count. It was too easy, the climax not so much climactic because the bad guys weren't smart enough.

Bran and the rest of his followers (the Grellon) are totally awesome fighters, slippery in the woods, handy with a long bow, worth reading about in a fight, but Lawhead makes it way too easy for them (and kind of boring for you to read). He needs to work harder in the final book, Tuck, and give them a better opponent.


Linda said...

I have to read this series. I have a crush on Will Scarlett!

Heather said...

@Linda - I've got a literary crush on Iwan... (I'm a sucker for a loyal friend and freakishly-strong guy) but he never seems to get the play.