ARC Book Review: Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

Posted May 13, 2015 by Debby in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Book Review: Lion Heart by A.C. GaughenLion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
Series: Scarlet #3
Published by Bloomsbury on May 19th, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 348
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

The eagerly-awaited conclusion to the Scarlet trilogy delivers another action-packed and romance-filled adventure.

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince's clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

4 Stars

The Scarlet series by A.C. Gaughen has been one of my favorite ongoing series since I dove into it last year, so obviously I started reading Lion Heart with equal parts excitement and nervousness. Gaughen has been all about the brutal endings so far, but surely she’ll give us a happy ending here, right? Lion Heart delivers a satisfying ending for sure and has cemented this series as one of my all-time favorites. What a wonderful feminist take on Robin Hood!

I must admit that I had a bit of trouble getting back into the series when I started reading Lion Heart. It’s been more than a year since I read Lady Thief and though I remembered in broad strokes what had happened (Scarlet being tortured by Prince John and Gisbourne while forced to be the latter’s wife, Rob’s struggles with PTSD preventing him and Scarlet from being together, and particularly that brutal ending in which multiple major characters died), I couldn’t remember the precise character dynamics and many of the secondary characters. My advice would be to binge read the series for that reason – and I’ll probably do a binge reread at some point to do the story justice.

When I got back into it though, I started reading at an extremely rapid pace. Gaughen’s prose and storytelling is as fluid as ever, and in this book the conflict is clear: Prince John is obviously the supreme bad guy, and he’s trying to prevent Richard’s return to England and kill Scarlet in the meantime. There’s a lot more courtly politics involved in this installment of the series, as Scarlet’s identity becomes more and more well known. Obviously, she has the support of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Winchester, but she finds more friends in Essex and Suffolk. Scarlet’s not used to fighting with words and diplomacy, so there’s a bit of a struggle there as she tries to figure out how to play the game, but she excels due to her inspiring story and natural charisma. She’s fighting for a noble cause, and people can obviously see that. She dares to say what others don’t. She’s a feminist super star!

The romance in this one is pretty great. I mean, it starts off a bit melodramatic and frustrating – something’s always trying to get in between Rob and Scarlet. There’s always a reason why they shouldn’t be together. This time, it’s because Scarlet is now a noble, and Rob is not. I’ll admit that in the first half I wanted to bang my head against the wall a couple of times because they seemed to be making it so hard on themselves. WHY couldn’t they just let themselves be happy? But admittedly, it is all very fitting to the time period. There is much much happiness for them in the latter half of the book, so be not afraid.

However, I have realized why, after Scarlet, I’ve only ever really had moderate amounts of swoonage for them, and it’s not just the minimal banter and recurring drama. Rob is a bit too much of an alpha to me. He can get so jealous and so protective; he can fly into rages because someone looked at Scarlet wrong. Now, some people will like that, and sometimes I do too, but I feel like Rob crossed the line just a bit for me. Scarlet is such a fierce and strong character, especially with everything she went through in Lady Thief, if not just her entire life. I would ship them so much more if he just had faith in her being able to defend herself. And I think he does have that to an extent, and he seems to kind of be learning that as the story goes on, but he just comes across a bit too alpha. Which also is fitting to the time period, but come on. It’s SCARLET.

My other tiny annoyance in this book is the dialect. It’s been over a year since I read the first two books, and there I brushed the dialect off as best I could. But I realized while reading Lion Heart why it annoys me – because all it is is writing “were” instead of “was”. There are no other aspects to this dialect: no contractions or awkward slang (except for “bits” instead of “breasts”/”privates”). You’d think this would be a relief – some dialect, but not too much, easy enough to ignore. But while reading Lion Heart, I was just wondering, “If that’s the extent of the dialect… why bother??” If you do it, commit to it, and go all out. It also didn’t make sense, because with Scarlet’s new position she’s pushed to speak correctly, so sometimes she does say “was”, but then other times randomly switches back to “were”. There’s no pattern to it, so it just didn’t make sense in my mind.

The last fifty pages, or so, is where this book really truly shines. To be honest, the plot up to that point felt a bit disjointed, and it was hard for me to get a grasp on where the story would end (the trouble with historical fiction: you always want to be a know-it-all about what’s going to happen, but (1) it’s fiction, and (2) history doesn’t “end”). This climax is intense and, personally, quite brutal (Gaughen, you really don’t need to kill so many awesome characters ;______;) – but it then transitions to a total slam-bang ending. Everything comes together and I just wanted to cheer because it was so awesome. Scarlet is absolutely one of my favorite characters for life.

I do want to have a liiiiiitle bit of a spoilery discussion though, because this book gave me a headcanon that I’m not sure is actually canon but I desperately want it to be. View Spoiler »

Summing Up:

Though we had a rough start, with that killer ending, Lion Heart made me a very happy camper indeed. The Scarlet series is exciting, adventurous, intriguing, romantic, intense, and at times brutal, but above all, what I love is how unabashedly feminist it is. It takes skill to write historical fiction in a time so sexist and oppressing to females and then put down the female as the strong heroine while not losing an ounce of believability. I love the Robin Hood folktale, but I believe I love this version even more.

GIF it to me straight!

Recommended To:

All Robin Hood fans, but basically everyone.

Tags: , , , , ,


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 responses to “ARC Book Review: Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

  1. I loved this too! It wasn’t as hard for me to get back into the world as I thought, but I still think these would be fun binge books. And ooh I like your headcanon 😀 That hadn’t occurred to me! You bring up a lot of good points actually that I’ll have to look for upon an eventual reread. I was pleasantly, shockingly surprised at all the Roblet happiness in the second half! Refreshing and very welcome. It was suchhhh a killer ending! I would have liked a bit more and I’m still worried about everyone, just knowing history and all. I forgot the Magna Carta hasn’t even been signed yet. But gosh I do love this series 🙂 I’m glad it stayed consistently great. Love the gif!! I’ve never seen the movie but I’m always tempted to buy it on Amazon.

  2. MJ

    Hmm, I read the first two and the dialect really got to me. I was kind of on the fringe about finishing it, even though I love parts of it. After reading this review, I might give it a try.