Thursday, 7 May 2015

Review: Lion Heart by A. C. Gaughen

Publication Date: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Length: 348 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and  for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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?

I have been a huge fan and champion of ‘Scarlet’ ever since it first popped up on Netgalley all those years ago. I devoured it in one sitting, I made everyone I know read it, I pestered A.C. Gaughen to know if there would be a sequel and was devastated at the time to know that there wouldn’t. And then a truly marvellous thing happened, Gaughen announced on twitter that there would be two more books turning the original standalone into a trilogy. There were tears, happy tears.

‘Lady Thief’ was then approached with caution. I loved Scarlet so much I was terrified that in my head the bar was too high and that the second book could never live up to the expectations I’d set for it. It was blissfully wrong and Lady Thief was a superb and beautiful continuation to the story, bringing new depths to the characters I’d come to love and setting up for a truly incredible finale with this the final book.

I didn’t even bother being nervous about ‘Lion Heart’, I knew that whatever bat I had in my head Gaughen would smash it to pieces with brilliance. So it was with a more bittersweet enthusiasm that I approached reading this book, because whilst I desperately needed to know how the story would end, I didn’t want to leave these characters. These three slim volumes did not give me all the time I wanted in Scarlet’s world. I dragged my feet, I picked up other books instead, but in the end I caved and I settled in for an afternoon of tea and the culmination of Scarlet’s journey.

It was perfect.
Really that’s all that needs to be said, but I will go into a little more detail. 
Scarlet has grown, evolved and matured over the course of these books and nowhere is it more apparent than in the pages of this final volume here. It’s in her speech, the proper grammatically correct speech that was missing for the first book and a half. She’s embracing who she is, who she was born to be and it is only when she is back with Rob that she slips back into the patterns she has always used before. It was so wonderful to watch her take control, use the weapons at her disposal and turn into a truly formidable woman. There is a part about a third into the novel where she has a truly fantastic speech and I wept reading that, to witness how the surly girl pretending to be a boy and tied scarlet ribbons to her knives and turned into this truly incredible force to be reckoned with.

This novel gifts us with more Scarlet, but also with more of Rob, Much, Bess, Eleanor, and a whole array of other faces. It was so wonderful to see how all of them have matured and changed since we first met them in that first book. Gaughen has a true gift of deftly bringing her characters to life with a complexity and depth that make them feel more vivid and real than most characters confined to the pages in a book.

It is the perfect end to this trilogy. It is full of joy and anger, fear and sadness. I cried repeatedly at the emotion welling up and spilling out of the pages. At the beautiful rich and evocative language Gaughen uses to tell her tale. And at the snapshots of pure blinding happiness and hope that peak through the misery and horror that has been unleashed on these people over the course of the story.

It is a true and fitting end to a series that I will love and come back to again and again, and I think anyone who has come to love Scarlet and her boys in this retelling will find themselves filled with a bittersweet contentment when they turn the final page.

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