June 20, 2014

Book Reviews: Heroes of Myth and Legend: Love in the Time of Global Warming and Scarlet, By Lissa Sloan

Heroes of Myth and Legend:  Two retellings featuring sharp heroines.  And they’re not just smart--they can also be dangerous with pointy objects.

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

The world has ended, but Penelope is still alive.  She has survived the Earth-Shaker and flood that took her parents, her brother, her dog, and everyone else she loves—maybe everyone in the world.  When a stranger appears, giving her keys to a van containing supplies and a map, he also gives her hope that her family may still be alive, and Pen begins her quest to find her loved ones.  Along the way, she discovers there are other survivors:  some friendly, some otherwise.   Gathering companions as she goes, Pen confronts giants, sirens, and other obstacles with the growing knowledge that love is the only thing that matters.

While Francesca Lia Block’s Love in the Time of Global Warming is a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, this story of a young woman making her way in a topsy-turvy world with her three male companions also has a dystopian Wizard of Oz feel to it.  The post-apocalyptic atmosphere of a world in chaos is very well suited to the story.  However, I wish Block’s versions of Odysseus’s obstacles had been more inherent to the world she created, rather than feeling a bit plugged in from the source material.  Also, Pen and her friends have a copy of The Odyssey and make frequent references to it, which seems unnecessary.  Even if a reader is not familiar with the original, Block’s story stands nicely on its own, with no reason to explain itself.  Penelope is a strong and sympathetic character with a simple but eloquent narrative voice.  She is equally appealing whether she is remorsefully recalling the past life she took for granted, reflecting on her sexual identity, or facing down a monster with nothing but a pair of scissors.  Penelope’s odyssey is one with a moving emotional throughline and ultimately, a vision of hope for the future.

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Robin Hood has a secret.  One of his merry men, knife-wielding thief Will Scarlet, is in fact a woman in disguise.  Scouting, stealing, and fighting, Scarlet holds her own with the lads as a valuable member of the group.  Damaged by a past she keeps hidden from Rob and the others, Scarlet finds solace and a purpose helping the oppressed tax-payers of Nottingham.   When the Sheriff hires thief taker Sir Guy of Gisbourne to rid him of the people’s champion, Robin and his band prepare for a fight.  But Scarlet is especially worried.  She is no stranger to Gisbourne, and knows he will kill her if he finds her—but he’ll have to catch her first.

A.C. Gaughen’s debut novel Scarlet is an action-packed adventure, with feisty Scarlet as the leading action hero.  She scales castle walls and rooftops, throws knives with deadly accuracy, runs through the treetops, and even executes the occasional ninja move.  All this action is appealing, but I found the language problematic.  Scarlet’s narration does impart a sense of time, place, and social class, but the dialect felt awkward, and could be distracting, though I did get used to it eventually.  Robin and the lads are a likable bunch, and Scarlet spends most of the book trying to sort out her feelings for flirtatious John Little and angsty Robin.  This was too much relationship-based drama for my tastes, but it didn’t stop me from being drawn in to the story.  In the end, the combination of the Robin Hood legend and a capable action-girl heroine fired my imagination and made Scarlet difficult to resist.

Where do myths and legends rate on your list when compared to fairy tales?  Do you enjoy them equally, or do you have a favorite?  Join the Enchanted Conversation and share your thoughts.  Happy reading!

Lissa Sloan has contributed stories, poems, and guest posts to Enchanted Conversation, but she also writes and illustrates for younger readers. Visit her online at her website, lissasloan.com, or on Twitter, @LissaSloan.
Lissa's avatar, by Lissa


  1. This story of “Robin Hood” with a twist is very interesting. “Scarlet”, a female disguised as a man fights beside him in Nottingham. I do like it when authors take well-known fairy tales and put their own twist on them. I feel by changing the story line slightly it adds excitement and intrigue back to the story. By making one of Robin Hood’s merry men a female, this story immediately grabbed my attention. This book sounds like it is full of plot twists and perhaps a little romance between Scarlet and Robin Hood. This book looks interesting enough for to perhaps check it out and read it before my summer is over. I like the story of Robin Hood and I would like to see how this author puts their spin on a classic story.
    -Brad S.-

  2. I enjoy your column and I am responding to your question about 'myths and legends.' As a professional storyteller, I have found them to be much less 'tellable' to most audiences than fairy tales or folktales. Myths and legends are closely tied to the context of their culture and do not seem to translate well unlike so many other timeless tales. I don't have a favorite myth or legend and have trouble 'relating' to most of them unlike my deep connection to most fairy tales.