By Dustin Cabeal
When I saw Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter announced, my gut said I should pass on it. I didn’t because I still like to challenge myself to read things I’m not particularly drawn to or that I’ve judged without reading. Sometimes though, your gut knows you best. Because when I read the titles, looked at the cover and finished with the synopsis, my only thought was, “Sounds generic.”
That is, unfortunately, the best I can offer in terms of a compliment to Scarlett Hart because it is very generic. Part of me even wonders why First Second decided to publish this considering how eerily similar it is to their Aurora West series of books.
It stars Scarlett, an orphaned girl that comes from a long line of monster hunters. There’s a mystery to her parent’s death that seems extremely obvious to everyone else, but she has no clue and doesn’t get any clues in this part of the story. I say “this part” because it’s really obvious that this is meant to be a series of books. Scarlett is raised by her butler and maid, I’m fairly certain they’re married, but who knows. The story doesn’t allude to it very well. Scarlett is too young to be an official monster hunter, but she’s working with Napoleon, her butler, to capture monsters for the reward. There’s a big fuss about her being underage, but only “the Count” seems to care. He eventually gets her caught, which is extremely obvious considering he says he’s going to catch her and turn her in.
They catch some monsters, kill some monsters and lose out on more than few to the Count who plays into the bigger part of the plot… which was also generic and predictable. Scarlett has no depth as a character and doesn’t seem to be looking for any. Everyone treats her with respect because of her parents, but no one challenges her or helps her properly develop. She’s a spoiled child getting her own way and whenever she does something erratic the butler just says, “you have so much of your mother in you.”
The dialogue has a nice flow, and there’s not a ton of exposition. There’s still plenty of it, but it’s not constant. Even though the story is about Scarlett, she ends up being the most one-dimensional throughout the story. She’s no different at the end than she was at the beginning, which is a damn shame. You want to see characters grow and learn, but if anything, she’s a little more arrogant. The pacing of the story is fine, but the plot is just a generic orphan hunting monsters type story with some retro steampunk tech sprinkled throughout the monster fighting.
The art does the heavy lifting. It’s not particularly striking, but the adults tend to have a lot of emotion and personality conveyed on their faces. You can see the look of concern on the faces of her surrogate parents. It how they develop throughout the story, a combination of the art and writing, but that’s missing from Scarlett. She’s almost too realistically portrayed as a child, which doesn’t match up to everything else that she does throughout the story. The action was wonderful and easy to follow. The character designs were nothing too spectacular, but they fit the setting and plot. The coloring was a bit flat. It’s not bad, but none of the monsters pop off the page. It has an old nautical map look to it, and I’m sure that doesn’t make a lot of sense to most, but that’s what it reminded me of in the end.
If Scarlett Hart was someone’s first book, I’m sure they’d enjoy it well enough. It’s hard to say if they’d fall in love with it or the monster hunting genre, but it might prove to be a gateway into the genre. For an experienced reader though, you’re unlikely to find anything new here. Unfortunately, it just comes across as a generic monster hunter story and one that’s been done better by the same publisher.
Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter
First Second Books