Monsters beware! Scarlett Hart is out to capture you!
Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter begins with Scarlett and her butler Napoleon on a mission to trap a lizard creature. Then her arch-nemesis Count Stankovic arrives with the same goal in mind. He also wants to turn her in for underage monster hunting. She gets distracted from her mission as the monster leaps out of the water to attack, putting a young boy in harm’s way. Of course, Scarlett swoops in to save him from the jaws of the lizard, but the diversion has allowed the Count to thwart her plans and she has to make a hasty retreat. Later in the story we learn that the Count had unsuccessfully tried to woo Scarlett’s late mother. Both of Scarlett’s parents were killed while monster hunting. It is up to her to keep the family home from being foreclosed on, so she hunts as a way to earn money.
The artwork is dominated by a red, brown, and yellow palette. The illustrations are packed with action and imbued with a sense of excitement and adventure. The scene that best shows this is when Scarlett and Napoleon visit an abandoned theater. They are walking past a bunch of props when a mummy springs to life and attacks them. The mummy, pictured in blue with glowing red eyes, says, “Brains. Fresh Brains.” Soon they are attacked by multiple mummies. Scarlett escapes their grasp swinging on a rope just above their heads, and scurrying up a beam. She later traps them by cutting off a curtain and tying them up with rope. The danger feels real as one mummy manages to grab a hold of Napoleon’s leg. Scarlett gets to act like a swashbuckler, and it makes you cheer for her as she outsmarts the monsters.
The biggest issue I had with Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter is the number of plot points that were dropped along the way. For instance, we learn from Napoleon that there is a book called the Codex Monstrorum. It is an ancient book that tells how the monsters came to be. The next time the Codex is referenced is between the Count and a mysterious figure named Wurzier. Wurzier is seen using the book to conjure up the monsters, so that the Count can catch them and collect money and prestige. After this revelation, any reference to the Codex or Wurzier disappears. The Wurzier character just comes out of nowhere. Why is he helping the Count? It diminishes The Count as the big bad villain if he is just a lackey for an even bigger one. I also felt an opportunity was missed by not revealing more of a backstory for Scarlett’s parents. I wanted to know what led them to become monster hunters? What was it like raising a young Scarlett? Without that, this is just another story about an orphan with special abilities.
Hopefully, these seemingly abandoned plotlines will be wrapped up in a future sequel. I would recommend this title for elementary school children who like stories with a lot of action. They will delight in Scarlett’s many battles with various monsters.
Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter
by Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor
First Second, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 7-13