Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter from Macmillan’s First Second imprint is a wild ride through monster-filled England, as one would presume from the team-up of two of YA’s most notables. Writer Marcus Sedgwick, whose Midwinterblood won the 2013 Printz Award, presents a tale that fits well with the arcane style of Thomas Taylor, perhaps best known for his cover on the UK’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The world-building in Scarlett Hart is as rich as it is daring. The setting is England at the turn of the twentieth century, the perfect time of blending folklore and science. This world is heavily on the folklore side as it is constantly besieged by monsters, ranging from sea monsters at the docks to the famous giant demon hound Shuck to mummies at the Theatre Royal.
Monster hunters keep the world safe, resolving the beasts in return for bounties from the Royal Academy. As with any society with money and adventure on the line, there will always be rivalries among those who stand out.
None stand out further than Scarlett Hart, the daughter of two of the world’s most famous hunters. Although trained practically from before birth, she now struggles, orphaned, now supported by her parents’ servants, the Whites. Scarlett is too young to officially hunt, yet the family needs the bounty money to keep up the imposing Hart house with its museum of creatures caught by Scarlett’s parents.
If facing monsters incognito were not hard enough, Scarlett is plagued by her parents’ rival, the Count Stankovic, who continues to make life miserable by swooping in to steal bounties and threaten to turn Scarlett in to the Academy for illicitly hunting. Scarlett finds no shortage of monsters; if anything, it seems more are popping up faster than ever before.
The immersive plot of Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter is filled with shocks and twists. Throughout its journey, monster hunting is illuminated by gadgets from monster-seeking rockets to goggles able to peer into the invisible realm of spirits. Hunters could not get around without a sleek vehicle, and Napoleon White’s beloved Machen Roadster, one of only eleven ever made, serves the team with power and style. Readers will come back to the story time and again, pulling something new from the densely packed art of the pages each time.
Dealing with the spooky material of monsters, Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter certainly pulls no punches: a swarthy sailor is eaten right on the first page. The violence is not graphic, however, making the comic suitable for younger readers while being so exciting adults will also want to sit down to see how young Scarlett can outwit and outdo monsters twice, thrice, or a hundred times her size. She is a strong protagonist, always ready for the next adventure with the determination to see it through.