Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, book two of the Lunar Chronicles
Rating: A tightly-plotted, immensely enjoyable sequel with awesome new characters that I actually think is even better than Cinder! Plus, there's Wolf. And also Thorne. It's sci-fi for people who don't really like sci-fi (and for those who do).
Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.
As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.
Warning: Since Scarlet is a sequel, my review will contain spoilers for Cinder, book one in the Lunar Chronicles. Just a heads up.
The cover: *pets the pretty* The Lunar Chronicles covers are seriously some of my favorites out there. They're graphic. They're arresting. They adequately portray both the fairy tale inspiration and the light sci-fi feel, with the black, outer space-like background against that fluid Red Riding Hood cape. I like the juxtaposition of the Gothic-esque title script with the more futuristic text of the series name. Plus they're just plain beautiful. Love the movement. Love her hair. Love the bright red against the black. It looks so purrrty next to my copy of Cinder.
The story: I was a huge fan of Cinder. It's safe to say my expectations were super high for Scarlet. Not only are sequels in general pretty tough things to pull off, but Meyer took on the extra task of introducing us to a new main character. This could have seriously backfired. I was so in love with Cinder, that pragmatic, no-nonsense cyborg mechanic-turned-Lunar fugitive. Would I really want to spend time with a heroine who wasn't her?
About ten pages into Scarlet, I quickly realized the answer to that is yes. Yes, I really want to spend time with this new heroine, because she's ten kinds of awesome. Most of the narrative is split between Cinder, who has escaped from the New Beijing prison and is on the run, and Scarlet, a French farm girl determined to find her grandmother, who has mysteriously gone missing. While Cinder was a futuristic version of Cinderella, Scarlet is clearly Meyer's interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. Only there's nothing little about her. Scarlet is tough and fiery. She loves her grandma more than anything in the world, and while she's not as practical as Cinder-- she lets her temper and passion get the best of her common sense-- she's wonderfully brave. Also, Scarlet happens to be overrun with hot guys.
|The very first alert occurs within ten pages. We get to the goods fast.|
The wolf in Scarlet isn't a creepy talking animal, but a sweet and sensitive street fighter named Wolf with green eyes and a key to my heart. I loooooved Wolf. Total sweetheart with a complicated past who was a mess of contradictions. He and Scarlet's paths intertwine on her journey to find her grandmother, and it's so much fun to read. These two have a lot of emotional and physical chemistry, and some of their scenes together made me breathless. The narrative shifts between three main stories: Scarlet and Wolf in France, Emperor Kai and horrid Queen Levana in New Beijing, and Cinder, who is on the run in a spaceship with another brand new, handsome male character named Thorne. Thorne is my FAVORITE. He's handsome, arrogant, hilarious, and obnoxious. He and Cinder are total opposites, and watching them play off each other was like watching some weird book version of a buddy sitcom. They have really good friend chemistry. (For those of you worried, don't be: this book series (so far) is an entirely love triangle-free zone, and it looks like it will stay that way.)
So, not only do we get a second heroine, we get a second setting: futuristic France!
Meyer's future is sci-fi lite, which is not an insult, by the way. It's subtly futuristic in a way that's not overbearing or difficult to understand. The technology is improved: everybody travels in hovers and spaceships, everyone has an ID chip embedded in their skin, so on and so forth. Cyborgs exist, and the way they fit into this new society is pretty fascinating. But all the changes are super easily to absorb as a reader. You're never confused.
The same goes for Meyer's plotting. Seriously, it's so smooth. While this isn't the kind of book that punches you right in the feels, it's so well executed and has such likable characters that you end up enjoying it so much. Probably Meyer's only flaw is that I can almost always see her twists coming, but I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. Everything's set up so beautifully and revealed so neatly. Plus, she did manage to surprise me in one particular scene (where Cinder discovers something in a barn, for those who've read. That reveal was really eerie).
What really amazes me about Meyer's writing, apart from her lovely, unadorned language, is that, even though she's writing in third person, her POV's sound different. Meaning the voice shifts slightly depending on whether we're in Cinder's or Scarlet's or Wolf's or Kai's or evil Lunar Queen Levana's (!) head. Usually, juggling multiple points of view can go... well, something like this:
But this book flows so seamlessly from one plot thread to the next. And that's because Meyer's managed to create a completely distinct cast of characters. Reading Scarlet after loving Cinder so much was like going back to summer camp and seeing all my old friends again. I was like "Cinder! Kai! Iko! I missed you! OMG. Levana. Who invited that bitch again?"
|Just give her a mustache to twirl.|
She is a fabulous fairy tale villain. She's so completely eeeeeevil and creepy and ruthless. I have no idea how our ragged little band of heroes will end up thwarting her, but I can't wait to find out. Because seriously, I read Scarlet way too fast and now I NEED Cress, the next book in the series, which is inspired by Rapunzel. I need more of these characters in my life! They're so alive! I mean, one could argue that the fabulous android Iko is the most vivid character in the whole book, and she's not even corporeal! She's just a voice! I'm going to suffer through some serious withdrawals until the next book.