I am currently on vacation on the beach! Fun, but internet isn’t so happy with me. I have been attempting to post this review for somewhere around three days now. Fingers crossed!
* SPOILER WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ CINDER.*
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
Summary: Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the 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 or 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 is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
* SPOILER WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ CINDER.*
Scarlet is the sophomore novel of Marissa Meyer. You may recall that I have also reviewed the first installment here. With the first novel, I complained of underdeveloped characters, book logic, predictability and a formulaic approach to the fairy tale that brought the entire book down. I am glad to say that a lot of the issues I took with Cinder have been fixed in Scarlet. Scarlet is a very solid novel and I can easily see the leaps and bounds Meyer’s writing has taken. As one might guess from the names of Scarlet and Wolf, this story is based upon the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. However, unlike Cinder’s Cinderella, it does not attempt to follow the formula to the point I know exactly what is coming next. There’s a girl with red hair and a red hoodie and a ‘wolf’ and a grandmother she must journey to… it’s not completely a retelling at all— Meyer is able to take many more liberties here and her book is much better off for it. And I appreciate that so much.
In Scarlet, Meyer switches between Scarlet and Cinder’s point of view every few chapters or so. It opens on Scarlet’s life in France and for the first few chapters, I was very concerned that Meyer was not going to focus on Cinder at all. Luckily, that was not the case. It also addressed what I had thought was a plot hole in the first novel— there is a common, universal language which people speak in addition to their own nation’s language. In any case, the POV switching is handled fairly well and helped to pace the novel appropriately. Given that I wasn’t a huge fan of Cinder in her own book, I appreciated the chance to get out of her head. Kai’s POV also shows up for a bit, which I was annoyed about, but it did allow him to gain more depth and character, something that bothered me in the first book. So the simple structure of Scarlet already made it an improvement over Meyer’s debut novel.
So who is Scarlet Benoit? She’s… well, kind of a badass. Scarlet knows who she is, she’s tough and can take care of herself, she carries around a gun (and knows how to use it) and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. When we meet her in France, we discover that she lives on a produce farm with her grandmother, who has mysteriously disappeared and Scarlet is convinced her grandmother has been kidnapped despite the police’s disbelief. As much as the angry redhead trope is overused, I can forgive it for being Little Red Riding Hood. (This time.)
Scarlet is pretty fearless and ready to go after her grandmother and get her back— the only problem is that she has no idea who would have taken her or where to go to get her back. She ends up meeting the street-fighter, Wolf, who fights with inhumane strength and seems oddly obsessed with her. The relationship borders on Edward and Bella-esque— Scarlet knows she shouldn’t trust him but before long, they’re tight as can be and within a week or so, she can’t imagine her life without him. Um… what? Scarlet’s a badass and yet suddenly she needs this big guy towering over her, following her around going “I’ll protect you, I’ll protect you”? I think not. But in comparison to Cinder, I’ll take Scarlet any day.
So there’s that. Wolf, to his own merit, is pretty interesting. He’s your typical bad boy trying to be a hero, complete with dark, brooding looks and a mysterious past that isn’t fully explained. You expect him to be cocky and swaggering, arrogant and full of himself, but Meyer didn’t decide to go with the complete stereotype and for good measure. Wolf is awkward and shy, humble and yet powerful. I really did like his characterization. My biggest issue with him, however, is that his backstory isn’t explained enough in the actual novel and I’m not sure I’d adore him so much without having read The Queen’s Army. DEFINITELY read that short story before reading Scarlet for full enjoyment of this book! I enjoyed that short story quite a bit and would have loved to see that as a standalone novel.
My favorite character in Scarlet was definitely Captain Carswell Thorne! Finally, a character who isn’t a *special snowflake* in one way or another. He’s extraordinary in some ways, yes, but he’s a self-made man as it were and none of his skills can be attributed to magic powers or relatives in high places. Captain Thorne is a breath of fresh air, and he is one of my favorite characters along with Iko. The pair of them are adorable, especially with Iko’s new and *cough* expanded role in this book.
Though we don’t find out a ton about Thorne in this novel, I hope he gets a bigger role in the future because I really adore him and his humor. Even though he’s a human (and thus susceptible to the brainwashing of the Lunars), Thorne really does try his best to be involved in everything and do his best. Even when he’s making wisecracks the entire time, you can tell he is a hero at heart. And I love him, I really do. Thorne is probably my favorite addition to the Lunar Chronicles— and he better be here to stay!
One major thing I disliked was Cinder and her development throughout the novel. This was one section that I felt like Meyer didn’t delve too much into— despite knowing what needs to be done and using her newfound powers, Cinder shys away from it and… really doesn’t accomplish much of anything throughout the entire novel. She may be Princess Selene but she hasn’t taken a single step towards learning more about the Lunars (who are supposed to be her people). I felt like this could have gone so much further and yet it fell short and I was disappointed. Similarly, Kai’s obsessing over her (and somehow not seeing that she is Princess Selene when it is really staring him in the face) over… what exactly? Just makes me dislike him more. He’s still in love with her despite believing Cinder lied to him and I’m really just quite annoyed by their pseudo-romance. THERE IS NO RELATIONSHIP TO BASE ANYTHING OFF OF!
Overall, however, I enjoyed Scarlet and I believe it was a very solid entry into the Lunar Chronicles. It surpassed Cinder by leaps and bounds and I am very hopeful that Meyer’s writing will only continue to blossom. To reiterate, I think it would be beneficial for readers to read Meyer’s short story, The Queen’s Army, before reading Scarlet in order to fully appreciate the character of Wolf. While I disapprove of Meyer’s attempts at romance, there are many characters in her books I have grown to adore and want to see more of. After all, there are still two more in the series!
“You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”