Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
So often when I’m about to start a sequel, I am filled with a sense of dread. Do I remember enough about book one, or am I doomed to be lost mid-stream in a story where I understand nothing and recognize few characters? My feelings on sequel dread can pretty much be summed up here.
I read Cinder in late 2011, so it had been a long time since I was in the world of Lunars, cyborg mechanics and hot, charming Earthen princes. When I began Scarlet, the second book in the Lunar Chronicles, I was concerned that I might be completely lost. I needn’t have worried—Marissa Meyer has mastered the art of refreshing your book one memory while spinning a wholly new and original narrative. Not an ounce of info-dump was had in this book—essential plot refreshers from Cinder are cleverly planted in present scenes of action, and they help pave the way for the events in this book while ensuring you have a firm footing in the world.
In Scarlet, we dive right back into Cinder’s story, as she works to escape her royal prison and meets the dashing and at times ridiculous Captain Thorne. Meanwhile in a small town in France, Scarlet Benoit, a bright new addition to the Lunar Chronicles cast, is searching for her grandmother, who abruptly disappeared, leaving her ID chip behind. The local French police don’t seem to care too much, dismissing the case as a runaway situation. As Scarlet tries to uncover the truth behind her Grand-mere’s disappearance, she is forced to seek help from an enigmatic street fighter named Wolf, and together they embark on a dangerous journey to find her Grand-mere.
After a few pages I was completely captivated by Scarlet’s journey, and burning with curiosity over the mysterious Wolf. Cinder’s escape story alternates nicely with these new characters, and we get a few glimpses of Emperor Kai, and his dilemma of juggling his feelings for Cinder with his diplomatic duties to appease Queen Levanna with her re-capture. Meyer does a marvelous job at pacing the two narrative threads, and giving them ample space to develop side by side before winding them together smoothly.
My favorite parts of Scarlet:
Smoking Hot Sexual Tension
A few interactions into the story with Wolf, and I knew it without a doubt—THIS is my Lunar Chronicles guy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kai, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Wolf’s intoxicating blend of barely contained ferocity and painstaking gentleness. Wolf is such a mystery for most of the book; I had no idea what was going on with him—is he a werewolf? a wolfy cyborg? a guy who’s watched too much Vampire Diaries and wants to be Tyler Lockwood? I was mystified, but I couldn’t look away.
The romantic tension between Scarlet and Wolf is smoking hot, and so much more intense than the sweet, bashful flirting between Kai and Cinder in book one. It’s remarkable how well the romance worked, given that Scarlet and Wolf just met each other, but I didn’t feel the insta-love annoyances I so often have in similar circumstances. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but their relationship definitely kept me on my toes.
I don’t want to be a fair weather reader, because I LOVED Linh Cinder, and still do—but Scarlet Benoit is definitely my favorite Lunar Chronicles heroine. Cinder is like her fairy tale counterpart—intrinsically good and perpetually misunderstood and victimized. As if the indignity and cruelty of that ball night weren’t enough to read about in Cinder, we see half the world replaying it and dissecting it on the net feeds in this book. I always feel outraged on her behalf, and want her to come out on top.
But Scarlet demands to be noticed—her personality jumps off the page. She’s equally as brave as Cinder, diving straight into danger to protect those she loves. A self-reliant, gun-toting farmer, she never hesitates to speak her mind, come to the defense of people who are misunderstood, and protect herself in any way necessary.
She’s a bit brash and stubborn, but she recognizes it and tries to work on her weaknesses, especially when she sees echoes of her deadbeat father in her own behavior. Scarlet loves deeply and fiercely, but she has a vulnerable side, which we see a few times in this book as she experiences betrayal (some real, some misunderstood) by her loved ones. I hope we get to see so much more of her in future Lunar Chronicles books!
Another Fresh Fairy Tale
I love the way Meyer takes the familiar fairy tale elements we know and love and puts a unique futuristic spin on them (ex. Cinder losing her android foot at the ball in lieu of a slipper). We are treated to similar clever updates to the hallmark Little Red Riding Hood story moments (“Grandma, what big eyes you have….,” etc.) in Scarlet.
I’m so impressed with Meyer’s ability to tell a riveting tale that is fresh enough to compete with some of the best new YA sci-fi/fantasy out there, all while remixing some of the oldest stories in existence. Fairy tale adaptations are plentiful, especially in YA, but few are written with the skill and imagination of the first two Lunar Chronicles books.
Well-Placed Comic Relief
I don’t want to spoil any of Captain Thorne’s one-liners by quoting them here, but he pretty much cracked me up every single time he opened his mouth (and sometimes just by physically being in a room). We also get a much welcome visit from an old friend from book one, who ALWAYS manages to make me smile.
Scarlet is another exceedingly clever futuristic fairy tale remix, and I can’t wait for more from this series!
Giveaway & Blog Tour
Check out Marissa Meyer’s guest post, in which she discusses her first year of publication, and enter to win a copy of Cinder and Scarlet!