SCARLET (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Read Date: 21 April 2014
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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 FOR PLOT DETAILS*
Back when my book club read “Cinder”, I said that I loved the book because of its imaginative retelling of “Cinderella”, especially at that time when retellings of fairy tales were all the rage. And I loved the sci-fi twist. I was put off that I was able to predict several plot points, not only because things were consistent with the theme of the original fairy tale, but also…well, subtlety is not exactly the book’s virtue. But overall, I thought that the series had a lot of potential, and that the first book was entertaining.
In “Scarlet”, Scarlet is a red-haired (duh) Frenchwoman who loves wearing a red hoodie (double duh). She lives with her grandmother on a farm in France. As the story begins, we learn that Scarlet’s grandmother has disappeared, and a handsome new guy who goes by the name of Wolf is in town… Uh-huh. Right? Right? I liked how Meyer thought up a backstory for Grandma (her name is Michelle Benoit) that connects her to Cinder, though.
As a character, Scarlet is rather stereotypical. A red-haired girl with a temper to match, who many readers have described as “bad-ass”. Well, she is. She is adept at fighting and at handling guns. Throughout the book, though, I got the impression that she’s angry all the time. At one point, she said something about men with anger management issues, but I felt like she was the one with anger management issues. She snaps and growls at people, she should be the one with the name “Wolf”. Good thing it did not get to the point where she annoyed me enough to hate her. I was also disappointed that she never even harbored any suspicions about Cinder’s identity after all she learned about her grandma.
As for Wolf…I knew it! In a previous post, when the publisher released the official synopsis of “Scarlet”, I predicted who Wolf really is because of the “The Queen’s Army” short story. While it was good marketing to tease “Scarlet” to readers with that, I felt like it would’ve been more exciting to discover who Wolf was in the context of “Scarlet”, and then to read about his origins in “The Queen’s Army” after. I liked him as a character, but he was totally predictable. And I’m disappointed he didn’t suspect Cinder was Princess Selene either.
And then there’s Captain Carswell Thorne, a prisoner in the New Beijing Prison who eventually escapes with Cinder. He’s kind of the Han Solo to Cinder’s Chewbacca; he even owns a ship! I don’t think the ship will make the Kessell Run in 30 parsecs, though. Thorne is fun and snarky (like Solo!), and in this book, he’s the life of the party.
Cinder continues to try to come to terms with who she is, and in “Scarlet”, she discovers more about where she came from and how she eventually got adopted by the Linh family. Cinder’s character development is better handled than Scarlet and Wolf’s Out-of-the-Blue but You-Just-Know-The-Author-Will-Force-This-Match romance. With Cinder and Kai apart, and this being YA, I guess there’s a need to put in some romance. Not that I think every YA book needs romance, but many authors seem to think it’s necessary. Who wants to bet there will be a new pair who will be brought together in “Cress”?
Speaking of Kai…we didn’t get a chance to see much of his leadership ability until the end of this installment, and I can’t say his momentous decision shows he is a good leader. I admire that he is willing to make sacrifices to benefit others, but his decision just negated Cinder’s own sacrifice at the end of the first book. And this…martyr-like decision-making will not win him any fans among the other rulers. Oh, they will thank him, sure, but that doesn’t mean they will agree that it’s the best decision to make at the time. But does it serve the story? Why, yes, of course.
One of the reasons why I think the series has potential, by the way, is the settings are diverse. This could be a poster book for the recent #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. However, the world-building is weak. We don’t really get to see much of the culture of New Beijing. We did see France, but I didn’t feel like I was transported to a different country; I felt like I was still in America, actually. And we still don’t have a major character who’s a POC except for Kai, but I feel like he’s an Asian in name and appearance only.
Lastly, I’m disappointed that the writing did not improve much. Meyer tells more than she shows, sometimes to rather snark-worthy proportions:
She turned back to the hatch and gripped the edges of the tomato crate, waiting for her heart to stop hammering behind her sternum.
(Kindle Locations 109-110).
Where else would her heart be but behind her sternum?
She released a guttural scream and slammed the port down on the ship’s control panel, hoping to shatter it into pieces of plastic and metal and wire.
(Kindle Locations 81-82)
What else would the control panel be made of? (Also, see how Scarlet possibly has anger management issues?)
Anyway, in general, “Scarlet” has good pacing and more action and development than “Cinder”, so it’s still an entertaining read. I’m still on board to finish the series, but I hope that there is a significant improvement in writing, plotting, and characterization come “Cress”.