Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Source: Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review
The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...
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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
When I first heard that the second book in The Lunar Chronicles series was going to be a companion novel, I was disappointed. I wanted a straight up sequel. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Cinder and Kai. I should have known that an author brilliant enough to write Cinder could come up with the perfect mix of companion novel and sequel in Scarlet.
Scarlet manages to form an independent story of the main character Scarlet and Wolf and also fully tie in Cinder, Kai, Queen Levana, Iko, and more. Scarlet is a take-off on Little Red Riding Hood. Whereas Cinder followed the traditional story of Cinderella relatively closely, Scarlet feels like a much more liberal take on Little Red Riding Hood. It captures the themes of the fairy tale but is very different from the story you heard as a child.
Scarlet is a young French girl who's had a fairly calm life - helping her grandmother run her farm. When her grandmother goes missing, Scarlet turns her life upside down to find her. It's then that she finds Wolf who leads her on what could be a wild goose chase or a trap. I loved how Scarlet and Wolf played off each other. Scarlet is a stubborn, resourceful, independent girl. Wolf is the strong, silent type. He exudes danger. Yet there's this undercurrent of vulnerability that sucks Scarlet right in. Knowing that this is a version of Little Red Riding Hood, I kept yelling at Scarlet to be wary of Wolf, yet I also couldn't help falling in love with his seeming genuineness.
Meanwhile, we get plenty of Cinder time. And some Kai time as well. Cinder is on the run after her exposure as a cyborg at the ball in the last book. She finds a ship that comes with a strange stowaway. Thorne is a hapless young man. He actually reminded me a lot of Eric Matthews, Corey's older brother on the old TV show Boy Meets World. He's a guy who bumbles through life, seeming like a total idiot - which he sort of is - but a lovable one. I was worried that this was going to turn into a love triangle, but instead Cinder and Thorne form an odd partnership - where Cinder mostly tells Thorne what to do.
While Cinder tries to discover more about her Lunar heritage and stay away from the authorities, Kai is reeling from the discovery that the girl he was starting to fall in love with is a cyborg. Plus the little thing of Queen Levana threatening to basically destroy the world if Kai refuses to marry her. Scarlet does not show the best side of Kai. I hated that he was so angry with Cinder, that he felt so betrayed. It made him look prejudiced and narrow minded. I don't think he actually is that way, but the pressures upon him from all sides made him seem like the enemy.
Scarlet does a wonderful job of linking two stories together. It truly feels like both a companion novel and a sequel. In a lesser author's hands, the multiple plotlines would have been overwhelming and devolved into hopeless confusion. But instead, I was able to easily keep track of Scarlet and Cinder's individual stories and marvel at how they seamlessly came together at the end. If I have any criticisms of the book, it is that I sometimes had difficulty distinguishing Scarlet's personality from that of Cinder. On the whole, Cinder seemed more independent and confident than Scarlet, which is surprising given Cinder's insecurities over being a cyborg. But both girls were created as such strong characters that their dispositions occasionally melded into one indistinguishable mass.
Scarlet is the perfect companion to Cinder. I applaud Ms. Meyer for taking on the ambitious task of adapting a second fairy tale while continuing to maintain the first. It could have gone very badly, but it's smooth sailing in Ms. Meyer's skilled hands. I can't wait to read the next installment of The Lunar Chronicles.