Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published on February 5th 2013
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic, Europe, Fairy Tales, Fiction, Love & Romance, Retellings, Romance, Suspense, Thriller, Young Adult
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.
World Building- 7/10
Review (spoilers for Cinder, minor spoilers for Scarlet are embedded) – I went into the bookstore last week expecting to buy Eleanor & Park and ended up walking away with Scarlet in my hand. So you know I really wanted to read this. Cinder was an excellent book, and I was excited to see if Meyer would be able to retell another fairy tale (Little Red Riding Hood) with success. Unfortunately, Scarlet didn’t quite live up to my expectations. There were a couple problems I had with the book that prevented me from enjoying it as much as I enjoyed Cinder.
The plot was different from the first book in that we had two perspectives. There was the continuation of Cinder’s story, and a new perspective from Scarlet Benoit. Cinder’s story really lagged for a good while at the beginning. I thought her escape from prison would happen relatively quickly, and that we wold be in Africa with Dr. Erland in no time. I was wrong. It took FOREVER for Cinder to figure out a way to escape from the prison, and the fellow that she took along with her, Captain Carswell, was a very bland guy who didn’t really add much of anything to the story. Scarlet’s story was very intriguing at first. Much like in Cinder, it was interesting to see where the author had stayed true to the original fairy tale and where she decided to go on her own path. There was a lot of suspense about where her grandmother had gone, and if Wolf was indeed the big bad wolf in the original story, or if the author had altered the story and made him a good person. As the book went on though, I actually became more invested in Cinder’s story- the pace picked up in her chapters, while things became more frustrating in Scarlet’s story as a result of problems I had with the characters. (I’ll elaborate on this later.) The climax was thrilling and engaging, and it set things up very nicely for Cress.
I had very mixed emotions about the characters in Scarlet. Cinder annoyed the hell out of me early on. She appeared to be contemplating either going to Africa to meet Dr. Erland to save the Earthen, or running away to attempt a “life of freedom”. What she did not realize was that if she ran away from her tasks, there would be no life of freedom anyway, as Queen Levana would take over and wage war against the Earth. I could not believe she was being so selfish, especially since selflessness was one of her biggest traits in the first book. This inconsistency in character was very shocking and hard to believe.
Captain Carswell, who accompanies Cinder as she tries to escape from prison and figures out her next course of action, is a criminal who just happened to be in the escape path of Cinder in prison. He’s a superficial, selfish pig who happens to be good looking and who happens to be attracted to Cinder. He is also the main source of comic relief in Scarlet, as he cracks jokes every so often. Cinder, initially cold around him, eventually warms up to him, and I believe the author means for the audience to warm up to him as well. But I still have doubts about his intentions. And now I’ll have to duck under spoilers. In my mind he’s still a selfish convict, and I doubt that riding with Cinder and co. has completely changed his persona. Let’s remember he’s still a criminal, and the only reason he was coming with Cinder was to find Princess Selene for the reward. Now that he knows who Selene is, who’s to say he won’t change strategies? It will be interesting nonetheless to see what happens with Carswell in Cress.
Scarlet was a great lead- she reminded me a lot of Clary from the Mortal Instruments series. They’re both redheads, they both are quick-tempered and often brash, and they both deeply care about the ones that they love. However, unlike Clary, Scarlet did not rub me the wrong way. I found her to be brave and headstrong (like Clary), but she was never disrespectful or bratty (like Clary).
Wolf was very interesting. He had two sides- fierce and vulnerable, calculating and emotional. He was a very sensitive yet strong guy. Like I said before, at the beginning, there was tons of intrigue surrounding his intentions. Is he bad? Is he good? And I really enjoyed the strained romantic tension between Wolf and Scarlet. and that kiss? HOT. Once the grand reveal came, though, surrounding his real intentions and his real background, the story became very predictable. (I’ll have to duck under spoilers again.) Once it was revealed Wolf was Lunar, it became a predictable “bad guy develops feelings for the girl he’s using and turns good to save her” kind of story, which has been done before. I also had issues with the relationship between Wolf and Scarlet as it developed. In the middle of the book, there was a scene where first, Wolf tried to prevent Scarlet from going after her grandmother for fear of her safety. Scarlet, of course, got angry. THEN just 5 pages later Scarlet pleaded Wolf to not go with her, for fear of HIS safety. Wolf, of course, got agitated. I’ve developed a sort of pet peeve lately regarding overly protective couples, so this drove me up the wall. Individually, they’re both great characters- I do think their relationship could have been developed better.
Meanwhile, poor Pri- er, Emperor Kai has done everything to keep his kingdom alive, and yet the most influential ruler in the world has no idea what’s actually happening. He has no idea Cinder is Selene, he has no idea that Cinder really does love him, and he has no idea how to fix the situation permanently. He has a more minor role in this book, but I totally sympathized with him and the grueling choices that he had to make. Hopefully in Cress Cinder manages to find him (somehow) and tell him what’s REALLY going on. Because until Kai knows, nothing is going to happen.
The writing was solid, but the issue I had was with the world building. Individually, Cinder and Scarlet are good stories. Meyer did a great job of retelling classic fairy tales with new twists to keep them interesting and suspenseful. But it looks as though Meyer, while writing Scarlet, did not figure out how to seamlessly mesh the two stories together. The writer only had Cinder only act so selfishly at the beginning so that she would end up going to Paris and therefore meet Scarlet. In her attempt to blend the two stories together, Meyer created new flaws in Cinder’s character that blatantly contrasted with her personality in the first book. In the next book, I believe we are introduced to ANOTHER girl (the new Rapunzel?), and Meyer will have to not only create a new fairy tale retelling, but successfully merge the stories of 3 girls. I hope that these stories combine together in a way that makes more sense than it did in Scarlet.
Overall, although was not as good as I was hoping, and although it seems like I really hated the book, Scarlet was quite an enjoyable read. It does fall victim to the “second book curse” a little, but if the inconsistencies in the individual characters as well as the flaws in the relationship between Scarlet and Wolf are dealt with in Cress, I have no worries. Judging by reviews and people I’ve talked to, Cress is the best book of the series so far, so I hope to get to it soon and continue this journey.
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