Review: Scarlet


The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

I read Cinder, the first book in Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles about a year ago. I really enjoyed it, and I’ve wanted to read its sequel Scarlet for a while, but I just never got into it.

Cress, the third book in the series, was recently published, and now that there were 2 more books continuing the story of Linh Cinder, I decided I need to quit falling behind.

I was reading another book at the time, but the story was lagging. I had no sympathy for the protagonist, and it had already been two months since I had started. I needed something new.

And Scarlet delivered.

Scarlet [Book Two] 

Even in the future, beware the big, bad wolf…lunar chronicles scarlet

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She is 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. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information about 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 Lavena, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Setting: A few days after the events of Cinder in a future in which Earth has assimilated its countries into the Earthen Union: the Eastern Commonwealth (Asia), the African Union, the American Republic, the European Federation, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Earth is currently on the brink of war with Luna, a country founded on the moon.

The majority of Scarlet takes place in France, E.F.; however, the story also touches on New Beijing, E.C., and Luna.

Characters:

Scarlet Benoit – A young farmer from Rieux, France, Scarlet is introduced just as she receives news that the police have dismissed the case of her grandmother’s disappearance after being unable to find any evidence of foul play. Scarlet does not accept this and sets out to find her grandmother. With her red hair and signature red hoodie, Scarlet is an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood.

Wolf – Wild and enigmatic, the lonely street fighter who goes by the name of “Wolf” raises Scarlet’s suspicions, but she finds herself dependent on him when it becomes clear that he might be the only person who can help her find her grandmother. Wolf is based on – well, the wolf from the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Oh, and he really likes tomatoes.

Linh Cinder – Imprisoned after the disastrous events at the end of Book One, Cinder escapes and goes on the run while trying to come to terms with the revelation that she is actually Princess Selene, the true ruler of Luna. Based on Cinderella, Cinder is a cyborg mechanic from New Beijing.

Carswell Thorne – Cocky and American, Thorne meets Cinder when she accidentally stumbles into his cell trying to break out of the prison that holds them both. Upon learning that Thorne has a stolen spaceship hidden safely away undetected by the authorities, Cinder takes Thorne with her on her quest to find Michelle Benoit. Full of swagger and charm that doesn’t work on Cinder, Thorne prefers to call himself a “captain.” Although Cinder keeps him in the dark to her true intentions, Thorne is loyal to her. For some reason.

I have no clue which fairy tale character Thorne could be based on, but he reminds me of a combination of Captain Jack Harkness, Flynn Rider, and Han Solo.

captain jack harkness

flynn rider hai

han solo gif

In fact, when Cinder and Thorne arrived at the ship, I half-expected Cinder to have this reaction.

Emperor Kaito (Kai) – Now the emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth, Kai must navigate deadly politics as he searches the earth for Cinder. Confused and betrayed by her actions, Kai tells himself that his feelings for Cinder are only a manipulation caused by her Lunar powers. He plans to find Cinder and turn her over to the Lunar queen Lavena to be executed.

(But he’s still a really cool guy, guys. He’s just got a lot to deal with right now.)

Grand-mère (Michelle Benoit) – Although she is rarely present in the story, Michelle Benoit is vital to the plot as her granddaughter Scarlet and the cyborg Cinder search for her. Michelle Benoit raised Scarlet and resides in Rieux as a farmer, but she was once a pilot, and her past may hold answers for Cinder. Michelle Benoit is modeled after the grandmother from the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.

What’s Good About Scarlet

  • I enjoyed seeing more of the world in this story. I feel like recently I’ve read sci-fi, dystopian novels in which the world seems flimsy, and a lot of times I think that because the novel only focuses on one community or town or country. It’s hard to believe the world of the story because I can’t believe that the society and/or government works. For example, the setting of the Hunger Games trilogy is a country called Panem, a future North America, but what about the rest of the world? Are there still countries outside of Panem? Do they have Hunger Games or are they structured differently? Getting the chance in Scarlet to see life in the Eastern Commonwealth, the European Federation, and Luna actually made the world more believable to me because it reiterated the fundamentals of the world introduced in Cinder.
  • The evolution of Wolf, both metaphorically and literally – The novel is divided into four parts, and at the beginning of each is a quote from a version of The Little Red Riding Hood. Both the reader and Scarlet are suspicious of Wolf – his appearance, his behavior, his name – it is foolish to trust him, and yet he is the only one who can lead us out of the forest, so to speak. Meyer has written him in such a way that I both loved and feared him.
  • Thorne – There wasn’t much comedy in Scarlet, which is why I think I enjoyed Thorne so much. He was amusing and cheeky, if a bit vain. I would be interested in seeing his character developed further in the series.

What’s Bad About Scarlet

  • I really liked Scarlet until around the climax, when I realized that she’s rather too… I don’t know, naïve? Oblivious? I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I found myself rather disappointed in her. She’s a strong character, but there isn’t really anything about her that’s unique. She’s average, which isn’t bad, but she seems a little out of her league with the rest of the characters.
  • I’m going to try not to give too much a way: the bad guys in this story have been genetically modified, and I found it confusing. I think I was thinking the physical changes to these people were just to their strength or endurance, making them super soldiers. But there’s a chapter at the end of the novel that threw me a bit because it seems that these soldiers might have been altered in their appearance, and I hadn’t caught that previously. I started questioning my understanding of what I had read in the story already. In fact, I don’t think I fully understood what had happened to them until I read the short story “The Queen’s Army,” which was included in my copy of Scarlet. Ugh, it’s hard to explain without spoiling it. Suffice to say, I wish it had been better explained in the novel rather than having to wait until I could read the short story to get it.
  • Lunar Glamor – in Cinder, it was revealed that the evil queen Lavena keeps her subjects in line by using her “glamour”: she is essentially able to manipulate minds to her will. In Scarlet, this is further explored because Cinder can do the same thing. In fact, so can most Lunars. So… if Lunars can use mind control on each other, how do they get anything done? I mean, if one Lunar manipulates another, can’t that second Lunar manipulate them back?

And if some of these thaumaturges are as powerful as they claim to be, why haven’t they tried to stage a coup and oust the queen? I mean, seriously, how has Luna not destroyed itself?

It’s said that the Lunars all vary in how extensive their mind control abilities can be, and that the queen is the most powerful of them all, which I get, but I still have a hard time believing that some of these Lunars in Queen Lavena’s court haven’t rebelled against her to gain power for themselves.

And I’m going to stop there because I’m just ranting now.

Observation: Why is it a thing in stories with an international cast of characters to have the American character be a cocky, rebellious, reckless braggart? I mean, it’s kind of true, but we’re not all like that.

(I say this, however, I remember this one time at my international high school in Asia, my friends and I were observing some fresh-off-the-plane American visitors, and we analyzed how Americans have their own way of walking. We swagger as we walk, and it’s very pronounced when we are in foreign places.)

Personal Issue: At one point, Scarlet goes to the Paris  and see the Louvre and Opera House. Though these buildings are decrepit and abandoned, Scarlet still sees the beauty in them. Reading the descriptions of Paris made me miss it. Reading about the Opera House made me mentally kick myself for not having visited it the one time I went to Paris as a teenager. I need to do that sometime in my life.

the paris opera house

Verdict

I liked Scarlet. I know it might sound like I didn’t, but I really did. And I want to keep reading the series. The third novel, Cress, was published this year, and it’s based on the fairy tale of Rapunzel, and there is a fifth book in the works called Winter, a retelling of Snow White. Both of those sound interesting to me.

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