Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Do you remember that classic fairytale about Little Red Riding Hood delivering farm goods to a tavern with her spaceship? No? Marissa Meyer has once again struck gold with her unbelievable mix of fantasy and futuristic science fiction in Scarlet, the follow-up to Cinder. The story follows an escaped Cinder as she seeks information about her true identity, while Scarlet searches for her kidnapped grandmother with the help of a street fighter named, wait for it, Wolf. The Lunars are mad, and Queen Levana threatens war if Emperor Kai doesn’t find Cinder within three days.
Inevitably, the plot of the second book in a quartet is bound to feel like it drags a bit; while Scarlet is by no means immune to said dragging, Meyer still manages to paint a vivid world and particularly fun secondary characters. We learn a little more about Cinder’s past and her ties to Scarlet, while we watch Kai make a crucial decision as his people are dying. Unfortunately, little else happens to progress the series arc, but again, this is really another setup book for the battles to come.
Let’s switch to the positive. Carswell Thorne is my new favorite character. Introduced a few chapters in, Cinder’s fellow fugitive (and thief) claims to be a captain. He’s arrogant and awkward, clueless most of the time, and yet somehow able to fly (marginally) a stolen spacecraft he’s claimed as his own. His presence helps keep Cinder’s side of this installment from becoming too reflective or self-indulgent. SPOILER ALERT: It’s also fun to hear him interact with the newly-reactivated Iko, Cinder’s android friend from the first Lunar Chronicles book. Iko takes a new form in this outing.
Scarlet and Wolf share your typical boy-slash-wolf-meets-girl-seeking-grandmother-as-aliens-hunt-a-renegade-princess romance. That being said, it’s riveting to watch Wolf battle between his instincts and a love he should never have found for Scarlet. When it comes to classic scenes from the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, Marissa Meyer uses just two. The good news is these scenes are so far removed from the original fairytale they actually make sense in this far-flung future. Kudos to Meyer for flawlessly pulling this off.
Thorne’s dialogue is fun and feels appropriate for his character. Cinder’s speech seems a bit too straightforward and flat compared to how multidimensional she sounded in the first book. Iko sounds just as she did, which is wonderful to read. Wolf sounds as torn as he truly is between love and duty. And Scarlet speaks boldly and in-character.
Personal character reflections are particularly well done in Scarlet. Cinder appropriately struggles with the ethics of using her newfound abilities, while Emperor Kai grapples with a massive choice. Scarlet should probably question Wolf’s intentions a bit more than she does, but she’s by no means irrational or flat.
After learning more about Queen Levana’s growing army and hearing what Cinder plans to do next, I do wish the third book (Cress) was already on the shelves. Readers who enjoyed Cinder will be pleased with this sequel, while those who didn’t read Cinder might actually stand a chance of understanding the series, even if this is their introduction to the cyborg and her world.
Learn more about this title and order here.