One of my favourite things about book blogging is how the reviews of other people prompt you to finally pick up a book that’s been languishing on your shelves for a while. When I read Bex’s 2015 Book Survey, I remembered about Scarlet. I bought it immediately (literally, within the space of ten minutes) after finishing Cinder last year… and then, as always, did not read it. This is where I give a nod to Bex for prompting me to get my act together!
Plot summary: 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.
I didn’t actually get round to reviewing Cinder, as I read it during the dearth-of-reviews phase that I’m going to regret even more as the year goes on. Oh wait. Apparently I reviewed this, which is weird as I have zero recollection of doing so. Worrying. Anyway, here’s my review! It took me a few chapters to get into it, but I ended up really liking it and buying Scarlet immediately, as I said. I actually think this book is better, which is rare for the second book in a YA series. Usually it just acts as filler, usually with the characters doing an awful lot of walking, until we can finally read the end in a third installment.
However, because Scarlet follows a new set of characters (for a while, anyway) it almost starts afresh and you’re left with the usual drudgery. After the story gets going, the narrative flits between Cinder and Scarlet but even Cinder’s story is active and reasonably fast-paced.
I really like the over-arching storyline with these books. A potential war between Earth and the Lunars, in a world where androids and spaceships are almost common place. I’m not entirely sure this series really needs the fairytale aspects as I think the plot would be strong enough to stand alone, and sometimes the Red Riding Hood and Cinderella links are a bit forced. It seems like Marissa Meyer struggled a lot to get the wolves into the story, and the method used ‘clunks’ a little. I almost mean this in a positive light, as it’s a strong story, but it tries just a tad too hard in that respect.
There are parts of this story that are surprisingly brutal for a YA novel. I was genuinely almost shocked by some of the goings-on in this book and I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up at one particular part. I don’t think it was there as a cheap trick to purposefully shock the reader either. It‘s not pleasant, but it forms a necessary part of the story and it’s written really well.
My only criticism is that it’s very difficult to differentiate Cinder and Scarlet. If they were engaging in dialogue and their names were scrubbed out, I’m not sure I could tell which was which. Maybe it’s because they don’t have much contact with each other and therefore there wasn’t much need for character development, but their personalities are very, very similar. They’re almost interchangeable. Now that I think about it, so are Wolf and Captain Thorne, two of the male leads. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it was definitely noticeable.
I’m already eyeing up Cress on Amazon, which appears to have a Rapunzel theme, judging from the cover. This series has its faults, but they’re very minor and they’re outweight by the general goodness that is the Lunar Chronicles series. It has a unique storyline and it’s fast-paced with the odd smidge of heart-break. Highly recommended.