Friday, February 26, 2016

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

A few weeks ago the final three books of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles became available at the local public library and I checked all of them out and am finally getting around to reading Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. For those of you who have never heard of Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, it is a dystopian fiction series set in futuristic planet earth and based (loosely) on the classic fairy-tales. I say loosely because Meyer’s characters and interpretations of the classic stories are often the opposite of the original or at least...not what you expect, which is part of the fun and thrill of her books. Her stories always contain elements and characters based off of the original fairy-tale, i.e. Scarlet is “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Wolf” is the wolf. Knowing the classic stories, it’s the surprises that kept me on the edge of my seat. While reading Scarlet, I kept wondering, is Wolf going to turn out to be evil? Does he get killed by the huntsman? Who is the huntsman, anyway? Meyer does not necessarily spell out the fairy-tale the way you might expect. She keeps you on your toes and keeps you guessing what is about to happen next.

Overall, I enjoyed Scarlet as much as I liked Meyer’s first book Cinder (see my review for Cinder). The second book in the Lunar Chronicles picks up right where Meyer left off in Cinder, which is good, because she left us on a pretty miserable cliff-hanger. In Scarlet, we meet Scarlet Benoit, a strong-willed, fiery redhead who works on her grandmother’s farm and maintains a simple lifestyle in the small backward town of Reiux, France. When Scarlet’s grandmother suddenly goes missing, Scarlet’s simple life shatters as does her rose-colored perception of her grandmother. Determined to find her grandmother, she elicits the help of a street-fighter named Wolf who happens to be an ex-member of a conspiratorial gang and also happens to have some intelligence about Scarlet’s missing grandmother. Meanwhile, our favorite cyborg, Linh Cinder, is a fugitive on the run from the Eastern Commonwealth and the Lunar queen. She teams up with a renegade cadet from the U.S. military known as Captain Carswell Thorne (he’s not a real captain) and with his stolen ship they make their escape and continue Cinder’s hunt for the missing Lunar princess.

What I Liked

Captain Carswell Thorne – Everyone loves the comic relief and Thorne is no exception. His humor and careless attitude lighten up the atmosphere, which is good, because Scarlet takes somewhat of a darker twist than its predecessor Cinder. The witty banter between Cinder and Thorne is hysterical. Their relationship assumes a kind of sibling rivalry/friendship which is oh-so endearing.

The plot – The story was overall consistent and intriguing. Meyer begins to answer some of the questions from Cinder and the pieces of the puzzle gradually fall into place as more is revealed concerning Cinder’s past. She also tied all of the characters and their individual stories together very well and we see this develop even more in the third book Cress.

The villains – I for one appreciate a story with real villains. I like bad-guys to be unquestionably bad. That is not to say villains cannot be complex and misunderstood, but there has to be a definite moral tension for the story to be a good story. The evil Queen Levana is just that. She is complex, mysterious, and probably misunderstood, but she is also heartlessly evil, selfish, manipulative, brutal, and scary. What’s more, her power is to give off the appearance of beauty and innocence, which makes her even more terrifying.

The moral tension – This is sort of a follow-up to my previous point. I thought the moral dilemma was very convincing and added a whole level of depth to this story. I appreciated how both Cinder and Wolf are not simply battling the villains out there, but are fighting their own natural instincts. This made them all the more real as characters.

The suspense – I could not put this book down! Meyer’s style of writing makes for an easy fun read, but it certainly keeps you turning the page and makes you quickly lose track of time.

Not So Much

Violence – I mentioned earlier that Scarlet takes a bit of a darker twist than its predecessor Cinder. The first book dealt with some heavy subject matter including PTSD, a mind-controlling psychopathic evil queen, a plague ravaging an entire nation, and death. In Scarlet we have evil mind-controlling Lunars attacking the earth as well as super-human men genetically modified to exhibit wolfish features, instincts, and strength. Things get pretty bloody and violent, though not in a way that necessarily glorifies the violence. I have a low tolerance for violence, so there may be some who feel differently about this but I thought it was worth mentioning especially for those who have yet to read the books.

Emperor Kai – I don’t think there is anything wrong with the prince himself. He is a pretty honest, cool person. I just sort of wish Meyer had done a little more with him in this book or maybe left him out altogether. Whenever the story deviated randomly back to Emperor Kai, I felt like it kind of interrupted the flow. It seemed like she inserted Kai in the book so that the reader would not forget about him. He is still an essential part of the plot, but all of the major plot points involving him could have still happened and been clarified without diverting back to his personal vantage point. I am sure there are others who feel differently about this as it is simply my personal opinion!

The ending – All of Meyer’s endings, so far, are cliffhangers and kind of depressing ones! After putting down Scarlet, I immediately picked up Cress because I have to know what happens. And I kind of want to get to the happy ending already. I guess this aspect of the story could easily be seen as a strategic move on Meyer’s part, but I would like to get some sleep again.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone fifteen years or older! Have you read this series? What did you think of Scarlet? Let me know in the comments below (without giving away too many spoilers)! 

See my book review of Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

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