Thursday, February 7, 2013
Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Cinder is trying to break out of prison. Even if she succeeds, she'll be on the run as 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 seemingly normal gardening grandma. When she encounters a street fighter named Wolf who may have information about her grandmother's whereabouts, Scarlet has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own. As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Earth hers.
One of the most important elements in a retelling of any story are the characters. You don't want the same, boring Little Red Riding Hood from the original fairytale. You want someone who's like her, but better, with a twist. Ms. Meyer does just that! Scarlet is a brave, spunky eighteen-year old you can really relate to, despite the whole missing grandmother/falling for a street fighter thing. I loved that even though she was dealing with all these things in her life, she never floundered or whined. She kept her wits about her and faced her problems one by one--occasionally releasing her pent up stress by throwing tomatoes at walls. But hey, who are we to judge?
I also really liked what Ms. Meyer did with the wolf in the original fairytale. In "Scarlet", Wolf is a rough-and-tumble street fighter with a secret he harbours inside. It may sound slightly cliched, but I promise you it is anything but that. I love the vulnerability and almost naivete he has about pretty normal, simple things, like tomatoes and food, but at the same time is fierce and protective. I especially really liked the relationship between Wolf and Scarlet. I was a little skeptical in the beginning because I could just see that the two were going to end up falling for each other, but the way their romance developed was very realistic and relatable--and that's one of the things I love about this series! I feel like I can relate to what's happening to the characters, even though they live way into the future and have ID chips embedded in their wrists and hopping onto hover trains to Paris in order to save their grandmothers. The dynamics of Scarlet and Wolf's relationship are layered with all these different emotions, and I liked how there was definite attraction between the two from the onset but it took its time to bloom into a believable romance.
Also, there's nothing like revisiting old characters from previous books! I can kiss Ms. Meyer's feet for giving us chapters told from Cinder and Kai's point of views. I loved how they were still important characters in the sequel, despite the fact that the first book already revolved entirely around them. Cinder, as always, is an amazing character to follow, and I especially liked the development of her character as she deals with her newfound responsibilities. Same goes for Kai. The emotions and thought processes of the two characters are so palpable, and I just cannot wait until the two are reunited! And just a little shoutout to another character who made everything extra interesting: Captain Carswell Thorne, the slick, self-proclaimed casanova. I loved the banter between him and Cinder--he makes such an amazing sidekick!
The storyline of "Scarlet" is so fast-paced and so exciting that it feels like you're on one of those spaceships from the future--smooth, fast and thrilling. From page one, the plot hooks you in and doesn't let go. Despite the fact that there's so much going on, from prison breaks and wolf attacks, you never get confused or overwhelmed with what's happening. Ms. Meyer definitely made full use of her various characters and their viewpoints to weave a complex, compelling storyline that's a blast to read.
Another thing that I think cannot go unmentioned is the setting. It's a no-brainer that the entire "Lunar Chronicles" series is set in the future. But the locations that the story takes place in--New Beijing and France--are still so intimately familiar that it doesn't jar readers into really thinking, "this is in the future and it's weird". This also goes to show Ms. Meyer's skillful descriptions of the setting--you really feel like you're there, like a movie in your head.
Overall, "Scarlet" is a wonderful, exciting second installment to "The Lunar Chronicles" series. The relatable, engaging characters, the compelling, fast-paced plot, and the vivid setting of the novel all work together to create an all-encompassing novel that's hard to put down. I strongly urge you to read this book, or, if you haven't even read the series yet, to go pick up "Cinder" from a bookstore ASAP! It won't let you down.