scarlet // book review

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Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

(#2 in The Lunar Chronicles series)

★★★★ 4 STARS

This is not the fairytale you remember.
But it’s one you won’t forget.

Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. The police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other.

Meanwhile, in New Beijing, Cinder will become the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive – when she breaks out of prison to stay one step ahead of vicious Queen Levana.

As Scarlet and Wolf expose one mystery, they encounter Cinder and a new one unravels. Together they must challenge the evil queen, who will stop at nothing to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner…

[mild spoilers ahead!]

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With the tantalising cliffhanger Meyer ended Cinder on, she continues to lack mercy on us poor readers by setting aside Linh Cinder for a few chapters. Alas, don’t worry, because the second instalment in The Lunar Chronicles is as captivating as the first! Scarlet is a thrilling retelling of the renown Red Riding Hood story which follows both Scarlet and Cinder as their worlds become more and more entangled.

The book opens with a change of scenery, moving away from the Eastern Commonwealth to the small town of Rieux in France. The beginning is a little slow as Scarlet’s story is explained; when we are first introduced to her we learn that her grandmother has been kidnapped but the police don’t believe her. From there the story begins to spiral as she meets Wolf, a handsome stranger with a liking for tomatoes, and the mystery around Melissa Benoit’s disappearance begins to unravel.

“I just think we shouldn’t judge her, or anyone, without trying to understand them first. That maybe we should get the full story before jumping to conclusions. Crazy notion, I know.”

Early on, whilst watching repeats from the Coronation ball on the Rieux Tavern’s netscreens, Scarlet said the quote above. I thought this was a defining moment of her character, one that really made me love her. Even though it was a little predictable she’s very different from the others who judge and hate Cinder despite not knowing her. Scarlet doesn’t hate her on principle. I also really enjoyed how headstrong she was throughout the rest of the story. Even though it really grates on me when characters never once seem to stop and think (very popular trope in YA) I found it excusable, for the most part, with Scarlet because she was portrayed as a brash, red-headed girl who let her emotions rule her head. She doesn’t sit back and wait for somebody else to save her family: she goes out there, hops onto a train with this Wolf guy she’s barely known a day, and gets into the thick of the action herself. I guess I would also be kind of annoyed if some lupine/Luna hybrid wolves stole my grandma too. She’s not a flawless character by any means but that’s what makes her perfect.

In a similar vein I thought Cinder really thrived here. Looking back on how she appeared in Cinder it seems almost repressed of her true personality, just like how her powers were. Maybe it was simply a side effect of realising her Lunar heritage and discovering she was the missing princess Selene at the end of the last novel which brought out this whole new side to her. She’s sassier, more self assured, and how she decides to deal with Queen Levana and her claim to the throne is sure to be an interesting arc to the whole series. I can’t wait to read more!

“‘I knew they would kill me when they found out, but…’ He struggled for words, releasing a sharp breath. ‘I think I realized that I would rather die because I betrayed them, than live because I betrayed you.'”

Okay, now let’s get into where my main problem with this book lies. I’m talking about one of the things that took this down from a 5 star to a 4, almost 3.5. Cinder quickly became one of my all time favourites and I expected Scarlet to be much of the same, but it fell flat in one particular area: Wolf. One could argue I simply don’t care for part-wolf people in any shape or form, which is probably true, but I think if anyone could make me love a wolf hybrid it would be Marissa Meyer. Sadly, she failed in that regard. I’m not a fan of the predatory vibe he throws around and, frankly, it made me a little uncomfortable, especially given I had guesses as to how his story arc might well end. I prayed against them, but this is a Red Riding Hood retelling after all, and we all know not to trust the wolf. The only redeemable element is that come the end why he is the way that he is is explained. I can’t say I’m happy with it (maybe I really just don’t like wolves) but I hope that in future books he can be remedied for me a little. And on a similar wavelength I hope that the relationship he and Scarlet begin can truly develop and blossom because it all seemed a little… flat here.

Branching off from the predictability I touched upon above, the whole plot does suffer from it in minor portions. I think with any fairytale retelling this is inevitable, though. Whilst I could guess most of the next steps throughout there were still little twists and surprises – not quite so many as Cinder, and I didn’t enjoy the ones that were there nearly as much, but a suitable amount to keep me entertained and overall enjoying the book.

“A relieved grin filled up Thorne’s face. ‘We’re having another moment, aren’t we?’

‘If by a moment, you mean me not wanting to strangle you for the first time since we met, then I guess we are.'”

A new character that I did thoroughly like, however, is Captain Carswell Thorne. From the moment Cinder dropped into his prison cell I knew he would be some light-hearted comic relief to keep me laughing the whole way through and my love for him was quickly solidified. At first I was scared that this whole new male spending time with Cinder would develop into a love triangle so I’m over the moon that it didn’t. Have no fear, no love triangles here! He’s charming in the loveable roguish way that Flynn Rider is so, bearing in mind how much I simply adore Tangled, it’s no real surprise I love Carswell Thorne so much.

I think that if it weren’t for the alternating points of view, and getting to hear about the adventures of Cinder and Thorne, and Kai back in New Beijing, then I would have given Scarlet a 3.5 rating. As it stands, their involvement bumped it up to 4 stars because gosh damn it these characters are my babies and I think my heart will break if things don’t work out for them in the end. God. Overall, Scarlet could have been better for me personally but it was still a decent insert to the series which I can’t wait to read more of. When I get the time…

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