Spoiler Alert: Scarlet is the second book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. This review will contain series spoilers for the previous book. Click here to read my spoiler-free review of Cinder.
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.
Personal Enjoyment: ●●○○○
Writing Quality: ●●●○○
I went into this hearing mixed reviews. There was the initial wave of rave reviews, and immediately after, one of crushing disappointment. Still, I kept an open mind!
I enjoyed this book for around the first hundred to two hundred pages! But the frustration began to build the longer I read.
I was hesitant about a new adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, mostly because unlike Cinderella, there isn’t much there to adapt. Yet the book was over 400 pages, so she must have found more there than I realized. In the beginning, Meyer sets the book up as if she is totally reinventing the story of Little Red… but the twist at the end felt like “Mwahahaha, I tricked you! I didn’t change the story at all!” with a devious wringing of hands. Marissa Meyer had the perfect formula with Cinder— she took a fairytale and dropped it somewhere else, letting the story work itself out. The predictability was part of its charm! In Scarlet it felt more like she knew she had so little source material to work with so her only option was to draw out the story to deceive the reader.
Beyond the re-telling aspect, I didn’t understand the logic behind this book. At the end of Cinder, our title character is told to head to Africa, where she’ll find all the answers. So in Scarlet, she breaks out of prison and goes “lol nah let’s go on a Eurotrip!” And the rest of her story is the equivalent of her flying around in space with Iko and Thorne (who, don’t get me wrong, were absolutely flawless creatures) chanting, “Eurotrip! Eurotrip! Eurotrip!” It all boiled down to the author’s thinly veiled attempt to bring both Cinder and Scarlet together by the end of the story.
As for Scarlet, well… remember how I said Marissa Meyer sets the book up as if she’s reinventing or inverting the tale of Little Red Riding Hood? Scarlet’s storyline consisted of girl meets boy, boy lies/deceives/manipulates/cheats girl, girl makes out with particularly untrustworthy boy. And would it really have been too difficult to stretch the story out over a longer length of time? It felt like ages had passed within the storyworld, but then Scarlet makes a comment about only meeting this guy not 24 hours ago! Oh, cool, and now you’re in love? Great, Scarlet, just great. GO TO YOUR ROOM YOUNG LADY YOU ARE GROUNDED. That’s what Grandmere should have said. In a perfect world.
Speaking of Grandmere, I really did try to care about her. But then I realized I didn’t care much for any of the characters, even in the first book. What I cared about was the way the story was written, how it unfolded with the same events I knew and loved in a whole new world. With that gone, I was totally disenchanted.
I believe, given a well enough established tale, Marissa Meyer has the power to weave magic into this world again. I can’t wait to see where the story goes in Cress with a new adaptation of Rapunzel. But… later.
So many people have loved this book, but it just wasn’t for me. If you read and enjoyed Cinder, I still think it’s worth continuing on with the series.