Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2)

 
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Even better than Cinder!
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What I Loved:
When picking up the sequel to a book you adored, there's always a little frisson of fear that the book might disappoint. This fear increases tenfold when the new book focuses on a different character than the first. I love Cinder, so I admit to a bit of concern as to whether I would like Scarlet as much as a character. Introducing a new cast can be really difficult to get right, but Meyer did so brilliantly.

The world building remains utterly brilliant. I just cannot get enough of the mix of fairy tales and science fiction, and Meyer is a master of blending these elements into a cohesive, dark, magical whole. Meyer raises the stakes in Scarlet, global tensions rising and danger much closer to the forefront. The directions Meyer's taking the story and the characters gives me every expectation that the next book will be even more dynamic and powerful.

As with Cinder, the characters that will really steal your heart are secondary. Iko continues to be completely delightful, especially in her new form. She still fangirls with the best of them over Prince Kai, and is still just as vain, hilarious, and flirty as before. Perhaps my favorite scene occurs when she interacts with Captain Thorne, another new cast member. They have a lot in common, both focused huge flirts and clowns, and they are incredibly funny together. Captain Thorne serves to lighten the mood, keeping even scary scenes funny, and he is just delightfully unscrupulous when it comes to pretty women or items worth stealing.

I actually like the new cast even better, though I'm sure not everyone will feel the same. Scarlet, like Cinder, is a powerful girl, who will not let anyone stop her from doing what she feels she needs to do. In this case, what she needs is to locate her grandmother, missing two weeks. The authorities don't care, seeming to think that her former military grandma just wandered off and forgot where her house was. Scarlet knows better and she will get her grandmother back, even if it means facing danger and relying on unsavory characters.

What Left Me Wanting More:
With Scarlet in desperate for information, Wolf appears, a street fighter, who knows more than he's willing to let on about the group that took her grandmother. Scarlet doesn't know if he's trustworthy, but he's the best resource she has to try to rescue her grandmother. I actually really liked their relationship, and the complexities of Wolf's character, except for one thing. They definitely flirt far too much with instalove. Everything gets serious a bit too fast, because, despite the book's length, there are a lot of things going on, and not much time for falling in love. I really like them (perhaps because they remind me of The Tenth Kingdom), but they got a bit too cutesy and I would have liked them to have more time to develop romantic feelings naturally.

In fact, though the new cast members do get more screen time, Cinder remains a main character and we get to spend quite a bit of time with her. Iko, Kai, and Levana all make appearances as well. The rotating third person narrative worked quite well for the most part, though Kai's narratives tended to bore me. I like Kai, but he's not as interesting as the other characters in play, and he doesn't really get any character development in Scarlet.

The Final Verdict:
With Scarlet, Marissa Meyer has cemented herself as one of my very favorite authors. Cinder was great, but Scarlet blows it out of the water. I absolutely love this book and this series, and cannot wait for more!
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Sensational Sequel of Epic Proportion
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
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N/A
A book I didn't want to put down. It is very rare that I fall in love with a sequel. I enjoyed Cinder and loved the retelling of a the Cinderella fairytale. However, Scarlet takes my breath away. It flawlessly combines two fairy tales into one brilliantly structured plot. The Lunar Chronicles has official become my favorite new must read series!

Why is it even better than Cinder? Scarlet is faster paced and the constantly shifting points of view - Scarlet's, Cinder's and Emperor Kai's- ramp up the tension and suspense. Together the two books make an awesome beginning to the series.

Meyer does not leave her loyal readers in the dark. Scarlet answers a lot of the questions left in Cinder. But Meyer keeps up the momentum -Scarlet is filled with turns and surprises that will make readers question everything they discovered not only in Cinder, but what unravels in Scarlet as well.

The best parts of Scarlet? -Too many to list without giving away the plot line. However, Scarlet Benoit, phenomenal and fierce, brings an entirely new dimension to the story. She is immediately a lovable and admirable character; one you can't help but rout for. Cinder, the main protagonist, is still coming into her own as she continues to discover pieces of her past. Each voice is distinct and the narrations are clearly different. I am often hesitant and skeptical of multiple perspectives. In my personal experience, this type of narration is either done well or awkwardly in some novels, taking away from the plot. The way Marissa Meyer intertwines each voice is absolutely mind blowing. I would say possibly the best multiple narrations I have read.

What's not to like? Readers will find themselves wanting to grab the next book- but we will all have to patiently wait for book 3. But the anticipation of the next book always makes reading worth while.

This is a great read for fans of Cinder and for those who like fractured fairy tales and strong female counterparts, and some unusual world-building.
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Cinder's Story Continues, Scarlet's Story Begins
(Updated: March 27, 2015)
Overall rating
 
3.3
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Again, the concept itself was intriguing... a futuristic/fantasy fairytale retelling with the bonus of a (potentially) redemptive take on an age-old villain. But this reader ultimately found the execution a bit exasperating.

It started out with great promise. Somewhere in Southern France, seemingly far removed from the Eastern Commonwealth and the events of the first book, we're introduced to Scarlet Benoit--a fiery farm girl with a hoodie fetish and a missing granny.

Determined to pick up where the police have given up, Scarlet enlists the aid of a mysterious street fighter known only as 'Wolf' (view spoiler) and together they set out to rescue her beloved grandmother. As they close in on their goal, it becomes clear that granny is hiding something that gives her far closer ties to the worldwide political upheaval than Scarlet could have ever guessed.

With the main character being 18 instead of 16, I'd hoped for a more matured YA feel to the storytelling. Which did occur in some small part. The violence is a little more graphic, and the romantic angle a little more sensual. But the continued simplicity to the structure and worldbuilding—along with the rash immaturity of Scarlett—still held more of an upper MG/younger YA lite-fantasy appeal.

The story alternates back and forth--being told primarily from Scarlet's point of view, while also including chapters that catch us up on what's going on with the recently escaped Cinder from book #1 (and the occasional Emperor Kai thrown in.) Unfortunately, though Wolf is easily the most interesting character outside of Cinder's sidekick android, readers aren't allowed into his head at all.

The greatest drawback for this reader, outside of certain nonsensical political moves, was the character of Scarlet. Unlike the resourceful Cinder, Scarlet comes across as all brash and no brains. She repeatedly makes unrelatable, poor life-expectancy decisions—(view spoiler) And while one could initially mistake her hot-tempered demeanor (and willingness to throw the entire world under a bus in the name of saving her beloved granny) as strength, it doesn't seem an adequate counterbalance to her lacking in cleverness, emotional fortitude, and general likeability.

As far as the romantic element goes, the chemistry between Wolf and Scarlet (despite my gnawing dislike for Scarlet) was leagues more believable than whatever was trying to go on between Cinder and Kai in the first book. I have to give credit for relational progress there. I actually DID enjoy the bickering banter between Cinder and her accidental accomplice, the vain and attemptedly suave Carswell Thorne. Iko's return is a more than welcome and a delightful diversion, as she adjusts to a new “body” that turns out to be oddly fitting to her larger-than-life personality.

What personally left me unsure whether I'd want to invest any more in this series turned out to be one of the few scenes involving newbie Emperor Kai. And there is no way I can explain my frustration without the use of spoilers, so please forgive me. (view spoiler)

There's also the issue to how Cinder and her purpose fell so miserably through the cracks.

Those who were able to suspend disbelief and overlook surfacy worldbuilding in the first book should be able to enjoy this book just as well—if not more—than book #1. Unfortunately, the logistics and lack of character-connectivity are getting the better of me. I'm not sure at this point if I'll continue on in the series.
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