Book Review – Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

9781250007216_p0_v2_s260x420My love for reimagined fairytales is still alive and strong. With the announcement of a November release date for the final book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, I figured I’d better make some progress on the series. Scarlet, the second book in the series continues the story begun in Cinder but with several new characters and layers to the futuristic world Meyer created.

Scarlet Benoit has been doing her best to keep up with the family farm in the wake of her grandmother’s disappearance. Most people have already dismissed the thought of looking for the older woman, convinced she’s simply run away. When a new patron of one of Scarlet’s regular customers asks for work on the farm, she’s wary but after her deadbeat father shows up ranting about men just like that patron torturing him and holding her grandmother captive, Scarlet goes looking for the mysterious Wolf who agrees to help her find and rescue her grandmother. But relations between the Earthen nations and Luna are tenuous after the incident at Emperor Kai’s ball in the Eastern Commonwealth. Queen Levana is threatening war if the young girl known as Lihn Cinder is not handed over, a demand that will be difficult to meet when Cinder manages to escape from prison and goes on the run.

I found it a little difficult to get into this installment but found the last hundred pages or so to be very well developed and took the overarching story of the series to the next level nicely. There was something about the way the new characters were introduced while at the same time picking up with Cinder right were the last book left off that was a little too disjointed and jarring. The only thing I can think of that might have made the incorporation smoother would be to have less jumping around from one character as the focus to another; for the first few books to be only about one character and that storyline at a time.

If Book One or Two had focused solely on Cinder meeting Thorne and making her escape with the few brief glimpses at Kai, it wouldn’t have been so distracting. But with those chapters sprinkled in with the chapters introducing Scarlet and Wolf, it made it difficult to play close enough attention to the new characters. It was clearly done the way it was to keep the same chronological timeline going for all involved, so that when Cinder has escaped from prison, Scarlet then sees it on the news and links the stories that way. While such an approach has merits, I think that it feeds into another issue I had with this book, which was the rushed feeling, particularly with Scarlet and Wolf’s relationship.

In Cinder, the passage of time felt distinct, perhaps because it had fewer characters to follow during the course of what time passed. In Scarlet, everything feels like it’s happening at once. Switching between to distinct sets of characters who are in very different parts of the world can blur the line that denotes the off-screen characters’ downtime (when they sleep or eat). Even if the reader does make allowances for this, the relationship between Scarlet and Wolf still moves quickly (its something the two characters themselves acknowledge towards the end of the novel). Hopefully as the two sets of characters have come together and are likely to stay largely together, the third book, Cress, will not have the same timeline/pacing issues (though it too promises new characters so we’ll have to see how they are introduced and worked into the established group).

As for the allusions to the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the twists on that tale, they were a little underwhelming. I like Scarlet and Wolf as characters (simply calling him Wolf seems rather direct; I would have liked a bit more creativity there) and won’t be sorry to see what happens to them in Cress. But for me, nothing will ever be able to top what ABC’s Once Upon a Time did with the Little Red Riding Hood story.

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