Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer


Title: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2) 

Author: Marissa Meyer

Rating: 3.75 Stars

Scarlet is easily one of the most anticipated novels of 2013, but it never made its way even to my to-read shelf. In fact, while the rest of the blogosphere was going crazy over the release of Meyer's sophomore novel, I was marveling at the fact that I had one less book to read this month than everyone else. Well, needless to say, Scarlet won me over, just as Cinder won over hundreds of readers when it was first released last year. While Cinder proved to be a frustrating read for me, easily irritating me with its lack of world-building, empty-headed protagonist, and obvious plot twists, Scarlet kept me on the edge of my seat, rooting for its kick-ass heroine and swooning every couple of pages, despite the subtle romance. All in all, I think I can say, quite confidently, that I have joined the throng of Marissa Meyer fans. For the few of you out there who, like me, were unimpressed by Cinder, I challenge you to give Scarlet a try. It will, undoubtedly, make you eat your former words about this series. Many times over. 

Scarlet is a much stronger novel than Cinder ever was primarily because of its protagonist. While I enjoyed Cinder's narration, her gentle disposition and intelligent nature, her cluelessness could often be highly frustrating. Scarlet, however, is cunning, bad-ass, and not the type of chick you want to mess with. Not only does she carry a gun in her back pocket, but she knows how to stand up for herself and her loyalty to her grandmother comes before all else. Our story opens up with Scarlet hunting for her missing grandmother who left and never re-appeared nearly three weeks ago. With the police giving up and claiming her grandmother simply ran away, Scarlet is alone in her quest - or so she thinks. Unexpectedly, Scarlet finds help in the form of Wolf, a deadly street-fighter who she is forced to put her trust in if she ever wants to see her grandmother again. In the midst of this hunt, though, Cinder is breaking out of jail, determined to escape and find the freedom she so desperately seeks. When Cinder leaves her prison cell with another criminal mastermind, Captain Thorne, however, Queen Levana and Emperor Kai are now both after her, but all Cinder is after are answers - answers that no one seems to have but Scarlet's grandmother who is missing. 

Although Meyer's sophomore novel is titled Scarlet, the book is quite neatly split in half between Scarlet's tale and that of Cinder's. Every few chapters, the PoV shifts, introducing us to Scarlet and her quest, all while back-pedaling to let us know how Cinder is faring or giving us a quick glimpse into the head of Emperor Kai. Cinder and Kai are two characters that are impossible to dislike - they are both kind, selfless, and constantly thinking of others. In so many ways, they are similar and perfect for one another, but Meyer gives them both greater depth in this novel. Kai, now no longer a prince, has the fate of an entire nation resting upon his shoulders. As such, he must deal with consequences and decisions he is in no way prepared for, all while battling with his feelings for Cinder, the mechanic he grew to admire, but who ultimately betrayed him. Kai, contrary to what Cinder originally thinks, isn't disgusted with her for being a cyborg. If anything, he is filled with a newfound curiosity to get to know her all over again, yet, he is deeply mistrustful of her, questioning how much of what he knew was the truth and how much were lies. Although we were only given a few short chapters of his perspective, it was enough to make this story all the more well-rounded and intriguing. 

One of the best qualities of this novel is its ability to shift from narrators to scenes to events to locations seamlessly. Meyer, it seems, really can write. Yet, despite her obvious talent, it seems as if this series is doomed to struggle onwards without world-building. We still have no idea how the Lunars came to exist on the moon, how their powers even began to manifest, or even how we went from the world we live in today to the world of Cinder and Scarlet. Surprisingly, though, this didn't detract from the plot. While it seemed to be a heavy hindrance in Meyer's debut, it was easily forgotten amongst the fast-paced plot of Scarlet. Still, I eagerly look forward to the day when we finally get some answers to our questions. With that minor blemish aside, the only other faults I found with this novel lay in Cinder herself. It cannot be denied that Cinder's story was the more boring of the two prevalent tales in this novel. It seemed to have been dragged during many instances, but, more than that, Cinder's growth was rather stunted. 

In Scarlet, Cinder must finally learn to use her powers as a Lunar and attempt to use them in such a way that she never violates strict moral codes that Queen Levana constantly breaks. It is an important struggle and while Cinder's inner battle was handled deftly, the physical actions and circumstances she was thrown in did little to help her achieve the growth she reaches by the end of the book. It is the obvious end mark for this novel, both in terms of plot and character development, but it felt like a little too big of a jump. I, for one, never felt like I grasped Cinder's character as well as I would have wanted to in this installment. Captain Thorne, on the other hand, was a pleasant addition of comedic relief, although I sincerely hope he plays a larger part in the series to come. In my eyes, he felt a little unnecessary at times. 

Regardless of the flaws this novel had, though, it was all made up for with Scarlet and Wolf. I've already mentioned my admiration for Scarlet, but Wolf is another character all together. In some ways, it is difficult to know what to make of him at first. While he seems to be nothing more than a ruthless, cold, and calculating street fighter, he is, in reality, shy, kind, and gentle. Together, Scarlet and Wolf are eerily similar, but also manage to balance each other out perfectly. I found their flirtatious dialogue refreshing and their romantic story arc, although rather rapid, fit the plot perfectly. Instead of falling back on the typical tropes of insta-love, Meyer manages to build two mature characters who are drawn to each other due to lust and sexual tension and, somehow, she manages to make it work since these two also have a bond of friendship and trust that exists between them. Furthermore, the plot twists surrounding these two were ones I never saw coming. I suspect that if you've read the two novellas, or rather the one directly preceding this novel, then the curveballs will be rather predictable, but as someone who has been studiously avoiding the writing of Marissa Meyer for the past year, I was pleasantly shocked, surprised, and left with my heart twisting rather painfully at times. 

I love being emotionally invested in a novel and with the tale of Scarlet and Wolf, this is precisely what Meyer did. Moreover, the higher stakes of the situation in this book also perfectly played into my growing attachment to this series. While it does have its flaws - egregious ones - and the story arc of Cinder was slightly compromised in favor of Scarlet's, I can't complain. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and am already itching for more of Scarlet and Wolf. Granted, the majority of my newfound involvement with this series stems from these characters, but with such a clear-cut resolution in sight, I am curious to embark on the journey these characters will take to get there. I can only hope, though, that in the future, the editing for these books will be a little more detailed and the story plots pulled in a little tighter. With just a little tweaking, this series could easily skyrocket to becoming one of my favorites. Especially with characters like Scarlet and Wolf. 

22 comments:

  1. I've been seeing so much praise for this one lately, Keertana. It seems you mostly enjoyed this story even with some issues. Not sure if I'll pick this up. For some strange reason, this story still does not appeal to me. Great review.:)

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  2. Woha I'm so happy to hear this! :) A lot of people recommended me Cinder and needless to say I still haven't read it. They all said it was an amazing story and you're actually the first one who didn't like it (that I know) so I'm really happy that you like Scarlet :) I must read this series soon. Great review :)

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  3. I rarely enjoy multiple points of view, it's my least favorite narrative type, but I'm glad Meyer knew how to make it work. I haven't read Cinder yet, but I have it scheduled in March for my tbr challenge and hopefully I'll like it at least a little more than you did, even though I honestly doubt it.
    Thank you for the lovely, well-rounded review, Keertana!
    And yaay, you're reading Shadows... I loved that book!

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  4. I love how precise your rating is :) I liked Cinder, but I didn't love it.. so I haven't been in a rush to pick this one up. But the reviews have been very promising - so I think I should give it a go. Lovely review!

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  5. I've seen gushing reviews everywhere for Scarlet these past few weeks but it's your insightful, thoughtful review that has made me want to pick it up. I enjoyed Cinder but not as much as the majority and found the main character a little bland. So glad to hear you think Scarlet is a considerable improvement. I think I may go download the ebook right now!

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  6. I agree Keertana, despite the questions certain aspects of this world still raise, I found myself absorbed by the plot and didn't really pay them much mind. I'm so glad you enjoyed Scarlet and Wolf (and Thorne!) as much as I did, I'm definitely looking forward to more of them as well. It will be interesting to see how this series continues as new heroines are added to the mix with each book. Fabulous review!

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  7. So glad you gave this one a shot, K! I liked Cinder (both the book and the character), but I LOVED Scarlet (both the book and the character.) Everything was just BETTER in this book. Furthering of the main story arc. More development of Cinder and Kai. Favorite returning secondary characters, Iko, and new ones that I fell in love with, Thorne. And a super romance between two exciting new characters, Scarlet and Wolf.

    I know your frustration in wanting more about the Lunar people. I did gain more insight into that topic w/my reading of The Queen's Army (as well as more insight into Wolf) but I too am ready for more of the why's and how's that society came to be. Since the next book takes us to Luna I think those questions will finally be answered. And I also believe Thorne's role will double in the next book.

    But you know what excited me most about Scarlet was the end when Cinder lays out what her future moves will be. I cannot wait to watch her transform into the bad ass warrior I know she can be (with Scarlet, Wolf, Thorne, and hopefully Kai, backing her up every step of the way:)

    Great review!

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  8. I like being emotionally invested in books and characters too.
    Scarlet also sounds like the type of character that I would like and pull for.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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  9. I agree that this is a stronger novel than Cinder! I like Marissa Meyer's writing a lot and the new characters she introduced. I think this is a series where hopefully each book gets better. I'm excited for the next!

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  10. I'm actually quite glad to see something other than a 5 star rating for this book, for a change. Which might sound quite odd, but I want to get both sides of the story here, especially as Cinder didn't quite blow me away. As always, your review is incredibly helpful! I plan to give this book a go later this month and hope I end up enjoying it, too. Despite the few issues you had, I'm glad you were mostly impressed. :)

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  11. Grumble grumble grumble...I typed out a nice long comment for you, but Blogger ATE IT. Hmph! I'm lazy, but let's suffice it to say that we've talked quite a bit about this one already and I'm SO glad you decided to give it a chance and that it ended up such a success.

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  12. I'm glad this one managed to get you onto the Marissa Meyer train because she seems to be very popular and it's always great when you can get absorbed into a series.

    I know how much you love your world building, but hopefully it will be unveiled for you shortly and you'll find out more.

    Scarlet sounds like a fantastic character! Definitely somebody to admire in fiction.

    I shall definitely have to pick up Cinder soon and keep in mind that if I don't quite love it, I should give Meyer a second chance with Scarlet.

    Fabulous review, Tana! :)

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  13. I am glad you gave this series another chance, Keertana! I count myself among the hordes of people who loved Cinder, and I did not have any of those criticisms that you do (well, except that the world-building could have been a little stronger). My thoughts are that if the story is written well enough that I really am invested in the characters and the plot, then I can ignore some of the other problems. Based on your review and those of many other bloggers, it sounds as though Scarlet is even better than Cinder, so I am eager to read it myself! I did read the novellas and think I can guess what a major plot twist will be, but that doesn't bother me, at least not yet.

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  14. I liked Scarlet so much better than Cinder. I agree with you, Scarlet was simply kick-ass, and I loved Wolf. He's was so mysterious yet so sweet. I liked Captain Thorn, his scenes were hilarious. I really wish we get to see more of Scarlet in the series, she is my fav so far. Fab review :)

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  15. Given that I was a fan of Cinder, it makes me immensely happy that Scarlet is beginning to win you back over!! And if you enjoyed this much more than Cinder, I'm certain I will absolutely love it. You have me incredibly excited to meet both Scarlet and Wolf! She sounds like a badass heroine and I totally "awww!"-ed out loud with how you described Wolf.

    Fabulous review, Keertana! I really need to find time to go keep up with my Google Reader, I miss your beautiful insights! <3

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  16. Fantastic and detailed review! I haven't read this one yet but I adored Cinder - if you didn't like Cinder but enjoyed this one even more I'll take that as a good sign for me. I'm looking forward to the multiple perspectives and the subtle romance, even if the story as a whole lacks in world-building!

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  17. I am incredibly glad you enjoyed this one, Keertana. I wish you had liked it a little more because as of now I think this is my favorite book of 2013. But...I understand where your issues lie. You ARE right about the world-building. It IS missing details and the whole Lunar thing is pretty odd. I guess maybe I am willing to overlook some things because I adore the characters, the writing, and the plot. That's an unusual thing for me to do, but yeah. I did enjoy this a lot more than Cinder. Great review!

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  18. YAY for series where book twos are better than book one. I'm hoping this series continues its up-swing. Though i have no idea how another couple can top Scarlet and Wolf for me. I agree, they are such a great pair and balance for each other. Their relationship does move rapidly, but I agree, it also felt right for them.

    I did read the novella and was still surprised (and upset) when the plot twist happened! But it also made this story even more intriguing.

    I haven't had as much trouble with Cinder as you, but I definitely felt like she was stronger in this book. I'm hoping that we will see more of her character to come.

    Honestly, I didn't even think of the origin of the Lunars. Whether they are earthen people who ended up on the moon and changed genetically, or a people from another galaxy who landed there? That is a great question, and I'm also hoping it is addressed in the future.

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  19. I'm just reading this book and I'm only over half done but I already like it way more than I did Cinder. It's less predictable, more action packed and more badass. :D

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  20. Okay, I just came to look at your rating b/c I'm reading this now, but I'll look at your review once I'm done! ;)

    -Maggie

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  21. This is a great and honest review, Keertana. I was among the people that loved Cinder to pieces when I reviewed it initially, and then I fell harder in love with it on my re-read. Then Scarlet just blew it out of the water. I was so pleasantly surprised that Cinder's storyline was included in Scarlet, but I agree that Scarlet's is better and more exciting. I love Kai and Wolf, although I find Wolf to be more fascinating, just like Scarlet. I too am curious about the Lunars but I believe that we'll find out much more about them, and hopefully a backstory (perhaps another novella?) since I think Cress takes place on the moon. Ultimately, this book was just FUN for me and I'm already jonesing for a re-read despite having just re-read Cinder and just finished Scarlet not too long ago. So glad you gave this series another shot! That's so awesome. :)

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  22. This is probably the first non completely positive review of Scarlet I've read so it's kind of refreshing. I was sad that Cinder didn't make your cut but now I'm certain I might like on of the two books. Honestly, I LOVE the cover for Scarlet so you know.

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