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.