It’s been a few years since I read Cinder – the fact that I’ve waited so long to continue the series speaks volumes. While Meyer’s Cinderella retelling was fun and added an interesting twist (Cyborg Cinderella!), the writing was lacking on many levels. But I hate having unread series lying around and I knew this would be a quick read. Scarlet was pretty much exactly what I expected. Not great, not terrible. A kind of guilty pleasure.
Published by: Feiwel and Friends, 2013
Ebook: 452 pages
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
My rating: 5,5/10
First sentence: Scarlet was descending toward the alley behind the Rieux Tavern when her portscreen chimed from the passenger seat, followed by an automated voice: “Comm received for Mademoiselle Benoit from the Toulouse Law Enforcement Department of Missing Persons.”
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.
Scarlet lives on a small farm in the French village of Rieux. When her grandmother disappears and the police do nothing, Scarlet wants to take matters into her own hands. How lucky that the dark and mysterious stranger who just stumbled into town is connected to grand-mère’s dissapearance… Meanwhile, Cinder escapes from prison, dragging along the flamboyant Captain Thorne, on her way to find out more about herself and her past.
The plot in the second Lunar Chronicle book is thin, to say the least, but it does offer a few scenes that make it a worthwhile read. Cinder’s escape from prison and the introduction of Captain Thorne were among my favorite parts of the book. Their bantering and bickering even made me giggle a few times. Scarlet’s plotline, on the other hand, takes ages to get going and ends up as predictable as the big twist in the first book. Of course, a Red Riding Hood retelling has to have the girl fall in love with the wolf. No surprise there. And, if I’m completely honest, the romantic scenes were among the better ones of the entire book. Marissa Meyer managed to create moments of tension while completely adhering to the strange rule of YA romance that people who have known each other for less than a day are already utterly in love. To the point where they’d give up their life for the other person… [insert gigantic eye roll here]
Once the story did kick off though, there were other mysteries to be explored. If you have a character called Wolf who is prone to violence, it’s not very hard to guess what exactly he might be. This is where things are changed up a bit, making for a more interesting story than, say, regular werewolves. A bit more interesting, not anything mind-blowing. Alternating between Cinder, Scarlet, Emperor Kai, and – just once – Queen Levana, it’s easy to keep reading despite the many problems the novel has. It may be very readable, but it is also clearly just a prelude for bigger things to come. Very little of consequence happens during the course of this story, but it does set things up neatly for the next book. Characters are put into positions and put together with other characters in order to make for a (hopefully) better story in book three.
The novel’s biggest flaw is still the writing. Yes, it’s quick and simple and has nice (though unoriginal) dialogue. But hardly anything is learned or discovered without massive amounts of exposition and characters explaining everything to the protagonists. The characters’ actions don’t always make sense, but hey, if you can fall in eternal love with a person after only a day, I’m already questioning your judgement. So their overreactions and strange behavior make sense, I suppose, within the context of the story. Add to that the lack of depth in any and all of the characters and you’ve got a perfect example for a popcorn novel.
After ranting and giving you the reasons why this isn’t a very good book, why did I rate it as “okay”? Shouldn’t it get a “bad” rating? Well, because it is also a lot of fun. It’s fluffy and simple and doesn’t require a lot of thought on the reader’s part. It’s like a Hollywood action movie where you know from the start that the protagonists end up kissing, and of course some form of evil is defeated, leaving the big enemy alive for the sequel. I don’t have a lot to say about Scarlet because there is just so little substance to it, but I can say that if you’re home with the flu and your head is having a hard time concentrating, this might just be the right series for you. Switch off the brain, switch on the movie screen inside your head, and off you go into a world of cyborgs and girls with red hoodies and brooding dark men with hearts of gold.
So did I like it? Yeah, knowing I really shouldn’t, I kind of did. Not enough to read the next book immediately, not even enough to read it this year. But I’m sure the days will come again when I just don’t want to concentrate too hard or think very much for fear of missing a plot point, when a silly, fluffy romance on a spaceship is all I want. And then I’ll be ready with a copy of Cress.
RATING: 5,5/10 – Okay