Marissa Meyer takes her Lunar Chronicles to the next level in Scarlet with a riff on another fairy tale, Litte Red Riding Hood, added to the series. In this sequel to Cinder, Ms. Meyer has two storylines to manage, each with their own set of characters and geography. (The Cinder storyline takes place in New Beijing and Scarlet takes place in the French countryside near Toulouse and Paris.) Along with the new storyline, she has the challenge of increasing the stakes for Kai, the Eastern Commonwealth and the whole Earthen Union. Ms. Meyer handles all this with aplomb making it seem natural and effortless, which, of course, is indicative of lots of effort.
***Spoilers for Cinder – read Cinder prior to this review. Cinder’s Review ***
It is only in the sequel that the genius of some of her choices really come to the fore. One such choice is to have Cinder be a Lunar and, thus have an ability to glamor others. Now Kai has to doubt whether he was being used and abused by Cinder or whether their relationship (and she herself) was genuine. Worst still, Dr. Erland was a Lunar as well. Conspiracy? It’s certainly reasonable for Kai to really wonder whom he can trust. Another is to have Cinder as a cyborg; not only does this lend itself to Cinder being maltreated by her step-mother Adri and her sister, Peony, it also gives her some plausible help (compartments etc.) in accomplishing her missions.
So, we’ve seen any number of riffs on old fairy tales; some comedic and some adventurous. I think Marissa Meyer’s play on Cinderella in Cinder and Red Riding Hood in Scarlet are among the best. The way she weaves the stories together is brilliant. Is it because the plot twist make it utterly unpredictable and a surprise waits around every corner? No. While some put great store in surprise twists, there are many times we enjoy the story while even knowing the end. We know P. L. Travers will give the film rights of Mary Poppins to Walt Disney, but we still love Saving Mr. Banks. So while surprise twists are nice, it is not everything. In this case, there are some shifts that, at least aren’t predicted by me. However, even when the story unfolds along anticipated lines, the unfolding is beautiful to behold. Part of the beauty is how she weaves two disparate tales into one coherent story. By the time she’s done with them, the stories seem to belong together.
There are a number of parallels between Cinder and Scarlet:
- Both are handed surprising revelations about themselves and their families
- Both fall for guys that come out of no where and would not seem a natural fit (for very different reasons)
- Both are tied to passionate quests relating to their families
- Both receive help from unexpected quarters
What are some of the things I love about Scarlet?
- The characters: Iko shines in her new role, Wolf is cool, although some seem annoyed with Cinder, I like her and Scarlet as well.
- The storylines and how they come together. Each storyline is good in itself but the two together are marvelous.
- The broad use of the world; I like that we now have Europe involved as well as Asia and that American, Chinese and French are all in it. It adds local interest and overarching sweep.
What do I not love?
- The Lunars seem almost too powerful. I guess this will play nicely towards the end, assuming Queen Levant can be defeated. It’s looking pretty hopeless right now. Maybe that’s the point.
- Yes, Kai is just a little too perfect.
As is my practice, I went back and forth between the Kindle and Audible versions (using the magic of Whispersync for Voice to keep moving), although I leaned toward listening due to Rebecca Soler’s fabulous narration. I continue to love her emotional Iko; ships with personality are always interesting (just ask Dave). Her own subtle lilting accent plays very nicely in the internationally flavored SciFi/Fantasy. Her pacing continues to be be spot on providing a sense of the urgency and excitement of the story while being readily able to follow her. I’m look forward to her narration of Cress.
I’m looking forward to Cress and, the not yet written, Winter. I highly recommend Scarlet to young and old alike.
Scarlet @ Amazon
Scarlet Audible @ Amazon