Marissa Meyer – Scarlet (plus bonus short story review “The Queen’s Army”)
Read my review of book:
Length: 506 pages
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Started: 13 September 2014
Finished: 17 September 2014
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I really enjoyed Cinder, and then the library had a cart with a bunch of copies of Scarlet and Cress, so.
A tough street fighter
with a dark past: totally
trustworthy, right? No?
Summary: Scarlet Benoit grew up wither her grandmother on a farm in France. Now her grandmother’s gone missing, and no one seems to care… no one except Wolf. He’s a hardened street fighter, but Scarlet can sense there’s more to him than just his tough exterior. She’s drawn to him, but she doesn’t trust him, because she knows that there’s something – maybe a lot of things – that he’s not telling her. But she might not have any choice but to trust him, especially since he has information that might help her find her grandmother. Their journey to Paris is dangerous – and it becomes even more so when they encounter Cinder, freshly broken out of prison, and determined to find out more about her origins… something that will become important if she’s going to stop the evil Lunar Queen Levana from conquering the world.
Review: Even though I didn’t like Scarlet *quite* as much as Cinder, this series continues to be imaginative, fast-paced, and fun. I always enjoy fairy tale retelling, so I went in to this one expecting to enjoy it, especially since I’ve read some really darkly fascinating takes on Little Red Riding Hood before (“Little Red” by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, and “Red Riding-Hood’s Child” by N. K. Jemisin). (Confession time: I had picked this book up AFTER I had read Cinder and knew that these books were retold fairytales. I saw the words “Scarlet” and “Wolf” and “Grandmother” all over the back cover, and had looked at the giant swath of red fabric on the front cover. And yet, it somehow totally failed to click in my brain that this was Little Red Riding Hood until someone in my book club mentioned it an hour or so later. Whoops! I totally got that Cress was Rapunzel all on my own, though.)
Anyways, this book uses those elements of the fairy tale, the wolf who is not what he appears to be and the red hoodie and the grandmother in danger, but I felt like otherwise it didn’t stick particularly close to the story of the fairy tale – not in the same way that Cinder did, for sure. That’s okay – I can appreciate thematic similarities as well as plot similarities – but the fact that it was striking out on its own for a fair bit of the story meant that I didn’t often get the same little thrill of recognition as when Cinder’s cyborg foot falls off on the steps of the palace. The story it tells, though, is an interesting one, and even though I figured out a fair bit of what was going on well ahead of the characters, I still enjoyed the ride. I liked Scarlet as a heroine, and I liked Wolf quite a bit – he’s got some interesting depth to his character that makes him very sympathetic, and while their relationship seemed a little contrived at first, I was on board by the end. (Confession time again: I couldn’t help but picture Wolf as Hugh Jackman in full beefed-up superhero mode (including the sideburns) even though that’s not how he’s described. But I have to say… it didn’t hurt.) Cinder’s chapters were also good fun – Thorne’s an interesting new addition, and I was happy to see the return of Iko – and Meyer handled the interweaving of Scarlet’s and Cinder’s stories quite neatly.
Overall, while this book is neither Serious Literature nor quite as good as its predecessor, it’s still interesting and fun and an easy read with some imaginative sci-fi twists on familiar fairy tales. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Even though Scarlet’s storyline is (largely but not entirely) independent of Cinder’s, so much of the worldbuilding and the motivation for this story comes from the first book that they should be read in order. The series as a whole should definitely appeal to people who like YA sci-fi and/or retold fairy tales.
First Line: 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 Scarlet Benoit from the Toulouse Law Enforcement Department of Missing Persons.”
The copy of Scarlet I read also contained the short story “The Queen’s Army” at the end. Chronologically, it happens before the other books in the series – it’s Wolf’s origin story – but it should really be read after Scarlet (in much the same way that I thought “Glitches”, Cinder’s origin story (or a part of it, anyways), should be read after Cinder. Reading the novel, then reading the story explaining how certain things and characters got to be the way they are is much more powerful than the other way around; reading the story before you’d even met Wolf and Ran and everyone else would mean that a lot of its significance would get lost. (Plus: major spoilers for some of the big “reveals” in Scarlet, although I’d figured most of them out ahead of their reveal anyways. But in retrospect, the story explains a lot about Wolf, and gives a lot of new insight into some of his behavior and attitudes, and makes my heart break for what he had to go through, and what it’s cost him. Good stuff.
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