January 16, 2014

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #2
Published: 2013, Feiwel and Friends
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction, Retelling
Source: Library
Contains spoilers for Cinder (my review)
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Once people had looked at her with revulsion. Now, people were terrified of her.
She wasn’t sure which was worse.
She wanted to scream to the world that it wasn’t her fault she was this way. She’d had nothing to do with it.
It surely wouldn’t have been her choice if one had been given to her.

It’s been two weeks since Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother has gone missing. Two weeks full of heartache and fear as Scarlet goes about their farming business, allowing the police to figure out what happened to Michelle Benoit. But when Scarlet receives a message that the police are no longer going to investigate what they believe to be a voluntary departure, she knows that she’ll have to take matters into her own hands. Even if taking matters into her own hands means forging an alliance with a street fighter named Wolf with a shadowy past.

With the help of Dr. Erland, another Lunar-in-hiding, Cinder is given the means to escape from prison. And with the help of fellow prisoner Captain Carswell Thorne, Cinder is given access to a spaceship and freedom...for now. But running from the combined forces of the Eastern Commonwealth and the Lunars is no easy task, however, and while on the run Cinder has to decide what to do with the newfound knowledge that she is Princess Selene, the heir to the Lunar kingdom.

As with so many other readers, Cinder captivated me. I devoured Meyer’s sci-fi “Cinderella” retelling and was ecstatic to learn that each book in her Lunar Chronicles quartet would retell a different fairy tale. Scarlet is a retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” a retelling that also continues on with the story first told in Cinder (now, though, the “Cinderella” elements appear to have ended for protagonist Cinder). As quickly as I devoured Scarlet, however, I have to admit it did not have quite the same effect on me that Cinder did.

In the first book, readers are introduced to a futuristic society where the Earth is divided into a few key nations, people are dying from a disease known as letumosis, and the Earth is threatened by a society from the moon. Amidst all the creativity of Cinder, my favorite part was Cinder herself. I loved that Cinder is a cyborg, and the many questions regarding morality and humanity that the book posited because of that. Self-deprecating, kind, and brilliant Cinder is a heroine I can easily root for and I loved that her story is a twist on “Cinderella.”

Scarlet is still Cinder’s story, but now Cinder shares the spotlight with another heroine: Scarlet. I like Scarlet; really, I do. She’s feisty, resourceful, and determined. She wields a gun and has no compunction doing whatever is necessary in order to find her grandmother. The problem, I think, is that I could not muster up the same amount of empathy for Scarlet that I could for Cinder. Scarlet may be all alone trying to right her portion of the world by rescuing her grandmother from who-knows-what, but I had trouble really connecting with her on an emotional level. At times she felt a little too bit like a cookie-cutter fighting heroine for me.

In addition to Cinder and Scarlet, certain secondary characters return and a few new ones are added to the mix. Three males share a bit of narration themselves: Emperor Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth, Thorne, and Wolf. I honestly don’t think the limited narratives of Thorne or Wolf added much to the overall story, and Kai’s bits felt a little...dry. Perhaps Meyer wanted to use Kai show the precarious political state of Earth-Lunar relations. If that is so, then I feel like the political intrigue should have had even more of a focus. If not, though, I think it would have been even more effective for the readers to have as limited knowledge about Levana’s bid for supremacy as Cinder and Scarlet do.

While I appreciate what I think Meyer hopes to accomplish in the widening of her world, it just didn’t work for me. As much as I love epic stories set across sprawling terrains, I still want to feel a sense of solidarity with a main character. If I’m already having slight issues feeling that way in Scarlet (which contains two ostensible protagonists, but incorporates at least five different viewpoints), then I’m a bit nervous as to how I’ll react to Cress and Winter. As much as I think it’s wonderful for authors to really immerse their readers into the lives of their characters, I think it’s just as important that authors know which characters (and storylines) deserve the most attention. I only hope Meyer is able to balance this fine line effectively in the final two installments of this series.

Still, I do think that Meyer was able to effectively manage the two main storylines for the majority of the book. I never experienced any confusion over whose individual story was being told, nor did I forget where the narration had left off each time it switched to the other character. And, most impressive of all, my interest was equally divided between Cinder and Scarlet. Sure, there were chapters that ended with tense moments, only to have the following chapter told from a new perspective. But by and large, I was very interested in the events of each protagonist’s story. 

All qualms aside, Scarlet is fairly entertaining and inventive. The characters and world developed over the past two books are left on tenterhooks, poised on the edge of catastrophe; of course I’m eager to read what happens next! Even though I did have my issues with this book, Meyer has a well-deserved legion of fans, and I hope to be able to count myself among them again in Cress.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. I know for sure that both Cress and Winter feature a similar story-telling format to Scarlet, only more complex as there will be more characters coming into play. It's a shame it didn't work out quite so well for you, but I really enjoyed it, likely because Cinder didn't captivate me much where Scarlet and Wolf certainly did. I loved their journey and consequent love story and, with Thorne introduced, I was finally able to get on board with Cinder's mission, not to mention Prince Kai. I'm definitely looking forward to Cress, though I'm not a fan of this series yet - the world-building leaves a bit too much desired - although I hope I will be soon. Great, thorough review, Amanda! :)

    1. I think that most people seem to have liked Scarlet and Wolfe better than Cinder. Honestly, I find that rather surprising since I did find Cinder so much more likable/relatable and her romance with Kai as better developed, but I'm fine walking to the beat of my own drum on that. :)
      And I did hear the storytelling/narration format is similar. I guess what I really hope is that it just starts working out better for me. That the format finally clicks or something. Fingers crossed on that!
      Thank you, Keertana!

  2. I have yet to start this series for some reason though I have the books. I'm sorry to hear this one didn't completely work for you but I'm glad to see you enjoyed it overall. :)

    1. It may be in your best interest to wait until you have copies of all 4 books. This is definitely a series that could be savored through a binge read. If you can wait that long, haha.
      My feelings are a little strange and not super clear on this, but most people have loved it, so I hope you will as well, Sara!


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