Book Review: Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles #2)

Sequels can be really problematic, especially if the first book was intended to be a standalone. Thankfully, Cinder ended with enough cliffhangers that Scarlet feels like it belongs as part of the story. To see my review of Cinder, go here.

As with Cinder and Cinderella, Scarlet takes the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood and turns it on its head as it meshes with the unresolved parts of Cinder’s tale. Meyer did a remarkable job weaving the two stories together.

The Story

Scarlet, a vibrant redhead who sells farm fresh vegetables for a living, is searching for her missing grandmother. The police have proved less than helpful, assuming that the woman chose to run away despite all the clues to the contrary. True to the resourceful and determined woman Scarlet is, she takes the matter into her own hands.

Following clues, she meets a man named Wolf who is dangerous in every sense of the word. He’s a powerful fighter, inhumanly strong and fast, and has enhanced senses true to his namesake. He says he might be able to help her find her grandma.

On the other side of the world, Cinder is escaping from prison with the help of her new found lunar gift and a man, Thorne, who becomes her accomplice by accident. She doesn’t know where she’ll go, or what she’ll do, but she’s determined to stay out of the hands of the authorities. As she moves closer to freedom, she starts remembering more and more of her past and is determined to find the truth about her childhood.

Cinder and Scarlet’s pasts are woven together and their paths collide in the search for Scarlet’s grandmother who played an important role in keeping a much younger Cinder safe. But, none of this can be easy. Wolf is part of a secret militia unit and has orders to find and bring Cinder in.

My Review

Overall, the book of Scarlet stays true to all the parts of Cinder that I liked. The female protagonists are both strong women with careers and specialties that make them unique and likable. They have their own goals and are willing to work and sacrifice to meet them. The world continues to stay interesting as we explore new areas in futuristic France – although because we have already seen much of it, it’s not as exciting as when we explored it in Cinder.

Where the book Cinder played heavily into the Cinderella story, Scarlet only takes a handful of stylistic and character cues from Little Red Riding Hood. There’s no clear huntsman character, unless you count the unwitting prisoner that Cinder drags along because he has a spaceship. Where the self centered stepmother in Cinder was played exactly as her Cinderella counterpart, the Wolf counterpart in Scarlet is surprisingly complex.

My biggest struggle with reading Scarlet was swapping between the points of view between two strong female protagonists. While it was executed perfectly, both spoke and acted in unique ways that were different from each other, I found myself getting confused with which girl I was reading because their goals were fairly similar. They both were following clues and trying to find the same woman.

Recommendations

This is a solid fun read. If you liked Cinder for the adventure and action in a futuristic world, you’ll like Scarlet for the same reasons. However, if you loved Cinder for its princess story, beautiful palace, fancy dresses, and Prince Kai – you’ll find very little of that world here.

There is some icky violence and depictions of gore in this one, far more than in Cinder so be warned. However, there’s still no swearing and all the romantic leanings and feelings never progress to anything more. But – there’s a heaping pile of teenage angst that comes with Scarlet, so if that’s something you love, yay. If not, I told you so.

I give Scarlet 4 out of 5 stars – fun and lives up to expectations.


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Book Review: The Diabolic, by S. J. Kincaid

This book was recommended to me by a friend in the writing world when I told her what else I’d been reading and happened to mention my random foray into science fiction. She thought this would be a great fit as while The Diabolic is set in space, it’s more of a suspense thriller than anything else. Thanks DawnRay for the suggestion, it was certainly an entertaining read.

The Story

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a creature made to serve as a bodyguard for Sidonia, a galactic senator’s daughter. The two grow up together and have become close. Part of Nemesis’s creation process made her completely loyal to Sidonia to the point that Nemesis expects to give up her life to protect Sidonia.

Nemesis is given that chance when Sidonia’s father angers the Emperor by acting against the decree of the Galactic Court with his interest in science. As punishment, Sidonia is summoned to the court, a vast city-like space station called the Chrysanthemum. To protect Sidonia, Nemesis is altered to appear like Sidonia and is sent in her place.

It is there at the Chrysanthemum that Nemesis discovers not only that there is more to the ruling class of the galaxy, but more to herself as well.

My Review

This story has a super cool premise where the main character is not quite human but is forced to fit into a human world. She literally sees the world from an alien perspective knowing she’s different from everyone around her and therefore shouldn’t expect to be treated the same.

So, by forcing her to pretend she’s a human is quite possibly the most difficult thing that could be asked of her – a brilliant plotting choice. Everything from that moment forward encompasses that struggle of how to act “normal” when you feel so out of place, and that someone else’s life depends on how well you succeed.

Clearly, it doesn’t go well. Nemesis makes huge critical errors that put her in the spotlight in more ways than one. She not only draws the attention of those she’s trying to hide from, but she draws their hatred as well. It’s the opposite of what she was originally sent to do.

For a character who is supposed to be emotionless, this is an emotionally driven story which makes it all the more engaging. The settings created within the story are places that I would love to visit if they were real, including vast gardens with opulent salt baths and domes that reveal black endless space.

While it’s an exciting book, there are elements that as a writer I felt could be stronger. The settings were really cool but there were plenty of scenes where once the setting was established, there was no further mention of the character interacting with the space. There was also plenty of what we call “filter words” where instead of just showing the reader what was being seen or felt, it’s dumbed down by first saying “I looked,” or “I felt,” or “I tasted.” It’s a little thing, but it reminds the reader that they are in fact reading.

My recommendations

Yes, this is technically a YA adventure thriller. However, it’s hugely violent and there are some pretty graphic descriptions of people literally being torn apart. With the main character being a professional killing machine, this isn’t unexpected, but it’s enough that I feel it appropriate to warn off younger readers and leave this one to the older teens.

Within all of this is a pretty turbulent romantic subplot that never steps into anything more than a kiss, but there is plenty of teenage angst wrapped up all around this, so if you really can’t stand that, you’ve been warned.

As for language and swearing, I have the hardest time remembering specifics, especially when I listen to the story as an audiobook. Nothing shocked me, but I want to say there might have been some PG-13 swearing.

I give The Diabolic a 3.5/5 for having some fascinating worldbuilding and characters but also having way more political drama than I was expecting.