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Scarlet (2013)
by Marissa Meyer
Hardcover Edition
Publication Date: February 5th, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Buy a copy via Amazon.
Synopsis from Goodreads.

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.

My Thoughts:
This book has NO “negative” reviews! Now I have to be the weirdo. This review will have spoilers about Cinder, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know.
I hoped Scarlet would redeem the series for me since I was one of the few people who wasn’t a fan of Cinder. While I know why Marissa Meyer set Cinder in China (because the tale of Cinderella originated there,) the way she handled the culture was a complete mess, and greatly hindered my enjoyment throughout the novel. Thank goodness, I only had to bear Meyer’s misuse of Chinese honorifics in one scene in Scarlet. Scarlet, on the other hand, is largely set in France–a country I have no experience/associations with and therefore would not notice if there were cultural discrepancies. I was right, Scarlet annoyed me a lot less than Cinder did, but still a book I would hesitate to wholeheartedly recommend.

Juvenile Writing, Tackling Uneasy Subjects and Relationships:
This is more of a personal gripe. I just checked Amazon, and apparently Scarlet is targeted towards ages 12 and up (I always thought the book was targeted towards 16 and up, oops!,) so I guess the lengthy writing that often made me feel like Meyer is underestimating her readers is suitable after all. There is a scene were the author suggests a one night stand (okay, maybe it was a one week stand, but that’s not that much better) and also the brief suggestion of rape in another. Being that the age level is twelve, I see why these topics are glossed over, but it also makes me feel like the author is not confident enough to tackle these issues despite throwing them in.

I know I am supposed to hate Levana, but I had problems finding a reason to hate her. I get that she wants world domination–and that’s always bad–but I wanted to find out WHY she wanted so many people to love her. Was she bullied? A social outcast? World domination is not easy. Not sure why she has to marry Kai either. Why not just kill him and win world domination through conquest? But I just imagine her as a desperate cougar.

I would personally spend my time reading than ruling the world. Cinder tries to make her hateful by describing her burn wounds as a baby, but I felt that was too forced. If her orchestrating the mutation of her people into werewolves and the destruction of thousands of lives didn’t make me hate her, a baby getting burned won’t miraculously do the trick.
If Cinder’s stepmother made me feel for her, despite her “evilness” (which I felt was one of the brighter moments in Cinder,) Queen Levana should have a fleshed out story as well.
Maybe her story is revealed in the novella? I certainly hope so.

Cinder, Poor Girl Gets Overshadowed:
I like Cinder and Scarlet equally, they both have their strengths, but also can be too oblivious or have anger issues. While reading the story, I felt much more invested in Scarlet’s character and Cinder quickly became overshadowed. I also felt Cinder became less appealing, not only because she was overshadowed, but because everything became too convenient with her new Lunar powers. Now not only did she have cyborg powers of quick problem solving and the ability to fix hardware by connecting them to her…head? but also mind-control AND the ability to make spaceships undetectable. It felt like every time the author hit a plot hole, she “solved” it by giving Lunars a new ability. “Oh shoot, how is Cinder going to break out of prison? Eh, she can just mind control the guard with her Lunar gift! Oh shoot, how is Cinder going to travel undetected in a gigantic spaceship? Um, well Lunars have the ability to do that too! Oh no, Cinder is stuck in a crowd, how will she get out of it? That’s easy! Her Lunar gift can change her appearance to disguise her from everyone!” What can this girl NOT do? And how much of it is actually attributed to her as a person…and not because she has the ability to download and process manuals from the Internet. Suddenly, it felt like Cinder became invincible. Her “let’s connect electronics to my cyborg brain” thing made her even harder to relate to.

Cinder & Kai:
I was okay with Cinder & Kai’s relationship in Cinder–even though Kai didn’t have much of a personality aside from being handsome (he also has way too much time on his hands for being the leader of the entire Eastern Commonwealth.) In Cinder, he struck me as a very poor leader, spending his time being angry, relying on his advisors, not showing up on time to state meetings, and hitting on a girl. Kai really got the short end of the stick in Scarlet, in the few scenes he does appear in, he only serves as background details to the plot. He still has yet to win me over. I wonder how Kai and Cinder relationship will work out, precisely, how Kai will react when he finds out Cinder’s true identity as Princess Selene. Will he be jumping for joy? And how will he convince Cinder to be with him without being a jerk that’s like “I know you are the princess, so let’s marry and everything will be fine and dandy! And let’s ignore the whole part about locking you up in prison, doubting you, and stuff.” It’s going to be sappy. I can just feel it.

Scarlet & Wolf, Echoes of Twilight/A Discovery of Witches:
Not instalove, but dangerously close. Their relationship progressed in the way that romance novels do: the characters don’t trust one another and there’s some tension, but then they suddenly realize that they are made for one another. How fast their relationship gave me this schadenfreude feeling. I didn’t want it to be THAT easy. I WANTED THEM NOT TO WORK OUT. I am evil like that. And because I thought Scarlet did not deserve Wolf. Seriously, that girl has some anger issues. When Wolf comments on her scent, she immediately snaps at him, telling him it’s none of his business. That is NOT how you treat a guy who is willing to help you track down your missing grandmother. There’s a difference between being a badass and being rude and ungrateful.

I admit, there were some sweet moments, but when I got to the end, their relationship made me wince.
I felt Wolf had more development than Kai though, so I did root for him. But there was a point where I just felt bad for him because Scarlet was just–mean. I could just picture him being that wounded dog thrown out into the rain.
And then came the Twilight echoes. Scarlet was made to be this independent, strong-willed girl, but then she still depended so much on Wolf to save the day. There are moments when she overestimates herself, kind of like Diana from A Discovery of Witches. And then Wolf had the whole “I am too dangerous for you! You have no idea how close I was to harming you…” thing. Ugh.

Blending Fairytale with Sci-fi:
I appreciate how Meyer weaved sci-fi and fairy tales together. The fairy tale elements are often in the background, while the characters have a life of their own. There was a moment, when Scene ran onto a stage in an opera house that was supposed to be a “forest,” that struck me as heavy handed and unnecessary. Perhaps it was especially annoying because she was supposed to be in great danger, yet the author still makes her run through a stupid “forest” for the sake of tying it into the fairytale.

Addressing Plot-Holes: THOSE ID CHIPS
The id-chips left me with a lot of questions in Cinder: how did these id-chip stealing androids get placed in a government facility? Is this a conspiracy? And I am glad Meyer addressed them. Somewhat. I still felt it could have been better handled.
Apparently the general public CARE about those chips, and would riot if they knew it was stolen, because it’s VERY important to the family–or so it is said. Which is a surprise, because nobody seems to care enough to claim it after their loved one’s death. Or even notice its disappearance. ID-chips causing a riot? I doubt it.

Overall, I felt Scarlet was slightly stronger than Cinder due to more character development in the new characters, though it also had quite a few flaws that made Scarlet a slow read for me. Scarlet has the same fast-paced, action-packed, sci-fi and loose fairytale qualities I enjoyed in Cinder though. It’s a pity that Cinder and Kai recede into the background, which makes me scared that the next books will do the same thing and introduce more new characters at the expense of the old. If you loved Cinder, I am certainly you will love Scarlet. Just be prepared not to see Kai or Cinder too much.

As for me, although I was not impressed with the series thus far, each book for slightly different reasons, I know I will probably still read the next book, hoping it will change my mind. I am determined to like this series!

Rating: C+