Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review - Marissa Meyer's Scarlet

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles Book 2) by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Scarlet Benoit’s Grandmother has been missing for awhile. Yet no one seems to be willing to help. So Scarlet is not only filled with worry and no leads, but she also has to keep the family farm running in her Grandmother's absence. Yet her Grandmother's past and her connection to the Lunar Cyborg girl Cinder, who is on all the news feeds, not just for the commotion at Emperor Kai's gala, but then for her subsequent escape from prison, might just be the reason behind everything. While Scarlet sympathizes with poor Cinder, if Scarlet could find any link, no matter how tenuous, any information to find her Grandmother, she would use it. Enter Wolf. He is a street fighter, and he has a lead. Scarlet's Grandmother is being held in Paris and he will help Scarlet get there. While trusting Wolf might be a horrible mistake, it's a risk Scarlet is willing to take.

Scarlet picks up mere days after the events of Cinder, though refocusing on Scarlet Benoit, the granddaughter of a lady who has some connection to Cinder's shrouded past and now relocating the focus of the story to France. I have spent a year pining for this book to come out. Leaving me hanging on a cliff was not the nicest thing for Marissa to do, but seeing as I was still expectantly waiting a year later shows the power of her world building. Therefore I think this book became too built up in my head. After that long of a wait and then having to search for quite a long period of time at Barnes and Noble to actually find a copy of the book (what stupid bookstore only gets two copies and then hides them on the bottom shelf near the door I ask you) I was, I don't know, expecting something just as unique and wonderful as Cinder was and in the end I was thoroughly disappointed. I really should start a list of books that were better than the first, because really, I think I almost set myself up for these falls with unrealistic expectations... but then authors like Mary Robinette Kowal and Laini Taylor have raised the bar so high for second outings that this book really had to be something wonderful to measure up, instead I felt like I was slogging through just to get to the end.

My main problem was all the unnecessary shit that was thrown in. New settings, new characters and new creatures. I admire Marissa for expanding her world, but there was some magic in the Eastern Commonwealth that was not only lacking in France, but made France boring. How can you make France boring you ask? By having it not be futuristic. By having me feel like if I where to get on a plane and go there RIGHT NOW I could be in Scarlet's world. Cinder's world was a flight of fancy, an easy to imagine possible future, yet France was just France. Yet France being just France wasn't nearly as boring as Scarlet and Wolf. I'm sorry, but they where boring. Scarlet was flat and two dimensional. I didn't care if she found her grandmother or not. As for Wolf, whatever. He reminded me of Tom from Being Human with his old fashioned manners and, well, the wolf bit, but unlike Tom, Wolf was just a dull dull character whose attraction to Scarlet seemed to be a plot contrivance than actually real attraction. They needed to be relegated to the background. The book came alive when Cinder was around, so by making Scarlet and Wolf just people who forward Cinder's story would have sat far better with me than having to excruciatingly journey with them across France while we where to be rooting for them with their false chemistry. Though the "wolves" is what really put the nail in the coffin for me. Really, "werewolves?" After much thinking, ok, having wolves in thrall to the Lunars does make a bit of sense because in mythology werewolves are governed by the moon... but there's just too much shit populating this world. Lunars, cyborgs, viruses, world wars, plagues... enough already. NO MORE. This world is full enough. Stop it.

The big thing though that was totally unsatisfactory to me was the handling of the "Little Red Riding Hood" story. With Cinder it was a totally new and fresh spin. Cinderella as a cyborg... she doesn't leave a shoe behind but her old foot!?! How cool is that? Very is my answer.  Here... well... um, it was like almost every retelling I've read of "Little Red Riding Hood" in years. The Big Bad Wolf that is just misunderstood and reforms and falls for the girl... isn't that the Fables comics? Or Sisters Red? This was just predictable and done before. Also, stop switching up how Scarlet refers to her Grandmother, Grand-mere... I'm assuming she is actually talking in French the whole time, so then Grand-mere is what, doubly French? And that stupid red hoodie! Ug, it was just a crutch so that if you weren't already being beaten over the head with Red Riding Hood imagery, let's just mention it over and over. There was one thing that Marissa nailed with regards to the original story. The "reveal" when Red Riding Hood realizes her grandmother isn't her grandmother (what big eyes, you get the idea) is so awesomely cool that I realize this book could have been as good as Cinder. So extra demerits... I now know how awesome you could be so this sub-par effort pisses me off more.

One good thing, everything Cinder. The book was mildly redeemed by the fact that Cinder was around and her story remained interesting... even if it veered ever closer to Firefly land, at least she was there to buoy up the book... if not, do I dare suggest that I don't think I would have finished it and might have even violently thrown it across the room? Yes I do suggest that. The cover is ugly anyway, wouldn't have been a loss.


WHAT??? Seriously, how are you my best friend??! You gave me crap for giving Cress less stars, but you gave Scarlet -- the pinnacle of the arch from this sassy redhead's perspective - TWO. I mean, TWO??! I don't even know you.

And FYI, I could argue EVERY.SINGLE.POINT. Effectively. VERY effectively.

You relate to Scarlet, I don't. We can disagree. If we agreed on everything this would be a boring friendship :P

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