Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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Scarlet

Title: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2)

Author: Marissa Meyer

Rating: 4 stars

Cinder, the first entry in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, was my favorite YA book of 2012 (I don’t read a ton of YA necessarily, but it was fun and smart retelling of Cinderella, and a good series starter.) Scarlet, the much-anticipated sequel, lives up to expectations and promises good things to come.

Red Riding Hood revamps are nothing new under the sun, but Scarlet features a dash of Beauty and the Beast, a pinch of Star Wars, and moon werewolves. Thrown all together, along with the drama of the parallel story of Cinder’s jailbreak and Emperor Kai’s conflicts between his heart and his duty, it should all be a mildly ridiculous mess, but somehow it works really well.

The world of Scarlet is more fully developed then that of Cinder, with more depth and texture. Moving geographically and adding new characters really made sense in that regard, giving the material scope that earns the need for more books, instead of feeling like a well-padded, should-be standalone.

There was some imbalance between the two main plot-lines. Scarlet’s story was compelling and action-packed, but it seemed to take a long time to connect the dots to the Cinder’s story, at first the connections were flimsy and shallow. There’s also a little bit of POV-shifting awkwardness when the characters finally meet up, but that’s pretty natural when two main POVs suddenly have to negotiate the same space.

Some of the characters definitely rest on archetypes it’s hard not to compare to other established YA characters (*cough*Finnick O’Dair*cough*), and I continue to dislike the cardboard villain. Not every antagonist has to be empathetic or morally conflicted, but I need a little more to sustain me than “Evil, vain, magical, and did I mention? Evil.” I don’t need Queen Levana to have a full redemptive arc, but I do want her to be more of a character than a type, and I hope future books will achieve that.

None of the plot twists really surprised me, but that was okay. It’s YA, after all. The concept is original enough, and the writing strong enough, that I didn’t mind some cliche moments.

The dialogue is crackling and vibrant. Humor is a real high point of Meyer’s style. And the characters Cinder and Scarlet are fantastic. Cinder struggles to come to terms with the truth of her identity and the powers and responsibilities it entails. Scarlet is a little older than Cinder and more sure of herself, even when the plot catches up with her and tries to take that confidence away. I love that one book can contain two strong teen girl protagonists who are very different but both equally awesome. Apparently, the rest of this series will feature takes on Rapunzel and Snow White. Bring on the girl power. I can’t wait.

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