Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! I’m back to continue reviewing my latest reads and occasionally, rant about general topics under the umbrella of literature.
This week, I will be reviewing the second book of a series I started reviewing back in October. I couldn’t get my hands on a set – as I’ve mentioned before, the books were published between 2012 and 2016 – until Christmas, when my wonderful relatives gifted me the remaining books of the tetralogy.
As I mentioned in my review of Cinder, book one, the Lunar Chronicles series is a futuristic retelling of four fairytales – those of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White, with each story intertwined with the others. Initially, I was apprehensive about reading another set of fairytale retellings, given the ‘confusion of cliches lacking diversity’ that was the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. No hate to Sarah J Maas, she is a very talented storyteller, however, I would have liked to see more about the world she built and more characters of different kinds.
This book series by Marissa Meyer borrows some elements of science fiction and dystopia to add to its inherently fantasy storyline, which creates a unique world with, I quote, “cyborgs, advanced surgical and medical practices, androids and ‘netscreens’, as well as the concept of an empire, palace and arranged political marriages”
If you still felt lukewarm after reading Cinder, I one-hundred percent recommend pushing through the fast paced and intricately-spun story of the second book. This review will contain spoilers for both book one, ‘Cinder’, as well as book two, ‘Scarlet’, so if you’d like to read the books before reading this review, then go ahead and do it now!
Now, onto the synopsis of ‘Scarlet’: “She’s trying to break out of prison – even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and 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 has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own. As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.”
Little Red Riding Hood was in my opinion, a bit of an unconventional choice of fairy tale – perhaps that is my bias because the tale is yet to be Disney-fied. However, Little Red never struck me as the feisty, spunky, and determined character that Meyer has created Scarlet as.
Eighteen-year-old Scarlet Benoit is far from the French Girl Stereotype we have grown to recognise over the years. Instead of having a fabulous fashion or baking career in Paris, wearing couture and expensive perfume and doing everything effortlessly, she is a spirited and hardworking girl who takes care of her grandmother’s farm out in the countryside. Scarlet’s seemingly only friend, Émille Montfort, a blonde waitress, fits the mould better.
I mentioned in my review of Cinder that New Beijing was a refreshing and enjoyable choice of setting, compared to the overused dystopic America or whitewashed fantasy world. Rieux, a small town near Toulouse was an equally endearing setting – although we didn’t see much beyond the Benoit Farm and small-town bar, it made for a unique choice.
In the first book it was revealed at the end that Linh Cinder, our cyborg mechanic protagonist was actually the lost Lunar Princess Selene, true heir to the throne. Of course, this is a monumental secret, and if Levana were to find out, it means nothing short of death for Cinder.
Scarlet was even better than Cinder, hooking me with its unconventional plot twists and deviation from the standard fairy-tale of Little Red Riding Hood
The adventures of Scarlet and her newfound companion Wolf take place at the same time as Cinder is breaking out of New Beijing Prison, having enlisted the help of rakish and rebellious Captain Carswell Thorne of the American air force equivalent.
When we are first introduced to Wolf, and his eagerness to help Scarlet, we have no choice but to be suspicious of him. After all, the original story tells us that the wolf is the enemy. However, they slowly become friends on the hazardous train ride from Toulouse to Paris, and we are introduced to another, seemingly kind character, Ran.
The train ends up being stopped for quarantine after a case of the plague – as mentioned last time, letumosis is a deadly and very contagious disease plaguing the world, akin to the Covid-19 pandemic we are living through. Of course, Ran is the real wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing, for he attacks Scarlet and Wolf after they escape the train, and is revealed as Beta Ran Kesley, a special Lunar Special Operative.
These Lunar Special Operatives are human super-soldiers genetically modified with wolf DNA, and controlled in packs by thaumaturges, the powerful Lunars with the ability to control the minds of others.
Perhaps more shocking than this discovery about Queen Levana’s covert forces, is the discovery that Wolf, is actually a Special Operative as well – more specifically, a pack leader: Alpha Ze’ev Kesley.
The journey that follows is of distrust and deception. We figure out why Scarlet and Cinder’s stories are intertwined – Michelle Benoit (Scarlet’s grandmother and an ex-pilot) was responsible for hiding Cinder while her cyborg surgeries took place before she was moved to New Beijing with her adoptive father, Linh Garan.
Overall, Scarlet was even better than Cinder, hooking me with its unconventional plot twists and deviation from the standard fairy-tale of Little Red Riding Hood, much more unique than what we saw in Cinder.
That’s it for this time! Signing off.
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