Cinder, the first book in her Lunar Chronicles quartet. I was expecting to enjoy it because I so enjoy fairy-tale related things, but I was surprised by how much I loved it. The cyborg-Cinderella premise was engaging and felt fresh and Cinder was a delightful main character. So of course I was excited for the sequel, Scarlet. Maybe I was too excited. That seems to happen to me a lot: I'm too optimistic and excited about the possibilities that a book offers and I walk away feeling disappointed (see The Shining Girls, Starcrossed and Warm Bodies). The disappointment here wasn't as total as it has been for other books, but it was still there.
A brief plot summary: in the original book, Meyer gives us the tale of Cinderella with a futuristic twist--she is a cyborg-human hybrid, not technically a person under law, and she lives in the Eastern Commonwealth, a nation which appears to be a conglomerate of many of the modern-day East Asian countries. There is a colony of people on the moon, called (unshockingly) Lunars, who are able to manipulate bioelectricity in order to confuse and control others. Their evil queen, Levana, wants to take over Earth, and is intent on trying to marry the Emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth, Kai (who, in this tale, is the Prince Charming). At the end of the first book, Cinder finds out--minor spoiler, but then why are you reading the review for book 2 anyway?--that she is actually the heir to the Lunar throne, that she is the girl Levana wanted dead years ago. So she's supposed to set out for Africa to meet up with the doctor who reveals her identity to her so they can plan to bring down the current regime.
Meanwhile, Scarlet lives and works at her grandmother's fruit farm in France. Her grandmother has been missing for two weeks. Scarlet eventually teams up with a grisly street fighter named Wolf, a man who once belonged to a (self-proclaimed) vigilante gang, a group they believe to have her grandmother captive. Yes, it's Little Red Riding Hood. And here is, for me, where all of the disappointment comes in. Perhaps my favorite part of Cinder, more so than even the inventive recasting of the tale, was Cinder herself. She was such a pleasure to follow because she reaches that very high level of "spunky female"--think Katniss. Therefore, the fact that the whole book didn't center around Cinder this time made Scarlet less good. In fact, the sections about Scarlet were my least favorite.
It has something to do with how single-minded Scarlet is--her only goal is to rescue her grandmother, and she's very annoying. When a character is driven to only one thing, it makes that character really irritating; I can't say "unrealistic" because I know plenty of people who are exactly the way Scarlet is, but I don't like being around them any more than I do being around this fictional creation. The forbidden romance with Wolf didn't help matters either; her refusal to admit her own feelings is, of course, related to her inability to acknowledge anything outside the realm of saving grandma. When she finally realizes she might be interested in Wolf, it's not exciting or happy; it feels more like finally scratching an annoying itch that's been bothering you all day--I'm just glad it's over with.
In the interest of not spoiling any more of the plot, I won't say why the outcome of Scarlet and Wolf's relationship is annoying, but it's enough to say that it is--the twist this time is a little more unexpected (which was my only issue with Cinder), but after it happens it just frustrates, and that seems to be the opposite of what a good twist should do.
I am by no means abandoning ship here--I plan to see The Lunar Chronicles all the way through, certainly. There were some exciting developments in Cinder's story that kept me interested and I'm pleased with how Meyer is developing the overall story arc. This particular volume in the series, however, was not as good as the first. Hopefully books three and four can live up to the promise of the first.
My rating: 3.5/5
Scarlet on Goodreads
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