Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer's latest addition to Linh Cinder's Lunar tale is Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. Predictably following the fair tale of the little girl who gets in trouble with a wolf, there the comparison ends. Meyer has given the wolf a whole new look and he's also a Lunar. With all the Lunars on Earth, both with Queen Levana's permission and without, especially in the case of Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, I wonder how many Lunars are left on the moon. Back to the story.

Scarlet Benoit is Red Riding Hood wearing a hoodie and not so little and the wolf is Wolf, the genetically manipulated Lunar crossed with wolf and controlled by a thaumaturge. Grandma, Michelle Benoit, is missing and Wolf knows where she is being held and promises to take Scarlet to her. How does this have anything to do with Princess Selene, AKA Cinder? Kidnapping Grandma was supposed to lead the Lunars to the princess so Queen Levana can kill her because the princess (Cinder) is more powerful than the queen and is also the rightful heir to the throne. Scarlet is a pawn in the game, seduced by Wolf's strength and a growing emotional connection, which has the added spice that heightens all relationships -- shared danger.

Meanwhile, back at the prison where Cinder is being held, Cinder breaks out of her cell using her Lunar glamouring gift and runs into Captain Thorne, who is really an American cadet who stole a space ship and has been caught and thrown in prison. Cinder has a brand new cyborg arm and leg that fit her. The arm has lots of neat gadgets and the chip implanted in Cinder's brain that kept her Lunar glamour from functioning is now gone and she has used it to glamour her way out of prison. She doesn't like what manipulating another person's mind does to her but she does find the gift useful.

Emperor Kaito is turning on the spit because Levana is furious Cinder has escaped and blames Kai for losing her. She threatens to unleash her army to devastate the Commonwealth. Kai has 48 hours to decide what to do.

Meyer packs a lot of action, emotion, and adventure into those 48 hours. Cinder must find Michelle Benoit who knows what happened to her from the time she arrived on Earth until she was placed with the Linh family and how and why she was turned into a cyborg. Years passed between Levana's coup and Cinder arriving in the Linh home.

More about the Levana's plans for taking over Earth and Cinder's life before becoming a cyborg mechanic is revealed. Cinder comes into her own and gains some powerful and resourceful allies along the way. She no longer wants to turn her back on her heritage or what she needs to do beat Levana. Kai's decision is Cinder's turning point and Scarlet is the cold water dashed in Cinder's face to wake her up to what is really important.

Once I got over the shock that Scarlet did not begin with Cinder and that she takes a back seat for a good portion of the second installment of the Lunar Chronicles, I found myself absorbed in Scarlet and Wolf's story and their journey to free Scarlet's grandmother. Cinder has her part to play and she grows up rather quickly in the 48 hours between the beginning and end of Scarlet. I would have wished for more insight into what was going on in Africa where Cinder must eventually go, but I was pleased to find Iko back online, although in a very different body, and the humor Iko injects into the situation.

Now that the second installment is done, I will find it difficult to wait for the third and final installment in what has proved to be an exciting fairy tale brought to life as science fiction with a bit of fantasy thrown in for good measure. Meyer's use of fairy tales to fuel her trilogy is refreshingly different -- and really quite good.

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