Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet is action packed and entertaining. Shucks, I read it in one setting, but it isn't as clever as Cinder (book 1) and I lost interest in the character Scarlet toward the end. Cinder and Scarlet alternate stories, although most is from Scarlet's point of view. Her grandmother has gone missing and the police have stopped their search. Scarlet decides to find her grandmother on her own with the help of a teenager with incredible strength named, Wolf. Cinder, on the other hand, escapes from prison and gets help from Thorne, a teenager who has a stolen ship he agrees to fly for her to Africa if she lets him flee prison with her. Cinder's plan is to meet Dr. Erlinder in Africa to strategize how to defeat the Lunar Queen and prevent war on earth.

The dialogue between Thorne and Cinder is quite entertaining and was one of my favorite parts of the book. His likable, narcissistic behavior is quite funny when contrasted with the no-nonsense, brainy Cinder. The two make an unlikely pair, and yet, the author makes it work quite brilliantly. Iko is back but in a different "body" which creates some humorous scenes. Even though she is a machine, she has human traits. A complex anthromophic computer, Iko can comment on societies and cultures from an outsider’s point of view and perform feats superior to humans. She advances the plot and makes Cinder's escape scenes plausible.

The action is pretty much nonstop with frequent deaths of characters. Politically and psychologically, Kai is trying to figure out the war and rethink Cinder's crimes and actions. He doesn't have much page-time in this sequel and very little is spent explaining the political situation of the kingdoms. Kai represents stability of governance while the Lunar Queen represents instability. A reader who skips book one might have problems understanding all that is going on from the oppression of cyborgs to the plague that is threatening the human population. I'm not sure why the later doesn't get more play in Scarlet and I missed the tension in the storyline. The love story between the Kai and Cinder simmers in the background as Thorne and Cinder are thrust together; however, there is nothing emotional between those two except annoyance and friendship.

Wolf and Scarlet are another issue. They are physically attracted to each other in a way that seems to reflect a social hierarchy of a wolf pack. When Scarlet is introduced she acts somewhat crazy over comments made about a girl on the news media she doesn't even know. She jumps on top of a bar and unplugs the television causing an uproar from other patrons that quickly escalates into a fight. It makes sense that Scarlet's aggressive, alpha female actions are going to appeal to the alpha male, Wolf. What begins as an interesting character development wanes as Scarlet's impulsiveness becomes somewhat ridiculous near the end. I kept expecting her to show more brains and come up with a plan, but she bursts into danger with no thought for her well-being. Even an animal has more sense of self-preservation than her.

The use of familiar fairytales makes Marissa Meyer's plots somewhat predictable. I didn't care in Cinder that I could guess what was going to happen, because of the cleverness and humor used at the point of predictability. It was pretty darn funny when the clock struck midnight and Cinder tumbled down the steps, losing not only a shoe, but her entire foot - cyber parts and all. Meyer's had enough variation in the Cinder plot, along with the internal tensions of the main character, that I found it interesting. In Scarlet, some of this is lost and the plot isn't as cleverly tied to Little Red Riding Hood. In spots the romance was predictable and boring, like ripping petals off a flower: Does he love me? Does he love me not? except my chant was, Will she trust him? Will she trust him not? I like the strong female character of Cinder, who stands on her own; she is her own fairy godmother. But Scarlet doesn't do that. She mostly stands and shouts. Too much independence is lost as she relies on Wolf for protection and what began as an alpha female who will shoot even her boyfriend, becomes an overly rash girl during the grandma rescue episode. Scarlet does redeem herself some at the end when she saves Cinder from the bad guys. Wolf is tranquilized in that action scene. I would have liked him tranquilized in a few others. I really wanted Scarlet to figure her way out of the tangle in Paris on her own.

Characters that resist conformity and conventions have a long history of resonating with readers and this story does just that. The characters and plot are entertaining but it doesn't quite reach the potential I was expecting after the first book. The tension goes down a notch with the lack internal change in Scarlet's character. I found Cinder more fascinating because of the theme of isolation and oppression that comes with her being part human, part robot. Abandonment issues are touched on with Scarlet's father but it isn't gone into depth and I didn't get captured with it as much as Cinder and her step-mother's rejection. I suppose one of the problems with sequels is that inevitable comparison to the first. That said, this is quite entertaining and fans will not be disappointed.

Young Adult
3 out of 5 Smileys

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