Sometimes Sci-Fi Fairy Tales Are the Best Fairy Tales: Cassie-la Frolics Through “Scarlet” by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet - Marissa MeyerScarlet: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, science-fiction, fractured fairy tale, robots, young adult, yes you can frolic through a book because I said so
Rating: 4.53 out of 5 stars

Summary: Cyborg Cinder is on the run after escaping from her prison in New Beijing and one of her only supporters seem to be Scarlet Benoit over in France. But Scarlet is having some troubles of her own, specifically that her grandmother has gone missing and the police think no foul play is involved. With the help of the mysterious street fighter Wolf, Scarlet embarks on a journey to save her grandmother, not even knowing that her path with the wanted Cinder is about to collide thanks to some secrets in her own past.

Set directly after the first novel in the Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Scarlet picks up right where its predecessor left off, with Cinder learning about her true Anastasia-style identity and being tasked with reclaiming what is rightfully hers: THE MOON! It’s that amazingly dramatic. Inter-twined with this story is the brand new tale of Scarlet, whose back story of woe was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, complete with her preference for red hoodies and her new friend with a murky past: Wolf. In this case, a (sexy- I assume) fighter whose combatants nicknamed him after a wild canine.

Linking Cinder and Scarlet is the short story The Queen’s Army (The Lunar Chronicles 1.5) which follows Ze’ev, a young boy turned into a brand new breed of wolf to fight for the Lunar Queen, the evil Levana. He features heavily in Scarlet, and if you want absolutely no spoilers about Levana’s big bad wolf plans, you should probably steer clear of it. However, if you don’t care that Snape killed Dumbledore, then I highly recommend giving it a read.

I know, it’s all very involved. But if you like this sort of nonsense (which I do and I blame my love of comics and their constantly linking stories for this), consider also checking out the prequel to Cinder, Glitches (The Lunar Chronicles 0.5), whose events comes into play a tiny bit in Scarlet. If you’re not thoroughly confused, there’s also the sequels to consider: Cress (coming in 2014) which is based off Rapunzel and Winter (out in 2015) which is centered around Snow White and her evil-stepmother. Allegedly.

Unlike this novel, the other two will feature characters we’ve already met or have already been mentioned in passing. To jog your memory, that’s Queen Levana’s hacker Cress who warned Cinder of the assassination plot against Emperor Kai and Winter, Queen Levana’s niece. I can definitely see which direction that story is going to take. Lunar mirror, lunar mirror on the wall, who has the fairest falsely constructed glamor of them all?

To drum up interest in the novel, MacMillan even gave away free watermelon flavored lip gloss to the first thousand people to prove they pre-ordered the book in a giveaway dubbed Scarlet Friday (playfully on the same day as Black Friday). And guess who has two thumbs and snagged one. It’s watermelon-y delicious.

What was I doing again? Right, reviewing Scarlet.

Much like its predecessor, this novel takes the frame story of the fairy tale and works around that structure, making it something that a normal person wouldn’t even dream of turning it into. In a totally good way. Genetically engineered super soldiers? Who would think that could be connected in any way to a cross-dressing wolf who likes ruining little girl’s days? Only Marissa Meyer.

We also get some fun new characters, like the AWOL 20-year-old American soldier, Carswell Thorne, who is basically Captain Jack Harkness (including the Captain title) from “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood”, except he only wants to have sex with women versus everything that moves. Or everything that one can have sex with- which going by Jack Harkness standards is everything. That’s right, EVERYTHING.

Through Scarlet and Wolf’s adventures, we also get to see new places, including a look at a post World War Four Paris, whose casualties include the Louvre (bye bye disappointingly small Mona Lisa) and the Paris Opera House, which is still standing but has since turned into a shell of its former self. The dynamic duo arrive in the war-torn part of their country via maglev train, which seems very similar to the magnetic grav trains in Android Karenina, but with less people jumping in front of them and fixing time paradoxes.

What is especially great about this world building, is that Meyer doesn’t shove it down our throats to force us to understand this futuristic world. Instead, things are mentioned in passing, so deftly interwoven into the narrative that they don’t jar you at all. For example, a reality television show about children left on their own to run a country and a shampoo that claims it will change your hair color depending on your mood both stuck out without detracting from the narrative. Assuming the shampoo works like a mood ring and nothing like an actual mood indicator, can that be real?

Just because it’s a book about the adventures of Scarlet doesn’t mean that Cinder’s forgotten altogether. She gets her own POV from time to time (as does Thorne that one time, Cinder’s love interest Emperor Kai a few times and even Scarlet’s love interest Wolf- it’s a YA love fest) but not as much as I would have liked. I understand that it’s Scarlet’s book and her story, but after being invested in Cinder alone in the last book, it would have been nice to have some more evenly distributed points of view.

I can’t even imagine what the POV situation will look like by book five. Either it’ll be an 800 page tome, or everyone will get five chapters each. My vote is for 800 page tome.

THE GOOD:
-Can’t go wrong with a sci-fi fractured fairytale (well you can, but not here)
-Even more awesome world building, this time in abandoned France
-Subtly reminds you about the prior book without beating you over the head
-Uses the fairy tale as a base, but builds something wonderful off of that

THE BAD:
-Wasn’t as gripping as the original, but only by about two percent
-Nice to get some new POVs, but I wish we could have gotten more Cinder

Scarlet: The Lunar Chronicles: Book Trailer:

Well, that sure was a book trailer. Yup, that it was. Can’t argue that.

Can we talk about the book cover before I let you go- I ask all the people who probably aren’t reading this. I was seeing this book cover wrong for so long. I thought it was a disembodied cloak with no body attached, just some floating red fabric. Not sure how my mind even did that, but it wasn’t until I got the physical copy that I realized there was an arm and some hair. Epic fail! Am I the only one who saw this or rather didn’t see this? Or am I just a tad mad. It’s probably the mad thing, isn’t it? Bueller? Bueller?

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