Note that this review may contain major spoilers for the book.
Scarlet leads a fairly quiet and content life in small time Rieux, France, where she and her grandma run a farm. That is, until one day her grandma disappears without a trace. When the police decide to call off their search, Scarlet has no choice but to go find her her grandma herself, even if it costs her her life. What she discovers, however, is that they’re both involved in something much bigger than them, and danger is only a breath away.
Scarlet is a prime example of what I look forward to in an heroine: a feisty, no-bullshit young woman who stops at nothing to achieve what she wants. She may have to face everyone’s judgement and wrath, but she’ll never give up on her beliefs for them. She struggles to find solace in her own insecurities and doubts, but she always manages to overcome them and just react.
One of the reasons this story worked so well was because of her. She got things done. She moved the plot along like a breeze, and everything just folded into it so nicely. Unlike Cinder, I was hooked on from the very first second and stayed like that until the end.
The plot thickened, and I’m talking from water to blood. What guts and ideas Meyer lacked before, she certainly put them to good use here. We get a much more meaningful glimpse into the series’ world, with previous details coming together like gorgeous puzzle pieces, forming one beautiful, intricate structure of pure enjoyment.
I did like the fact that the author took care to explain some things left unsaid in Cinder, such as Kai’s true feelings upon finding out the truth, Cinder’s real origins, and other plot points crucial for the understanding of this one. We get to find a lot more about Lunars, their gifts, their political system, and other important discoveries. Levana was barely in this book at all, and yet she revealed to be much more of an Evil Queen than ever before.
Meyer makes one of the best character introductions ever with Thorne, someone so charmingly adorable it’s impossibly not to get our hearts stolen by him. His (at first) rocky relationship with Cinder evolves into one of such great camaraderie that if, by any chance, it gets changed in the next book by means of manipulative young adult romance tropes, I will be one angry reader.
Because of Thorne taking up the comedic spotlight in this instalment and doing a much better job than our poor Iko ever did, she has somehow been demoted to the background (in a more literal way than you can imagine). And that’s okay because she was a very awkward comic relief who tried too hard to be funny and endearing. Contrastingly, Thorne is a natural who manages to balance his Casanova persona with his witty, childlike charm fantastically. It’s not that he too is not an overdone character (we’ve all witnessed someone like him, somewhere); it’s that he is an overdone character done well, who effortlessly fits into the narrative and contributes in all the right parts with all the right input.
Wolf is somewhat on a similar spectrum, in the way that he is also childlike and awkward but, again, in a plausible and lovable manner. At the same time, he is dark and mysterious and creates so many doubts within the reader as they attempt to piece the various clues left on his wake. I was never sure of his intentions, and was always on my toes when it came to his actions. Was he the good guy or the bag guy? Or both?
The way he and Scarlet click instantly is handled very well. Their relationship is tackled straight away and doesn’t dwell on unimportant and insincere matters. It is what it is, and we all know it. But then it doesn’t follow that expected course.
As mentioned several times, they have barely met each other and yet there is something there, as though they’ve known each other for years. Meyer was able to capture that so ridiculously well, it filled me with all the nicest feelings. And it never sounded cheesy or clichéd.
They were both captivating and remained as so without losing their individuality. Scarlet never lost sight of her goal, and neither did Wolf. Even when things seemed dire for both of them, they remained focused and didn’t allow their feelings to command their resolves. Those feelings still mattered and still made a difference; they simply did not overcome everything else at stake.
The tension, stress and confusion that they are subjected to builds up until that very moment where everything just explodes and falls apart, re-emerging into newfound life. Like it’s the most natural thing in the whole world. And it’s just right.
There were, as expected, some nods at the original Red Riding Hood fairy tale and nice parallels. Like Scarlet wearing a red hoodie all the time. And she and her grandma being unconventionally open-minded and not believing every word others said, preferring to make their own judgements, and that playing a part when it came to Wolf and the Lunar conspiracy. Like the moment when Scarlet is visually deceived. Amongst many others. The foreshadowing was also mindful and a great touch.
I thought it was really cool of Meyer to show how Scarlet and Cinder defended, understood and looked after each other, a rarity in these days’ literature where there is a huge lack of feminine companionship, friendship and power. It seems to be all about romantic relationships and utter obsession with male participants.
I can’t be sure whether the recurrent emotional and PTSD themes present in this novel ring true to reality, but I can say that they certainly addressed some great issues and provided ground for some great interactions and moments. They made the narrative so much deeper, grittier and more intense than Cinder ever was. It was not afraid to push at the right buttons in order to get the right reactions. It went beyond that and showed us a twisted side, an unapologetic one, that goes all in and just blows us away with its acuity.
I did find the transitions from Scarlet’s point of view to Cinder’s very anticlimactic at first. I was so into Scarlet’s story and so invested in her already that leaving at a cliffhanger, not being able to find out what was going to happen next and instead changing to Cinder and Thorne’s turbulent journey, simply annoyed me. After some time I started to enjoy these a little more, to the point where they flew well with the rest of the story, but it did take almost the entire book for me to feel that way.
There were times where I really disliked Cinder and how her goody two shoes personality made things so much harder and put everyone else in danger. I just wanted to shake her up and make her snap out of it. She was the epitome of frustration. Even though she had some great moments and had me applauding at her nerve to do what needed to be done, she took forever to reach that certainty and even then, was not completely sure to go through with it. A little disappointing that her character did not seem to develop much at all from the previous book and could barely scrape Scarlet’s fierceness.
I think Kai is on the same boat as her, and both seem to make a good pair of wallflowers. The fact that they are too nice makes it impossible for me to hate them, but also impossible for me to love them. I guess we do need the variety to spice things up.
Having previously read Cinder and not been specially impressed despite the incredible hype surrounding the series, I still could not wait to get my hands on the sequel. It promised so much and I desperately needed to find out what happened next in the story. I also needed to find out whether The Lunar Chronicles truly deserved to be given a second chance and get into my good graces.
Meyer seems to have improved so much in this new instalment, I can barely recognize her writing. I really have to apologize for all the criticism I had thrown at her before, because she more than made up for my discontentment with this book.
Scarlet, Wolf and Thorne ended up being, God forbid, as interesting as the whole plot itself. And that’s remarkable, because the plot became really damn gripping. It addressed everything that hadn’t been addressed previously and furnished every bland aspect of a truly riveting narrative. Like a scarf being taken off to expose a magic trick.
This time, I can actually say that the twists accomplished a surprising and mind-blowing quality, intertwining amongst themselves to create one hell of a magical ride.
Overall, this book was an immense surprise and succeeded in everything Cinder did not. However, it also managed to make Cinder better and give me hopes that the next instalments will get revamped further.
You can read an excerpt and the first few chapters for free here.
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Tell me your thoughts on this book or, if you haven’t read it yet, whether this review has inspired you to try it. Happy reading!