Disclaimer: Minor Spoilers for This book in the review.
Wow, just wow. Talk about meeting, and beating expectations. Book 2 of The Lunar Chronicles is everything I wanted and more out of Book 1. Honestly, It feels like this book would be a lot better as the first book in the series, but now I see why Cinder was so slow paced and why it took the time to build itself up, may it be slow paced or not. Does Scarlet hold up as a stand-alone story, as well as work as a good bridging point to book 3 in The Lunar Chronicles? Let’s find out.
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the best-selling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison – even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life.
When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner. – From Audible
This time, we take a break from the Eastern commonwealth, and head on over to Europe. France, to be exact. I really liked the contrast between rural France and Parris shown in this: The futuristic technology being present in Riau, but not used as much as in the big city because the citizens are still farmers and the like. I think it was a smart choice to have Scarlet take place here as well, due to how much more intense both Scarlet and Wolf are as characters as opposed to Kai and Cinder: Having rural France as their back drop, it played a part as a character as well I feel, and added great depth to the characters that the bustling and busyness of New Beijing couldn’t have offered to them. It was a wonderful backdrop to the story, while being an active presence all its own, which is always a joy to read in any story.
Marissa Meyer built upon the world she started crafting in Cinder, and honestly I much preferred the Europe setting in this book than New Beijing in the previous book. That may also have something to do with liking the characters in Scarlet a lot more than in Cinder though, which I’ll get to a bit later.
The pacing in Scarlet was perfect. We were bouncing between two plots (Scarlet’s and Cinder’s) and the lull in activity I felt occurred in the middle of Cinder was non-existent here. Both plots were really interesting and dynamic, and although there was a bit of predictability it didn’t bother me as much because everything I couldn’t figure out was just so interesting. My only complaint would be the random chapters we’d get spotlighting Kai. I get that he’s going to be a major player later, and what happened to him is moving the plot forward, but I just really wish we didn’t have to have full chapters focused on him. There was a Cinder chapter where we found out what was going on with Kai through her eyes, and I thought that method of showing him was a lot better than him having dedicated chapters to himself. But, once again, it may have bothered me more because I was so much more interested in Cinder and Scarlet, that whenever a Kai chapter popped up I just was like “Ugh no, I want to know what’s happening to Cinder or Scarlet!”.
The plot was really well handled. In this book, we had two different main plots going on. Scarlet and Wolf trying to find Scarlet’s Grandmother, and Cinder and Thorn escaping from prison. Both plots were really enjoyable, filled with character development, intrigue, and well-crafted mystery that worked well. The way that Cinder and Scarlet’s stories merged to form one cohesive plot was great, and the entire book was so great that I marathon read the second half of the book in one night. And, the problem I had with Cinder, where the end of the story was so non-conclusive wasn’t in this one either. We got a story that ended in this book, but we also got enough to propel the series forward, with added characters to boot. Just a wonderful, wonderful job from Marissa Meyer, I definitely think her writing and pacing jumped up in quality majorly this book!
The characters, oh man, the characters! This is the section I was most excited to talk about, because once again the main characters are leaps and bounds more interesting than Cinder and Kai were in the first book. Scarlet is everything I wanted from Cinder: A blunt, no nonsense, passionate, out spoken girl I adored from page 1. She’s allowed to have flaws, and the book doesn’t fault her for it: She often rushes into danger if it means she will be able to help someone she cares about, which is both a pro and con for her character. I love how she is able to move Cinder into action, and help Cinder’s character grow into what I wanted it to be in book one, and it made me realize that Cinder’s growth is going to span over the next 3 books in the series, and I’m honestly ok with that.
Speaking of, Cinder grew a lot in this book. She had to out of necessity, and it was really interesting to see how she was dealing with certain things in the story. She still had a lot of wishy-washy bits, but looking at it now as a girl who’s life has been turned upside down, and her having to adapt to a new role in life, she’s a bit more sympathetic than in Book 1. And, her decision at the end of the book was a huge leap in her character, it was nice to see her decide what she wanted to do and I’m excited to see how her story will progress in Cress.
Remember how I mentioned Cinder needed a good foil to be interesting? She has that now in Thorn. I freaking love Thorn: He’s eccentric, charming, egotistical but you can tell there is so much depth under that guise when he helps Cinder cope with certain things in the story. He’s not solely comic relief, he’s also the more decisive of the duo and I just loved when Thorn took action when Cinder was uncertain of doing so.
He’s the comic relief in the story, but not in an annoying way at all: He helps Cinder stay focused, and level headed, and the two of them together is really fun. I don’t think Cinder would have been nearly as interesting without Thorn as her foil, and their chapters were just so awesome and fun to read.
And finally, we have Wolf rounding out our leads. Which all I have to say is, AHHHH Wolf! He’s sooooo amazing, I love him so much! Him and Scarlet work so well together: They both balance each other out. Wolf is so loyal, so mysterious, but ugh so protective and even though they want Kai to be the perfect Prince Charming, I find Wolf fits that role way more. Because he’s allowed to have flaws and grow from them, he’s allowed to act, and react to things. He’s allowed to grow because of the people around him. His storyline is so fantastic, his character is so amazing I can’t put it into words, and Wolf and Scarlet is 100 percent my OTP, they are perfect together! (I know this last paragraph is so fangirly, but honestly you really have to read the book to get the full experience of how amazing Wolf is).
The villain’s in this book are a lot more interesting than Queen Levana, but I don’t really want to spoil anything in regards to them because it wasn’t even something I saw coming. Just know that they have that nice balance of being evil, but not pointlessly so: They have clear goals and motivations, and do have a sense of dangerousness when they’re in chapters, which is something I didn’t find present when Queen Levana was there.
Marissa Meyer stepped up her writing game majorly in this book, for sure. I was able to envision characters movements, certain scenes, how characters looked. I was fully invested in the pros because the characters and plot were way more thought out to me than in Cinder. I was hooked to the beginning, middle, and end and there was never an off moment, even though there were sections I didn’t like (the Kai chapters). All in all, a great job!
When I was reading Cinder, it felt like that book solely existed to set up the world of The Lunar Chronicles. After reading Scarlet, I hold to that theory: This book strikes the perfect balance of building The Lunar Chronicles world, while having a plot all on its own that blends everything Cinder was setting up for the series perfectly. Seriously, read Cinder to get to Scarlet, even if you found Cinder a bit of a dull read, Scarlet 100 percent makes up for it.
If you wanted to jump straight to Scarlet, I think it would be highly possible: The narrative repeats all of the important plot points that happened in Cinder you’ll need to understand the universe. However, I’d read Cinder anyways, just to get a better grasp on Cinder as a character, so you can appreciate her growth throughout the series a lot more than just hopping to this one.
Scarlet already is a fully fleshed out character, and it seems more like we’ll be seeing her and Wolf grow together as a couple. Which, I am so so so so so happy about, because like I said earlier AHHHH Scarlet and Wolf OTP! I am so excited to start Cress and see where their story goes. I really hope we get them together in the next books, they work so well off each other and are just so perfect!
If it wasn’t obvious, I highly recommend this book. All of the flaws in Cinder aren’t apparent anymore, and it’s a really lovely read from start to finish. I already bought myself a copy of Cress, can’t wait to get started on it and gush..I mean review that one to!
Have you read Scarlet or The Lunar Chronicles? Would love to know some of your favorite characters and moments from the books!