Top critical review
Definitely a step up from Cinder
on 30 April 2016
What this book is about:
While Cinder is locked in a prison cell and tries to figure out a way to escape before the time for her execution arrives, we meet Scarlet. Scarlet lives in a small town in France called Rieux and she works in her grandmother’s farm, growing fruits and vegetables and providing them fresh to various restaurants. But her grandmother has gone missing for several days now and Scarlet is getting really worried. What has happened to her grandmother? Where has she gone? Is she okay? When a handsome stranger arrives at the bar where Scarlet is working, Scarlet can’t help but notice his wolf-like hunger for her produce and when he offers to help her around the farm, Scarlet discovers that this stranger named Wolf might know what happened to her grandmother.
Everyone and their (grand)mother(!) told me that I’m going to like Scarlet more than Cinder. Scarlet is the second book in the Lunar Chronicles series and is a fairytale retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. And yes, okay? I liked it better than Cinder! This was, for me, definitely a step up from the first book in the series in every aspect. The story was way more interesting, the characters were better formed and introduced and the author seemed to be way more comfortable writing a story for us than before.
Let’s start with the characters. In Scarlet we are introduced to two new main characters, Scarlet (I bet you didn’t see that coming) and Wolf (subtle, I know). Scarlet is 18 years old (closer to my age than Cinder was) and I actually liked her better than I liked Cinder. She was more angry, less naive and not such a good girl as Cinder was. Cinder was probably too ethical for my taste. Scarlet stood up for herself and was more realistic as a character. Wolf is not my favourite character of the book, but he definitely played a major part in the story’s mystery and his role was important for the development of the story overall. If I had to choose between Wolf and Kai..is that even a question? I hate Kai. He is such an annoying, immature little s*** that doesn’t know what to do with himself.
The story is roughly divided between Scarlet who takes up 75% of the book and Cinder whom we follow for about 25% of the book. Scarlet’s story is virtually irrelevant to Cinder’s situation and her grandmother’s involvement remains a mystery for at least half of the book. At the last 100 pages, the book starts picking up pace and the events are flying by quickly making the reader turn the pages faster and faster. There is a lot of action, romance (I didn’t get annoyed by the amount or kind of romance in the book) and there is also the annoying prince Kai (okay, I will stop it with him, fine!). Probably the most enjoyable thing for me were the funny, witty dialogues between the two “couples” Wolf and Scarlet and the other one (you will have to read to find out who I’m talking about).
One suggestion I’d like to make to anybody interested in reading this book is to either go for the audiobook, or listen to the audiobook while reading the physical book. The audiobook is narrated by Rebecca Soler who also narrated Cinder, and she has done a really good job with the story. I believe that the dialogues truely came to life with her narration and the witty humour shone way more than if I were reading the book inside my head. She is also trying to make different voices for the different characters and various accents which I always appreciate in an audiobook. It was really good! Moreover, I really enjoyed the subtle and the not-so-subtle hints about Wolf and his wolfiness!
But then why do I only give 3 stars to this second book. Well, although I found the Red Riding Hood retelling very imaginative and fun, the book had a few flaws for me. I’m not going to say much in order to avoid spoilers, but I found some logical “errors” in the story that didn’t make sense to me. I know we are reading a YA novel but not every person that the protagonist meets has to be between the age of 16 and 22! Also, why is Cinder so into Kai. It’s not like there are no other options. One lastthing to mention is the writing style which is very simple but effective. It conveys the message in a parsimonious way and doesn’t tire the reader, but still. This is not a literary masterpiece.
So, overall if you thought Cinder was just meh (like I did) I suggest you listen to everybody who says that Scarlet is better and not look at them like “Yeah, yeah..whatever you say”. This was a fun story with some humourous dialogues and characters and a more complicated plot which the author is clearly more comfortable and fluent writing. I liked this book. It didn’t leave me in awe, but I liked it!