Friday, February 1, 2013

Me on Scarlet

Title: Scarlet
Author: Marissa Meyer
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan imprint)

Cinder's trying to break out of prison, tossed there after her Lunar heritage was discovered, but if she breaks free, along with a slick-talking American, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world in France, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out that there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information about her grandmother's location, she has no choice but to trust him. Even though he's got a few dark secrets of his own. As they work to unravel one mystery, they find another when the cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, and her prisoner.

Scarlet is a fast-paced science fiction thriller with pieces of retold fairy tale, sending readers straight back to a familiar futuristic world where everything, apparently, is connected and nothing is as it seems. It starts right where Cinder left off, immediately after, so nothing is lost. Who will reveal the next hidden secret next? What really happened to Princess Selene? The story isn't over yet, it's just beginning.

The mixing of the storylines gives the book a very immediate and important tone. Cinder's escape, Scarlet's search, Kai's struggles, they're all happening at the same time. No announcement of which storyline it is at the start of each chapter makes this very clear. Everyone is racing against the clock, hoping to reveal one truth or another before time runs out and they're discovered. Or killed.

Scarlet's chapters were my favourite, but I think I understand why. It's because Cinder will always be around in the series, and while Cinder is clever and battered and furious and confused, Scarlet's vocal fury and clear curiosity were wonderful. Her character mixed with Wolf's strength and odd timidity and twitchiness made their moments together the best part of the book for me. Her ballsy attitude and stubbornness, his physical strength and cluelessness and constant fidgeting made them strong but vulnerable heroes.

On the other side of the planet is Cinder hoping to clear her name and save her prince, which is hard when she's trapped in prison. Fortunately for her, or unfortunately, she happens across "Captain" Thorne, a clichéd smooth-talking American who finds every girl with a pulse attractive. Now, fortunately for Cinder, he adds some much needed levity to her panicked, worried, dangerous existence.

Fairy tale retellings, they can work and they can fail, but the basic story and overarching themes have to be there. After that, the author's free to put their own spin on the story. Marissa Meyer's somewhat distant cyber future makes the Cinderella and Red Riding Hood tales fresh and new. She has such a way of making the characters so complex and tossing them into dangerous and impossible decisions. The joy felt when reading this series makes the wait for Cress even harder.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)

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