Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. The police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other.
Meanwhile, in New Beijing, Cinder will become the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive – when she breaks out of prison to stay one step ahead of vicious Queen Levana.
As Scarlet and Wolf expose one mystery, they encounter Cinder and new one unravels. Together they must challenge the evil queen, who will stop at nothing to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner…
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 4.30 out of 5
Scarlet was descending toward the Alley behind the Rieux Tavern when her portscreen chimed from the passenger seat, followed by an automated voice: “Comm received for Mademoiselle Scarlet Benoit from the Toulouse Law Enforcement Department of Missing Persons.”
Last review (literally yesterday) was on ‘Cinder,’ the first in the four part series, ‘The Lunar Chronicles.’ This review is on ‘Scarlet,’ the second in said four part series. I read these books chronologically because… well, what kind of idiot reads a series out of order?! No tell me. I need to know who these people are so that I can cross the road when they approach me.
Usually with series I tend to jump around (anyone else start singing the House of Pain song? No? Just me. Ok). I don’t mean the kind of crazy example that I gave where you read book one and then jump to book three and then to book five before going back to book two. I was not making the above idiot comment out of some kind of self-deprecating remark.
What I mean to say is that it’s rare for me to read a series in direct order as I often start one, take a breather and then dive into the next series and rinse and repeat. For ‘The Lunar Chronicles,’ as I considered them to be such good fun I decided to read them all in a row. Like pretty maids. And I guess, in a way, they are.
In my review on ‘Cinder,’ I mentioned that each instalment of the series is named for the main protagonist. This particular book is based on/ inspired by Little Red Riding Hood and introduces our new heroine, the titular Scarlet.
This story continues directly on from the events of ‘Cinder’ but introduces new characters alongside the old and weaves their journey’s together as the book progresses.
How did this one do? Was it consistent with the story telling and characterisation from the first? Did it stand up as the second in a series or did it suffer from ‘second child syndrome?’ How does it fair as a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood (a fairy tale which I think has the most adult subtext of any of them)?
That is a lot of questions, Gerry.
Sometimes new characters and new story lines can make the story more complicated without adding any value. This is usually because the addition of a lot more ‘stuff’ (i.e. characters and content) can either dilute the existing characters that we have grown to care about or make the plot far more convoluted than it needs to be meaning you need a large board and a lot of red string to work out what’s going on. Looking at you George R.R. Martin.
As ‘The Lunar Chronicles’ is a young adult series of four books (and no more – again *cough* George *cough*) there is only so much expansion that can be added in. In ‘Scarlet’ we still follow our two prominent main characters from the first book, Cinder herself and Kai, the charming prince charming who is so charming. I just wanted to put as many charming’s in as possible.
As Cinder is the overall series protagonist her journey is paramount and it is her story line that brings about the introduction of all these new characters. The new additions, Thorne, Scarlet and Wolf (yep, this is Red Riding Hood after all) are thankfully written with their own clear and unique personalities.
Personally, I think Thorne in particular is such a welcome addition who adds a ‘Flynn Rider’ type of humour to the proceedings. For those of you who don’t know, Flynn Rider is the love interest and main male character of Disney’s ‘Tangled.’ As I know my fairy tales I guessed pretty quickly where this was heading. Not that I mind at all.
‘Scarlet’ is actually more nuanced than ‘Cinder.’ ‘Cinder was enjoyable yet still played true to some of the standard fairy tale roles such as the prince (who is charming*), the stepmother (who is as vicious and greedy as her original counterpart) and ugly stepsister (ugly on the inside).
*I just love the word charming. One could say it is…. charming. Ok, I’ll stop. Just stop crying.
In ‘Scarlet,’ our heroine with the red hair and the red hoodie and the red themed name (a message dropped over our heads with the subtlety of a brick – which would also be red) doesn’t so much get tempted off the path in the woods as runs off into it willingly. However, she has her reasons and these are both treated consistently with her ‘fiery’ personality. Yes, I think the message of who she is, is at times ridiculously heavy handed but Scarlet is an engaging and enjoyable to read character.
The main nuances come into play more with the other characters, namely the grandmother and this story’s version of the wolf. This is the character named Wolf. OK, ok… subtlety is clearly not what Marissa Meyer is aiming for here but… BUT… what at first seems to be obvious can surprise you. Thumbs up has to be given to the ‘wolves’ of this series and how they been incorporated into a science fiction retelling and there are some clever allusions to wolf and pack behaviour that I quite enjoyed.
Speaking of the wolves; I also liked the violence and the threat of violence present in ‘Scarlet’ that didn’t exist in ‘Cinder.’ I don’t mean that in an “I like violence” kind of way but the stakes needed to be raised for this series and when you are doing a retelling of a fairy tale – which is by its own nature, violent – and are including infamous fairy tale wolves, you can’t have a story that doesn’t at least touch on the potential of savagery. Obviously, this is a young adult piece of work so it couldn’t be done in a way that was too graphic or overt. I felt that the balance of this and of other ‘animalistic’ behaviour was handled well and appropriately for the intended age of readership. Jeez, who am I? A Parenting Guide? Ugh, no. I’m turning into my Grandad with his talk of ‘standards.’
I also liked that we got to see more of this new Earth, with seeing the regions outside of New Beijing and venturing into a new France (which is a lot like the current France just more run down). The writing was good and of the same standard as ‘Cinder’ so consistency reigned across the board here.
What I really enjoyed was that this was a young adult book containing a friendship between a male and female character that is a genuine non-romantic relationship. Yay! Too often in YA all relationships between couples of the opposite sex have to contain an element of romantic friction and so it’s refreshing to see one that isn’t. Sure, this particular pairing is based on survival, sass and acerbic remarks but I think that may be the reason why I like it so much.
So, what about those questions I asked at the beginning?
How did it do? I would say; very well. It retained consistency in the characterisation, setting and writing begun in ‘Cinder,’ added some intriguing elements to the overall story arc and the new characters that were introduced were relevant instead of being mindless insertions.
How does it fair as a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood? For a YA retelling, I would also say very well. As previously mentioned there are moments of violence which needed to be included in order to highlight the danger now upon our characters and also to highlight the brutality of the ‘wolves.’
You can’t have the big bad wolf without big bad behaviour. *Wink*
As a standalone book, ‘Scarlet’ holds it own with an individual story line for our new heroine as well as adds to ‘The Lunar Chronicles.’ So many series can fall down after first book success but this is still holding up the potential.
I did mention that this retelling does stand well as a Little Red Riding Hood retelling. I don’t think it’s entirely too fair for me to offer a comparison towards other retelling’s as most of those adaptations were written for more adult audiences and so could emphasis the violent and sexual imagery of the original a lot more…but…if you would like to take a walk on the wilder side than I suggest Angela Carter. In fact, I would suggest Angela Carter for a more adult version of any fairy tale. In fact, I would just suggest Angela Carter point blank.