5.08.2013

Currently Reading: Scarlet

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)They lingered, still and silent, Scarlet straining to listen for what had Wolf on edge. Slowly reaching behind her, she pulled the gun from her waistband. The click as she released the safety echoed off the trees.

Off in the woods, a wolf howled. The lonely cry sent a shiver down Scarlet's spine.

Wolf didn't seem surprised.

Then, behind them, another howl, this one farther away. Then another to the north.

Silence crept around them as the howls faded longingly into the air.

"Friends of yours?" Scarlet asked.

Clarity returned to Wolf's expression and he glanced at her, then down at the gun. It struck her as odd that he could be startled by it, when the howls had garnered no reaction at all.

"They won't bother us," he said finally, turning and heading down the tracks.

Author: Marissa Meyer

From Goodreads: The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling 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.

Notes: Having spent comparatively little time with manga and anime, neither came to mind while I read Cinder. Knowing that Meyer credits the genres—particularly the crossover story Sailor Moon—as influences, however, made Scarlet an easier read and gave me a better understanding of the series as a whole. The juxtaposition of fairy tale and science fiction is too splendid to cause me any difficulties, but odd little details ranging from the erratic naming patterns to the sudden, shocking bursts of violence hadn't made sense to me outside the anime genre.

Inside, they fit right in. I haven't read Sailor Moon, but my hours with the Elric brothers (Fullmetal Alchemist) set me up well enough for accepting out-of-place names (on account of which, I assume I don't have to pronounce 'Scarlet' as 'Scar-leh', à la français). Likewise, the anime prepared me for the fact that teenage Scarlet is as casual about picking up a gun and shooting a human being as teenage Cinder is, despite neither of them apparently having had previous experience.

I can't say just how typical this is for anime, but Fullmetal Alchemist contained a lot of gut-kicking horror, and Scarlet had its moments as well. Scarlet is significantly darker than Cinder, in much the way that its base fairy tale—Little Red Riding Hood—is darker than Cinderella (except for maybe versions like the Grimms', where the stepsisters cut off parts of their own feet to get into the slipper). Marissa Meyer's werewolves are more Fenrir Greyback than Jacob Black: not simply frightening, but flat-out abhorrent.

That said, her werewolves, while not unique as a sci-fi human/monster trope, were kind of a neat spin on the much-done teenage werewolf meme. This is true both in terms of monster creation and monster romance. The attempts at Wolf's redemption also reminded me of one of the small handful of things I loved about Mockingjay, without coming off as a copycat treatment.

As fairy tale, the story is well handled; Cinder's character arc continues while her place in the traditional tale is on pause, and the take on Red Riding Hood was fascinating and sometimes a little bit lovely around the grotesque and horrible. I found myself reminded rather forcibly of Phantom of the Opera a few times, too.

The book isn't faultless. Cinder and Scarlet are both basically angry, independent, work-focused, gun-toting sixteen-year-old girls, with not much to differentiate them outside the obvious physical variances—which is odd, because Wolf and Kai manage to be perfectly well differentiated despite certain strong similarities. Meyer's France is no more culturally interesting than her New Beijing, and her prose is often sketchy. I can overlook a lot for the sake of good characters, however, and if I could barely tell Cinder and Scarlet apart, at least they didn't bore me. And I'd be remiss if I didn't praise Iko and Thorne, who both turned out to be quite entertaining.

Considering that I couldn't wait two weeks to read the sequel to Cinder, I suspect it's going to be a long year waiting for the sequel to Scarlet.

4 comments:

  1. Very good review, Jenna. I too liked the different "werewolf" approach and the redemption/transformation story. I've never read any anime or manga, so I wouldn't have a clue about that.

    Somehow I never caught that about the girls being able to fire guns. That's such an SF trope. Scarlet is older than Cinder; I think she turns 18 in the books. They didn't seem too similar to me, however. I thought Cinder was more street smart and not as naïve as Scarlet.

    Meyer has two short stories you might want to read. Look her up at Amazon, scroll down, and you'll see them. One is a .99 cent download, The Queen's Army about how Z was taken into her military ranks and achieved alpha. It's sad and violent, but good.

    The other story, Glitches, about Cinder being brought to New Bejing, is in the short story collection, The Fierce Reads Anthology, and you can download that for free.

    These stories are worthy additions to the series.

    --Arabella

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    Replies
    1. Yay, I was hoping you would comment! :)

      Ah, I missed Scarlet's age. Glad you were able to pull out some differences between her and Cinder. It's possible that I read the tough-mouthy-fighter-girl type like most people seem to read the quiet, introspective girl type, i.e., a bit short on personality.

      Honestly, Scarlet was a bit too violent for me, so I'm not sure I'll read TQA. But Glitches might be interesting, and others might well be keen on both.

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  2. Cinder developed her toughness a result of her bad treatment and being forced to support the family. Scarlet was rather naive, as I recall, and her experiences throughout the book toughened her. To me that was a primary difference.

    Even though you may not want to read TQA, and I understand that, both stories are quite good, especially for background, so I recommend them to any who are interested.

    --Arabella

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  3. Mmmhmmm, the pick-up-the-gun teenagers is alllllll anime. Gotta get this one some time, but maybe I should wait until the last installment comes out so I'm not biting my nails!

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