Scarlet: A totally fresh take on Red Riding Hood

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsScarlet by Marissa Meyer science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsScarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (2013) is the second novel in Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES. You’ll want to read Cinder first. There will be some spoilers for that novel in this review.

In Cinder we met the titular cyborg, an orphan who lives with her hateful stepmother and two stepsisters in New Beijing. Cinder is the best mechanic in town, which is how she meets the young and handsome Prince Kai. He needs his personal robot fixed because, unbeknownst to Cinder, it may contain information about the whereabouts of Princess Selene, the rightful ruler of Luna, the human colony on the moon. Nobody knows if Princess Selene is alive but, if she is, Kai may be able to avoid a marriage alliance with Levana, the evil queen of Luna.

When Kai meets Cinder, a smart confident young woman who may be the only one in the country who isn’t chasing him, he’s fascinated, but Cinder deflects his advances because she doesn’t want him to know she’s a cyborg. Cinder gets caught up in the royal drama anyway and eventually ends up in prison after being revealed as both a cyborg and Lunar. She has also discovered that she is (surprise) the lost Princess Selene, but Kai (now emperor) and Levana, who is now planning their wedding, don’t know this.

Scarlet introduces a new character, a young woman named Scarlet Benoit who lives with her grandmother on a farm in France. Her grandmother has recently disappeared, and Scarlet is worried. While delivering groceries to a local tavern, she meets a newcomer who calls himself Wolf. He’s rough and powerful, and has ominous-looking tattoos, but in some ways he’s charmingly naïve. When Scarlet begins to suspect that her grandmother has been kidnapped and is being tortured by men who think she has some secret information, she sets out, with Wolf, to find her.

Meanwhile, Cinder is trying to escape from prison so she can go to France to find Michelle Benoit, a woman who, Cinder’s been told, knows her personal history. To escape, Cinder recruits a fellow prisoner named Carswell Thorne, a young man who fancies himself a captain and who has hidden a stolen spaceship. Cinder’s Lunar powers, which allow her to control other people, are developing quickly and she worries that she will begin using them unethically.

Eventually the Cinder and Scarlet storylines converge satisfactorily since, by this point, we are invested in both women’s stories and it’s a delight to see them finally meet.

Scarlet is full of adventure, romance, betrayal, battle, and humor. Some mysteries resolve, but others emerge as the story gets deeper and wider. Queen Levana is an existential threat to humanity and it’s up to Cinder, Scarlet, and their friends to stop her.

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed Scarlet. It was fun to recognize the clever allusions to the Red Riding Hood fairytale. We’re listening to the audio editions produced by Macmillan Audio and read by Rebecca Soler. The next book is Cress and we’re eager to start it.

Published in 2013. Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-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 and 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 has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own. As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they 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, her prisoner.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I’ve seen these books around and never been interested. Your review piques my interest! I’ll have to seek them out.

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