“Amusement touched the corner of his lips. ‘Animals love me.’
‘Oh, I’m sure they do,’ Scarlet said, beaming with fake encouragement. She shut the door before muttering, ‘What farm animals don’t love a wolf?’
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Scarlet is the second book in The Lunar Chronicles written by Marissa Meyer. I will admit that I read Scarlet prior to reading Cinder, the first book in The Lunar Chronicles. I thought that each book in the series was a standalone book; however, that is not the case. Scarlet tells Scarlet’s story which is loosely based on Red Riding Hood, and continuesCinder’s story which is loosely based on Cinderella. The point of view switches back and forth between Scarlet and Cinder. Although I hadn’t read Cinder, I didn’t struggle to follow what was happening. However, I don’t think I connected with Cinder as much as Scarlet, possibly because I hadn’t read Cinder.
In Scarlet, Scarlet Benoit is searching for her missing grandmother. While the police believe Scarlet’s grandmother left her home in Rieux, France willingly, Scarlet believes her grandmother was kidnapped. When her estranged father turns up out of the blue and ransacks her grandmother’s home, Scarlet gets her first real lead. She learns that her father had been tortured by the men who kidnapped her grandmother because they want information only she can give them. A street fighter named Wolf, who has the same tattoo as the kidnappers, offers to help find Scarlet’s grandmother. Will Scarlet and Wolf be able to find her grandmother? What secrets does her grandmother have?
I really liked Meyer’s modern take on Red Riding Hood. I enjoyed seeing all of the classic elements of the fairy tale within Scarlet. Some of the elements were very cleverly done and I applaud Meyer for this. I also loved Meyer’s take on Red Riding Hood, or Scarlet as she’s named in the book. Scarlet is not an innocent child who is afraid of the big, bad wolf. Instead, Scarlet is a red hoodie wearing, gun wielding, feisty heroine who doesn’t take s**t from anyone, not even the big, bad wolf. I loved Scarlet’s feisty personality. She is an independent woman, and she is reluctant to accept help from anyone. I love how blunt Scarlet is about wanting to be independent. For example, there are quite a few scenes where Scarlet tells off Wolf for assuming that she can’t do something. For example, when Wolf and Scarlet need to jump from a moving train, Wolf picks up Scarlet and jumps from the train. Scarlet tells Wolf never to do that again and that she’s capable of saving herself. I also liked that most of her bravado was simply a means of asserting herself as an equal to Wolf. When given a choice, she still accepts his help. For example, soon after jumping off a train, Wolf and Scarlet need to jump onto a different moving train. Wolf offers for Scarlet to jump onto the train on her own (he learned from her earlier reaction), but she declines and accepts his help. I also particularly loved Scarlet’s reactions. She definitely acts before she thinks sometimes. For example, when Scarlet is trying to stop Wolf from killing a potential lead, she shoots him in the arm.
“‘WOLF! Stop it! My grandmother! He knows about—Wolf, let him go!’
When he didn’t relent, Scarlet fired a warning shot into the air. The echo filled the clearing—but Wolf was unfazed. Ran’s arms stopped flailing, slipped weakly down Wolf’s forearms, and dropped into the water.
‘You’re going to kill him!’ she shrieked. ‘Wolf! WOLF!’
As a last burst of bubbles rose up from Ran’s mouth, Scarlet stepped back, let out a breath, and pulled the trigger again.
Wolf hissed and fell onto his side. He clasped his hand over his left arm, where blood was already seeping into the cloth of his sleeve. But it wasn’t a deep wound. The bullet had barely grazed him.
He blinked up at Scarlet. ‘Did you just shoot me?’
‘You didn’t leave me much choice.’”
I also thought Meyer’s take on the big, bad wolf, named Wolf, was well done. I liked that there were two sides to his character. On the one hand, Wolf is a ruthless street fighter who enjoys the kill, but only when he loses control. On the other hand, Wolf is actually quite shy and hides a lot of his emotion beneath the surface. He fidgets a lot and doesn’t like to talk about himself or his past. As a result, I constantly questioned Wolf’s motives and wanted to know more about his past. Meyer has actually written a book called The Queen’s Army that occurs in between the events in Cinder and Scarlet, andit reveals Wolf’s back story. I’m glad that I didn’t read The Queen’s Army prior to reading Red Riding Hood; otherwise, the mystery that was a key part of Wolf’s character would have been missing. The main reason that I liked Wolf’s character was that he was simply a “bad” guy. I love redeemable “bad” characters.
I think that because Scarlet is loosely based on Red Riding Hood it was obvious to the reader that Wolf was not trustworthy. As a result, Wolf’s actions were a little predictable, and Scarlet’s character came across as naïve. Although Scarlet hasn’t read Red Riding Hood and so she doesn’t have the same knowledge that the reader has, there were certain things that Wolf did that should have made her suspicious. For example, Wolf arrived in Rieux around the same time her grandmother was kidnapped, he has the same tattoo as the kidnappers, and he just happens to know where the kidnappers are in Paris – convenient, no? If only Scarlet had contemplated the fact that Wolf might betray her or that he might be leading her into a trap, she may have come across as less naïve.
“She did not know that the wolf was a wicked sort of animal, and she was not afraid of him.”
Although I liked Scarlet and Wolf’s characters, I didn’t feel much chemistry between them. At first, I was invested in the potential for some chemistry between the two characters, but things developed too quickly considering they only knew each other two days. There wasn’t enough time building up the chemistry before the characters suddenly had feelings for each other that they tried to resist. Also, while I liked Scarlet’s brass to make the first move, she did this repeatedly. I felt this became a little desperate and put me off the relationship. When Scarlet and Wolf kiss for the first time, I didn’t feel relief that the two characters had finally stopped resisting their feelings; a sign that there is a lack of chemistry between the characters. The reader should want the characters to be together more than the characters want to be together. I also felt that at the ending of the book, Scarlet and Wolf were overly soppy! The relationship status between Scarlet and Wolf leapt forward, and the leap felt very unrealistic, especially considering how much lying and betraying Wolf does! I will say that I loved Iko’s (Cinder’s android in Cinder, who’s personality chip is placed into the space ship) reaction to Scarlet and Wolf though:
“Scarlet and Wolf are saying gushy things in the galley,” Iko said. “Normally I like gushy things, but its different when its real people. I prefer the net dramas.”
Overall I liked Cinder’s story, but not as much as I liked Scarlet’s story. I thought that Meyer did a good job of interweaving Scarlet and Cinder’s stories until they finally merged together. The switches in point of view were well placed, and the changes kept me interested in the story. I liked how witty and sarcastic Cinder is in her interactions with Thorne, the convict who she escapes prison with. However, I’m not sure what to make of Thorne’s character. Initially, Thorne annoyed me because he’s arrogant and a player, but over the course of the book, Thorne grew on me. I think it’s because his character brought humour into the book. However, other than to lighten the mood and to conveniently own a stolen space ship, I’m not sure what purpose Thorne’s character served. His character felt necessary only so that Cinder’s story was not purely Cinder escaping prison and stealing a space ship to hide out in space from her captors. Hopefully, Thorne’s character will serve a greater purpose in the next book in The Lunar Chronicles, Cress.
Aside from the characters themselves, there was not a lot of action in Cinder’s story line. There were some clues dispersed throughout Cinder’s story line that linked in with Scarlet’s story line, until everything finally came together in the end. In my opinion, Cinder’s story line served to provide the reader with information that Scarlet could not have found out (i.e., details about Cinder’s escape, information about Cinder’s past, and information about how things were developing between Kai and the Lunar Queen). I also think that it took a frustratingly long period of time for the characters to figure out who Cinder was. I hadn’t read Cinder, and I still figured it out before the other characters, and they had the same information that I had. Sigh.
I do wish that there was more world-building in Scarlet, although perhaps the world was developed in Cinder. Based on reviews that I have read for Cinder, I don’t think this is the case. Scarlet is clearly set in the future, and some developments are understandable (i.e., technological advancements and the development of cyborgs). However, how long have Lunars lived on the moon? How do Lunars even live on the moon? How do Lunars have powers and why are humans on Earth so afraid of Lunars? I have a lot of questions about the Lunars. I hope that these questions are addressed in the rest of the series (Cress (loosely based on Rapunzel)and Winter (loosely based on Snow White)) because, at the moment, the world-building seems a little lazy. Other than being “futuristic,” there doesn’t seem to be that much thought into how things have progressed to where they are now.
Final Verdict: A modern adaptation of Red Riding Hood that will enchant readers of all ages.