Despite the fact that I had a slight problem getting into the story for the first handful of pages, once again Meyer's dystopian retelling of fairytales sucked me in. It's been awhile since a book kept me up overnight to finish it (HP Order of the Phoenix, I believe), but Scarlet certainly did...until the dawn's early light in fact.
In my opinion, it was time well spent.
As this is Scarlet's book, it's only polite she begins the tale (though I almost skipped ahead - practically sacrilegious to me when it comes to reading - to find out what's happened to Cinder) and what a tale it is! Her grandmother's missing and no one seems to care as they watch the debacle taking place in New Beijing. And while Cinder's search for answers will ultimately lead their paths to cross, Miss Benoit with her red hair and hoodie meets Wolf, a street fighter who doesn't seem exactly normal. The two girls both have journeys ahead, fraught with danger and leading them both towards an even darker understanding of both Earth and Lunar.
Once again, Meyer has managed to create captivating and complex characters who can be both the original fairytale characters and somehow different and new at the same time. Cinder was a servant, loathed by her stepmother, and ran away from the ball. However, the reader was able to see her emotions, her reasons, and what drives her. Rather then a two dimensional figure playing out a script, we have a person who makes decisions both good and bad, feels strongly about people and ideas, and grows as a person while she learns her origins.
Scarlet and Wolf are the same. Yes, Scarlet has all the trappings of Little Red Riding Hood, including her red hood(ie); however, her love for and need to find her grandmother comes from the fact she's the only adult to care for her and not run out on her. Yes, she makes deliveries for her grandma.(show spoiler)
Now we come to Wolf. I loved Wolf; at times I wasn't sure I should but I couldn't help it. He was so contradictory, so confusing, and yet every time I thought he'd go too far, he'd do something that just endeared him to me all the more. However, looking back over the story with the 'complete' knowledge of the 'Wolves', I find him so incredibly sad. He's like a child whose been shut away from everything for most of his life.(show spoiler)
The best moments are when Scarlet is introducing or teaching him something new; they are so cute together. I think he might be one of the most unoriginally original of Meyer's characters. What I mean by that is I've never seen the 'Wolf' character of Red Riding Hood so...broken? Kindly? Wolf is shown at times to have a sensitive side that clashes with his 'animalistic nature' at others. This is not, however, a new thing in regards to werewolves in current YA literature. While the idea of 'cuddly' (were)wolves is largely hit or miss with me, I feel Meyer examined the issue that lead to this to a great enough degree that by and large worked for me. She turned it into a struggle both inwardly and outwardly and uses it to grow him as a character. Once again she's showing her ability at writing great characters.
I'll admit it; comparing Cinder's New Beijing to Scarlet's Rieux and Paris left the first setting in the dust. While New Beijing (these reviews have one positive outcome, I've learned to spell Beiging Beijing - yes I had to keep that typo, it was hysterical!) was shown in the small, everyday things that lurked on the fringes of the story, Rieux and particularly Paris(show spoiler)
evoked the sights, sounds, and smells of a farm and a vibrant but ravaged city. Paris in particular made you realize this was a different city from the one you envision; the Louve and Opera House are in shambles and parts of the city are bombed out rubble.
In my review of Cinder, I spoke of how good a writer Meyer was, particularly given the issues with the predictability of the plot. It's clear she's stepped up her skills in this book. The writing is...tighter and as above, the setting works even better. The book also appears (though isn't necessarily) less cliche and flows even better then Cinder. All in all, a noticeable improvement that led to even better storytelling.
As I gave a brief synopsis before, I want to talk instead about something that vastly improved from the last book. I'm speaking about the plot 'twists' from Cinder. When I read her first book, the foreshadowing was more like out right telling and nothing surprised me when 'revealed'. The writing and story was so good, I enjoyed the book anyway, but the clinches and unsurprising reveals were very noticeable.
Scarlet is different; it's better. Looking back, yes the clues were there and several got me wondering - sometimes even on the right track - but I was never sure. Some of the reveals were even surprising, especially in their scope.(show spoiler)
I had stated that Meyer was a good writer except fro that one, admittedly rather major point, and hoped it was simply her first book and she only needed to grow as an author. Well she has and yes, it's even better then I could have hoped. I can't wait for Cress!
As you can see above, I really liked Scarlet. I freely admit I like it better then Cinder. Not only are you introduced to a great new character, but we get to see more of and understand better the amazing Cinder herself. Plus Iko returns, that alone made it worthwhile.
However, I did have some issues with the book and some of the larger issues it clarified.
All I'm saying is there are some issues, ones I'm pretty sure will be addressed in future books.
A much tighter, all around better written story then the first, Scarlet will thrill readers as much if not more than Cinder. Scarlet and Wolf are great characters and I hope to see more of them.
Read and pine for Cress - as I'm doing now!