Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

by Marissa Meyer

Published: Square Fish, MacMillian
Format: paperback
Copyright: 2013
Pages: 452
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Source: own book

I really enjoyed Cinder. It was fun to read and I thought it was an interesting take on the whole Cinderella story.  I also live under a rock so I didn't realize that the book ended so abruptly. When I spotted Scarlet in paperback, I grabbed a copy to see where the story went next. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy Scarlet nearly as much as the first story. For 452 pages, the story didn't really advance much - you could already tell pretty much exactly where things were going from the start, but it took until somewhere in the 200 page range before the story to gain any momentum and no new ground was broken here.

If you have not read Cinder, you probably shouldn't read this ... 

Scarlet's grandmother is missing and has been declared a run-away/suicide by the local authorities. She is extremely upset by this and so ends up having a bit of a confrontation with several people during what should be a routine vegetable delivery. During the course of events, Scarlet meets Wolf, who acts both frighteningly savage and endearingly shy. So the first several chapters of the book are setting up Scarlet and Wolf, interspersed with Cinder's escape with 'Captain' Carswell Thorne (why does everyone have to be paired up?). 

I have to admit right here that I was not nearly as interested in the new characters as I was in the ones introduced in the original book. I don't find either incompetence or serial womanizing (Thorne) interesting - I know he is supposed to have the bad-boy, rogue thing going there, but it never really pulled together as far as I was concerned. The stuff I have read on-line about this character is imbuing him with all sorts of traits that are not actually in the book. [Seriously, can you see Han Solo or Westley/The Dread Pirate Roberts complaining about the lack of moisturizing soap?!?  Just no.]  Actually, this seems to be true for a lot of the love of this series - people are using their conceptions of some archetypes to pad out things that are actually missing in the book. Scarlet is an okay character, but pretty one-note, and Wolf was, well, a generic type from central casting really - if you have read any urban fantasy at all, you have already met him. I never really got invested in any of them. Things only pulled together in the last 100 pages of the book when I finally got interested again.

I also felt that the world building was much weaker as well - which is really saying something because the world building in the first book was majorly sporadic. Other than some name dropping - nothing felt like 'France' in this story to me at all. The author apparently used Google Maps and images as her inspiration, but that didn't translate into anything significant in the text - this was even less France than we had New Beijing in the last book. And in a world were we have space travel etc. am I really supposed to believe that the TGV is an integral part of this new post WW4 world ?  Those trains take a huge amount of energy for a relatively small amount of space (look at the size of the first class compartment). 

First class compartment
The way the train is described in the book sounds like a really weird mix of the TGV on the outside and an old fashioned Orient Express luxury steam train on the inside. It just annoyed me. Either make a new train system all your own that works in your world or make sure you understand the system you are borrowing. You can't borrow archetypes if you don't actually understand them.

I did like how Cinder and Scarlet's stories were pulled together and the developments in Cinder's character.  Still for a book this size (and it should have been smaller - what is up with the line spacing and those ridiculous margins ?) not a heck of a lot is really in there.

Slightly spoilery stuff here ...

Since I was just complaining about the train - I can live with the whole jumping off the train and clearing the tracks - but do you see those wires above the train?  These are important because they would a) make it pretty hard to jump on the train safely and b) are the reason that there are not any tree limbs anywhere near the tracks to launch a jump from.  The return to the train sequence ... that whole thing just threw me out of the book becuase it simply would not work.  

In the first book - the growing attracting between Cinder and Kai is handled well, and is believable. It wasn't quite insta-love, though it did rather border on it, but it was episodic and growing. The relationship between Scarlet and Wolf - especially chapter 46 just did not work for me - insta pack member love ? It just doesn't make sense - after all of the events that happened in such short space in time, how can you actually justify chapter 46 ? Shared love of tomatoes ?

If you can tell a Lunar from an Earthen using a simple blood test, why can there be hundreds, or more likely between the LSO and fugitives, thousands of Lunars running around on Earth with no-one the wiser ?  With the emphasis on blood tests for the plague, you would think that someone - or more likely several someones, would have starting running into some of these Lunars. Plus, once again we have a book that seems to have trouble with the whole idea of what a species is - if two people can successfully couple to produce a fertile offspring they are not two different species and there would be no blood test that could tell them apart as different types. This just doesn't make any sense. This whole blood test and back story thing is handled inconsistently and poorly in the book I think.

End spoilery stuff  ...

I will read Cress as some point but I am not nearly as interested in the whole thing as I was at the end of Cinder.

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