It was with a slightly heavy heart that I confessed the fact that I kind of really enjoyed Cinder, Marissa Meyer’s first book in the Lunar Chronicles, a few months ago. I’m not quite sure what made Meyer’s book work, given that its premise was decidedly paint-by-the-numbers in today’s YA Lit market. Twisted fairy tale set in a dystopian future with fantasy elements and a generic love story? Cinder had it all in abundance.
But it was fun and a genuine page-turner, even if any cursory knowledge of the base fairy tale told you exactly what was going to happen.
The same can almost be said for its sequel, Scarlet, released a few months ago.
Though I enjoyed Scarlet, the ride was a little less fun and the pages didn’t fly by quite as quickly. The main issue — which will undoubtedly plague this entire series — is that Meyer really doesn’t play with the fairy tales enough. She changes the backdrop, but the sequence of events is so spot-on that there’s no real mystery or suspense. Will Scarlet, the French farm girl with flame-red hair fall for “Wolf” (yes, seriously) the mysterious former wrestler/cage fighter (I have no idea) looking for honest farm work? Yeah. Will “Wolf” screw “Scarlet” over? Of course. And where is Scarlet’s missing grandmother? Could Wolf be leading her toward a trap? Obviously.
And that’s hardly even a spoiler, although the narrative acts as though it’s possible he won’t. If he hadn’t, I think the book would’ve felt slightly less disappointing in its predictability.
The second issue that this series will likely continue to struggle with in each book is the introduction of a new dystopian fairy tale princess combined with all of the other characters currently in play. Despite the fact that this book is ostensibly about Scarlet, we get roughly 40% still devoted to Cinder, our old leading lady.
Scarlet herself is also less endearing than Cinder, being of that Steven Moffat brand of feminine feistiness that seems tough in theory but quails when actually tested. Frankly, between the red hair, fictional sassiness and total lack of personality, I’m surprised Karen Gillan hasn’t already been cast in the adaptation for this.
As a result, I am decidedly less invested in Scarlet than Cinder, and unsure of how Meyer plans to keep Scarlet in play once the next book, Cress (feat. Rapunzel), debuts in 2014. Since these books are being termed “chronicles,” as long as it stays popular and there are princesses to spare, there’s no real end in sight. If Meyer was committing to a trilogy, I’d be far more optimistic about the continued excellence of this series. But I have a feeling that we’re going to watch the central plot get thinner and thinner with time unless Meyer does the smart thing and wraps up storylines completely as she goes along.
Which, let’s face it, probably won’t happen.
As it stands, however, Scarlet dips only slightly in quality compared with Cinder and is still a relatively fun ride.