Book Review: Scarlet

Scarlet, Marissa Meyer (Square Fish, 2013, Book 2 of The Lunar Chronicles)

A red cape, blowing backwards, with the hint of red hair of the girl it belongs to

Cover of Scarlet

454 pp. At the time of this review (9/20/18), the book holds a 4.7-star review on Amazon with 1,952 Reviews.

Sci-fi.

Book Obtained By: Christmas present because I told my family I wanted the full series after reading the first book.

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5: 5 Godiva Chocolates (sinfully good)

From the back cover

“Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She is 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. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information about her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.”

The adventure continues in this fresh fairytale retelling that combines elements of Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood”

Spoiler-Free Review

Scarlet, Marissa Meyer (Square Fish, 2013, Book 2 of The Lunar Chronicles)

Marissa Meyer continues her Lunar Chronicles that she began with Cinder. This mashup science-fiction/fairytale is best read, I believe, after Cinder. Meyer does a great job immediately establishing the world via Scarlet’s mode of transportation, the text message that launches her into the story, and the evening news covering an event from book 1. However, the book will be so much richer for those who are already along for the ride. This is as much Cinder’s story as Scarlet’s. The number of point of views blossoms, sending us from Scarlet to Wolf to Cinder to Kai and Queen Lavana and others. I know this is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and although I expected the big points Meyer had to hit, she continually surprised me on the journey.

Of the four main books in the series, I connected with this one best, I think because of Wolf and Scarlet. Meyer paints Wolf as a complex character. I know he must be a bad guy, because this is Little Red Riding Hood. Add in the connection he and Scarlet share, however, and you have a recipe for constantly shifting ground that makes for a delicious dilemma. I can’t expect how any scene will end.

Secondary characters from book one return, and additional ones join them. The cast grows into one with fun dynamics along with layers of conflict. Will any of the companions betray the team and the cause? If they do, why will they do it? Oh, no, why did they act x way? Please, Meyer, redeem this character for me—I liked him/her, or I don’t want to believe the worst of the character. Take this mid-book last sentence to a chapter as an example:

“ ‘I do wonder—not that this matters one little bit, but only as a matter of curiosity—should this lead to any discoveries in the investigation … might I be able to expect any sort of reward for my assistance?’ ”

Meyer continues to sprinkle in backstory about this world, increasing its depth and believability. I hungered to know more about Wolf; about the missing grandmother. Slowly, Meyer unveiled the story. She deepened my hate for what Queen Lavana intends for Earth and its people; she deepens my love for what Cinder willingly puts herself through to try to prevent that fate. Each page, I fall a little more in love with Iko and her quirky personality chip; Kai, as the leader who has to make his own big decisions; Wolf, street fighter, and how much more?; Scarlet, fire-brand who speaks her mind and marches into danger with her hoodie as her armor, along with her (usually) excellent aim with firearms.

Because I’ve fallen so far behind in my book reviews, I can’t give the usual depth of review about this book, but this should give you a taste of what to expect. If you like science fiction, this book could be for you. If you like fairytale retellings, this one sings with originality. I haven’t read sci-fi in years, but I do watch sci-fi movies, so I had no problem believing in the world Meyer built. While I still cringed at the filtering words like “saw” and “heard” that pushed me out of a character’s point of view, I forgave them more in this book because I so enjoyed the characters and their journey. Hence, giving this book my top rating.

Bonus material in this book includes a Q&A with the author, a short story of Wolf’s youth (“The Queen’s Army”) and a teaser chapter for Cress.

Stay tuned for my review of the third book, Cress, in another few days.

Accolades

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month
  • A Kids’ Indie Next Top Ten Title
  • An NPR Best Book 2013

About the Author

Learn more about Marissa Meyer at her website.

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Book Review: Cinder

Cinder, Marissa Meyer (Square Fish, 2012, The Lunar Chronicles)

A cyborg foot, with metal in place of bones faint behind the skin, and a red high-heeled shoe

Cover art, Cinder

390 pp. At the time of this review (9/17/18), the book holds a 4.6-star review on Amazon with 3,302 Reviews. Current prints include bonus material—Q&A with the author, Short story “Glitches,” and a teaser chapter for Scarlet.

Science Fiction

Book Obtained By: I bought it after a writer friend recommended it.

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5: 4.5 Ghirardelli Salty Caramels (just shy of perfection)

From the back cover

“Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Sixteen-year-old Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past and is reviled by her stepmother. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. Because there is something unusual about Cinder, something that others would kill for.”

Spoiler-Free Review

Cinder, Marissa Meyer (Square Fish, 2012, The Lunar Chronicles)

Marissa Meyer’s debut, Cinder, is a deliciously wonderful mashup of sci-fi meets fairytale. It put her on the New York Times Bestseller list. Given that Cinder’s a cyborg, I knew at some point she wouldn’t lose a shoe—she’d have to lose the whole foot. I expected, as a Cinderella story, the big points Meyer had to hit, like Cinderella having no suitable dress for the ball, which she would attend even though her stepmother kept her from it. However, the path that Meyer took to get to those points surprised me every time.

Told from multiple points of view, usually Cinder and Kai, the story hums along like a machine tended by Cinder herself. Full of spunk and longing, Cinder struggles to form a better life for herself. Her younger step-sister, Peony, and her faithful android sidekick, Iko, give her the strength to fight no matter how unfair the odds. Details lock me into Cinder being a cyborg, like this: “Red light pierced her eyelids. Going haywire, her retina display was sending a skein of green gibberish against the backdrop of her lids” (p.121).

Prince Kai, destined to rule, starts out as the flesh and bone reluctant ruler. His daily life stands in stark contrast to Cinder’s. I loved the scenes with him going about his life; his conflict; his needs, and what event caused him to meet Cinder. Meyer escalates the drama because of what’s going on in the royal family.

Meyers builds the new society of the earth, after the Fourth World War, I think it was, and she places Cinder in an Asian nation. The ruler of Luna, Queen Levana, wants to rule Earth as well. Given that Lunars have the power to manipulate humans’ bioelectricity, she and her people have an unfair advantage over Eartherns. That, and they are immune to the plague decimating the earth. The worst of the Lunars, the thaumaturges, mercilessly control Eartherns actions, whether it’s forcing them to harm themselves, or to perceive Lunars as immensely beautiful. Details that Meyers adds, like Lunars and mirrors, prepares the way for another book in the series (Winter).

Because I’ve fallen so far behind in my reviews, I can’t give my usual depth of review. I can say that Meyer built a rich worldfrom her descriptions of where Cinder works, lives, seeks her escapethe world feels futuristic. She works in backstory to help us understand the conflicts, and that peace reigns despite the risk of the Lunars.

The book hooked me from the start and didn’t let go. I cheered for Cinder, I cried for her, and I yelled at her step-mother for her behavior. At the book’s ending, Meyer wrapped up the main storyline, but she left plenty of unanswered questions. The next three books, I knew, would continue the story—bringing in more and more fairytales. Although I usually bounce from one series to the next, slowly making my way through a series, I hungered for the “next” installment and read the four books back-to-back. Even so, I’m reserving my score to 4.5 because of the elements that did draw me out of the story, such as the frequent use of a character seeing something, smelling something, hearing something. The filter of those words interrupts the story for me, where the author could have kept me in Cinder’s point of view with a whirr, a corrupted image, and so on.

Stay tuned for my review of the second book, Scarlet, in another few days.

Accolades

#1 New York Times- and USA Today-Bestseller

About the Author

Learn more about Marissa Meyer at her website.

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Book Review: The Dragon’s Flame

 

A bare-chested man, flames burninging in his chest in the shape of a dragon's head

Cover of Dragon’s Flame, book 5 of the Chimera Chronicles

The Dragon’s Flame, Karin Shah (Soul Mate Publishing, 2017 ebook release; book 5 of Chimera Chronicles)

e-pages, 282. At the time of this review (5/22/18), the book holds a 5-star review on Amazon with 2 reviews.

Paranormal romance

eBook Obtained By: ARC from the author, in exchange for an honest review

My Chocolate Rating on Scale of 5

3.5 Reese’s Peanut-Butter Eggs, Hearts, or Trees (stick-to-your-ribs good)—see below, take with a cup of coffee for my reading bias.

From the Amazon Description

“Of her crime there can be no forgiveness …

“Billionaire chimera-shifter Kyle Mara’s hold on his humanity is slipping away. Fortunately, his mate has at last been revealed. Unfortunately, she’s the wicked witch who almost killed one of his brothers.

“Backed into a corner by her father, CJ Bansbach had one job to do: bring back chimera genetic material for cloning and kill the donor. Her failure resulted in a year of imprisonment and torture. Being broken out by a chimera on the verge of going feral, even if he kills her or turns her over to the Ethereal council for judgement, seems like a change for the better. Until he tells her she’s his mate.

“Plunged into a treasure hunt to break the bond, they must race to find the pieces of a mythical sword while pursued by CJ’s former employers and fighting the pure sexual heat that sparks every time they touch, because forgiveness isn’t Kyle’s to grant and his family’s happiness is everything to him.”

Watch the trailer Shah put together.

Spoiler-Free Review

The Dragon’s Flame, Karin Shah (Soul Mate Publishing, 2017 ebook release; book 5 of Chimera Chronicles)

Dragon’s Flame, a paranormal romance by Karin Shah, is the fifth novel in her Chimera Chronicles. It’s Kyle’s story, and the first one where the primary form is dragon rather than lion. As the eldest brother, and in keeping with a dragon’s love of treasure, Kyle has amassed the wealth from his businesses to bankroll a desperate search for his brothers. In each book before, Shah has made no bones about how close Kyle is to going feral—the dangerous stage when an unmated chimera loses himself to the alternate form. In that state, the human mind loses the battle to the animal, and for the sake of all humanity, someone must put the chimera down. Kyle has tasked his best friend, the likeable demon John, with that burden.

Conflict drives the book. Deliciously ironic, Kyle is destined for the villain in a previous brother’s tale, talented (but dark) witch CJ. Their story revolves around a quest to find the artifact pieces needed for Mara family friend, super-talented witch Thalia, to break the mate bond. Both risk their lives to find the artifact, knowing each must be wrong for the other. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

Part of the fun of Shah’s writing is the family dynamics, each “found” brother and his pregnant mate. As the cast grows in what will be a series of seven novel, they become secondary characters in the next tale. How can Ky fall for the very woman who tried to kill Anjali and Jake (In Like a Lion)?

Shah incorporates deeper conflict in that CJ’s father is a higher-up in the brutal “Omega Corp.,” which wants a chimera in its stable. During Ky’s adventures with CJ, we’ll have the insider’s view of what it’s like to work for an evil father, and an evil corporation, and now to be falling for a man whose family she has so wronged.

The reason I give the book middling marks is Shah’s writing style. She adores adjectives and sentences that occasionally lose me in their complexity. My local writing group worked with my on my adjective and adverb addiction, and on the length of my sentences. When I read books where I feel one more editing pass could have tightened, I downgrade my Chocolate rating. A secondary pattern, which may be mitigated in the final version, is mistakes with commas. I’m a former copy editor, so that bugs me, too. Since I’m reading an ARC, it means some readers might call out those mistakes. I’m a notoriously slow reader, so by the time I finish my review, it’s too late. Don’t think the book labors with these patterns—but I do like to call out when a book isn’t as polished as it could be. Here are examples:

  • The rhythmic sound throbbed though the night and the movement sent gusts of wind tugging at the line of tall, straight evergreens hiding the occupants of the property from prying eyes. (page 60)
  • A narrow-faced man raised his hand across the room and beckoned imperiously to the older woman from his position next to a stooped silver-haired senora sporting a breast-bone covered with diamonds. (page 126)
  • Though, she’d known that might be the case, believed she owed them the catharsis, the reality shredded the last remnants of her defenses, bringing her face to face with her own cowardice. (page 215)
  • “The blue dragon whose neck he’d only just had in his jaws, reared back shaking his massive head, as if confused.” (page 62).

Like most of the books, we’ll have that tidbit of where the next brother’s hiding, even if the bother who gets the hit doesn’t pick up on the clue because of the conflict of falling for the woman who’s done such damage to his family.

As I say each book, I enjoy the characters and the plot. I will read the series through its seventh book because I do love Shah’s characters, her plots, and her twists.  C’mon, making a man of honor fall for the witch who tried to kill family members? That’s a crowning jewel in setting characters along a path fraught with conflict.

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