The quality of sequels is tricky to predict. While I enjoyed the initial title in The Lunar Chronicles so much that I bought it and recommended it to all my fantasy-loving friends, I can’t say the same for the two subsequent sequels. As a stand-alone volume, despite being well-written, Scarlet would not sell me on The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. On the other hand, the third volume, Cress, actually does come close to feeling as original as the first. This makes me hopeful about the series as a whole.
Let me start with what I like about Scarlet. It’s based on Little Red Riding Hood. Any novel based on a fairy tale is going to at least garner a glance from me. It also exhumes a strong sense of family. When Scarlet’s grandmother goes missing, Scarlet refuses to allow the local police to dismiss the case. When she stumbles across leads, she immediately follows them, even though they lead her to other countries and into a gang of fighters for the enemy. Then there’s also Meyer’s style. Although at times the tight writing feels like pumped-up adrenaline, I can’t deny that her style is also what makes me keep turning pages. Besides the economical choice of words, there’s something else about Meyer’s style which I appreciate. As with Cinder, Meyer’s descriptions never feel padded or stripped; instead, they feel just right. When describing a restaurant, Meyer selectively informs us that: “noise of dishes and laughter spilled out into the alley” and plates were set “empty but for splatters of grease, bits of egg salad, and untouched slices of tomato and lettuce.” So what don’t I like about Scarlet? Because the leading characters feel cliché, being that of the strong-willed but easily hysterical Scarlet and the quiet but broody and troubled Wolf, Scarlet feels like just another entry in an overcrowded dystopian genre.
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
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In contrast, the leading characters of Cress feel more unique and memorable. The first, that of Cress herself, is a character based on Rapunzel. As such, she is a young maiden who has been locked away from the world for years. Naturally, there is going to be a hero who rescues her. In this case, it’s a not a prince or even any of the wealthy and handsome sort. He’s just an older guy who likes to take advantage of every situation, play the field both with women and in cards, but who also just might have some redeemable features. For example, when the two end up landing alone in the desert, Thorne is the one who inspires Cress to keep them both alive. Beyond that, I also admire how in Cress, Meyer manages to juggle stories of our hero and heroine, Cinder and her growing crew (which now includes Scarlet and Wolf), and Emperor Kai and Queen Levana. With each novel, Mayer adds to the number of characters whose stories intertwine, and it’s quite the spectacular feat. If there’s anything I dislike, it’s that there are more loose ends in Cress. For example, there’s reference to Queen Levana’s daughter, but only enough to serve as teaser for the final book.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
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Indeed, Queen Levana’s daughter bears the same name as the fifth title in the series: Winter. That book won’t get released for almost another entire year! In between will come a prequel called Fairest, about the enemy leader whom we’ve all learned to hate. Waiting for the series to end will be a strong test of my patience!