Written by: Marissa Meyer
Book # 1 / 4 of The Lunar Chronicles
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Summary: After nearly setting the Eastern Commonwealth’s palace on fire at the most important party of the year, half-cyborg and apparently half-Lunar Linh Cinder tries to escape from prison in order to continue her fight against the Lunar Queen, Levana, aided by her robotic best friend Iko and a charming yet disgraced American pilot. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to 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 Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her puppet, and her prisoner.
Favorite quote (by Kai, about Cinder; mostly my favorite just because I could feel my heart clenching as he said it because it was both romantic and the brilliant thought of a boy who would probably be an incredible leader):
“I don’t see that her being cyborg is relevant.”
Review: I really struggled between giving this book a 3 or a 3.5, because to give it the same rating as Cinder wouldn’t be 100% accurate. I enjoyed the first book more, but I think it’s perhaps because there was more of a sense to novelty about it, and I enjoy Cinder and Kai as characters more than I do Scarlet and Wolf, the newest protagonists (eh) of the story. The story is split between various POVs; while most of it is about Scarlet’s journey to find her kidnapped grandmother with Wolf by her side, other chapters include Cinder’s escape from prison following the events of Cinder, and Kai’s attempt to maintain control of his country while dealing with Queen Levana, the evil queen of the planet Lunar. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these separate plotlines, but sometimes felt as if Cinder and Kai’s story took away from Scarlet’s, as they were already established characters that were pretty well developed. I was very intrigued by the whole plot line surrounding Scarlet’s grandmother’s past and secrets, but really, that was all I felt Scarlet’s story really brought to the table; I could have done without the side story of Wolf’s and the mentioning of how the Lunar soldiers are trained specifically. I am interested to see how much further all of their plot lines continue to connect, however.
Unfortunately, Meyer’s writing hasn’t evolved to the point that would allow for her book to receive a 5 star rating from me. Although she is incredibly creative and entertaining with her writing, it is obviously meant for a younger crowd; I used my imagination for most of the imaging of scenes and characters she mentions, as she fails to accurately describe them for me. In fact, there’s still a lot she hasn’t yet described or explained – for example, how this world she’s created came to be. Ruins of once-famous buildings in Paris are mentioned as an afterthought, but no explanation of why they are ruined is offered. There is also no explanation of how these new countries of the world came to be; what happened to separate entities such as Korea, Japan, and China, and why they are now all collectively known as “The Eastern Commonwealth”. In my head, I imagine something like the reverse Pangea has occurred – large swaths of land have been destroyed, so people have fled to the largest piece of continuous land once homing most of Europe, Russia, China, India, etc. and then divided it up among the largest countries of the world. Maybe this is just my imagination going wild, but I’d really like if Meyer gave me a better explanation of how her world was developed so I could more thoroughly understand the land that is being so viciously fought over.
One thing Meyer really does excel at in her writing is creating enjoyable and likable characters that, although vastly different from myself, are easy to connect to and cheer for. I really do enjoy Scarlet as a character, and am glad that Meyer seems to be continuing the trend of strong heroines leading her stories. Scarlet will do anything to save her grandmother, including stupidly trusting everything in a man she just meets – a man named Wolf, which just sounds like the most trustworthy character ever, right? Wolf seems alright, albeit a little sketchy due to his strange past and behaviorisms, but I don’t hate him by any means, even when things go sideways. However, the biggest problem I had with the characters was the way that Scarlet and Wolf’s relationship went from mild to red hot with a single snap. Nothing in particular seemed to happen to warrant this kind of reaction, yet by the end of the book, Scarlet is yearning over him and Wolf is salivating over her. I’m not saying Cinder and Kai’s relationship is 100% realistic either, but at least there was more of a lead-up to the level their relationship reached.
Speaking of Cinder and Kai, I really like how they evolve in this book. Cinder becomes the leader of her own rebellion, and Kai proves what an adept leader of his country he would be, given the chance. Although there isn’t much mention of their relationship in this novel, as Cinder is off being an escaped prisoner and Kai is trying to handle the whole my-betrothed-wants-to-kill-me-so-she-can-rule-the-world thing, I think Meyer provides enough maturity for both of their characters as individuals to suffice me for the time being. But beyond the romance, we also get a gift in Captain Carswell Thorne, a rogue American pilot who escapes from prison with Cinder, who provides the necessary humor that was missing from Cinder previously and helps tie together all the stories. All in all, the characters could all still stand a little more development, but I have a feeling we’ll see plenty of that in the next two books.
Ultimately, Scarlet seemed simply like a connector book to me. Although I did enjoy Scarlet’s character, half of the time I was reading her thoughts, all I could think was “What is Cinder doing right now?”. I am a little concerned that this trend of storytelling will continue on throughout the series, as I will always consider Cinder the main character and the story that should be primarily followed. Despite that, however, I am incredibly intrigued still, to see more about all the separate plot lines: Scarlet’s promise to her grandmother, Wolf’s promise to his country and then to Scarlet, Kai’s promise to his throne, and Cinder’s promise to the world. I know it’s only the beginning of this tale and the ensuing rebellion I see brewing on the horizon, and i can’t wait to see where Meyer takes us next.