Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s 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. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. 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 Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner. – Goodreads
While I was on maternity leave, I decided I needed to reread some books that I started but never got around to continuing. Cinder was the first of these novels, and I ended up liking it even more than I did the first time around. So I knew I had to continue the series (including the short stories, which I’ll review separately), especially since the fourth book of the series, Fairest, came out last month and the fifth, Winter, comes out later this year. And as I’ve left Ashley with the bulk of the blog responsibilities since oh, last February, I figured I’d better get a move on and pick up the slack. So. Scarlet. We heard the name Michelle Benoit for the first time while reading Cinder’s story as a possible suspect in the aiding, abetting, and harboring of the fugitive Lunar Princess Selene. And now that Michelle has been abducted, or so her granddaughter Scarlet fears, we can pretty much assume that that was the case. So we follow two storylines: the first is Scarlet’s and her search for her grandmother, and the second is Cinder’s and her escape from New Beijing and the Lunar Queen, Levana. Both girls have help in the form of attractive but possible unreliable and untrustworthy men. In Scarlet’s case, the aptly named Wolf is her street-fighting sidekick, while Cinder has picked up a fugitive American cadet called Carswell. Wolf is quiet and strange and full of mystery, while Carswell is mostly just full of himself. And in the midst of these stories is a third, smaller story: the newly crowned Emperor Kai and his struggle against Levana and his own feelings for Cinder.
Scarlet and Wolf embark on a journey to Paris after learning some valuable information from Scarlet’s irresponsible, sporadically absent father, while Kai has to deal with an increasingly angry Queen Levana, who has dropped her civil act at the escape and disappearance of Cinder. I wish Kai knew Cinder was Princess Selene, but I’m sure a lot of us feel that way. It’s just so frustrating to know things other characters don’t, especially things that could change their minds and their actions! (However, I don’t really ship Kai/Cinder. I sort of want to wait and see what happens.) When letumosis breaks out on the train, Scarlet and Wolf make a run for it, while Cinder and Carswell clean up their ship, guided by Iko, now the bodiless voice of the ship. I was so glad to see Iko again. But I was kind of disappointed in that Wolf gave me some Edward Cullen vibes. I kept waiting for him to tell Scarlet he wasn’t good for her and that she should stay away from him. Such angst. Much fraught. Wow.
I liked how twisty this one was, because I saw a lot of things coming while reading Cinder. I like how there are Lunars showing up around every corner, and some of them are good, but some of them are bad, too. I like that the morality lines get blurred in this series, and that prejudice is not always called for. A lot of series are so black and white with their characters and races that it’s no fun reading about. But humans don’t normally act “evil” just for the sake of it. Most of the time, they think they’re doing the right thing. And something I love about Meyer’s writing: my first impressions are very often wrong. That is the case in more ways than one in this novel. So even if a reader can see certain plot points a mile away, sometimes characters’ personalities and motives are not what they first seem to be. And I just felt so much for poor Cinder. She’s had a rough life so far. I want her to find some peace.
So while there are good twists and unpredictable character morality, I found this one to be pretty slow and hard to get into, the opposite of Cinder. I don’t think I got really interested in Scarlet’s story until maybe the third book began (around chapter 35) and it didn’t really capture my attention the way Cinder did until the 80% mark. Regardless, the story is good, the worldbuilding is great, and I can’t wait for Cress, the next on my list. (Also stand by for a review of the next short story in the series, The Queen’s Army.)