Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns. 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 of the grave dangers 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 him 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 vicous Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner (from Goodreads).

Rating:

*There are spoilers ahead, particularly for the first book, so be warned*

Scarlet is the second in the Lunar Chronicles series, and the book opens just a few weeks after the events that transpired at the end of Cinder. This time, we're just halfway round the world. In France, to be precise. Scarlet Benoit is our eponymous heroine, and she is searching for her grandmother who has suddenly, and very mysteriously, disappeared. The police and the people of her town believe her grandmother to be a crazy old lady, who has perhaps just wandered off, but Scarlet knows something else is going on. As she decides she must save her grandmother, and uncover what information she would possibly have to warrant being kidnapped in the first place, she grows closer to her new companion Wolf. He has links with the people who took her grandmother, and he swears he will help her save her life. 

As Scarlet and Wolf are on their way to unraveling her grandmother's secrets, all the way back in New Beijing Cinder is escaping from her prison. She is awaiting extradition to Lunar, for her perceived attempt at murdering either Queen Levana or Kai at the ball in the last book. The public have seen the news feeds, and have now deemed her crazed. Kai doesn't understand who she is, the part she plays in a much larger game that Levana is manipulating. But Cinder knows who she is now; the lost Princess Selene of Lunar, the rightful heir to the throne. She also knows who she is up against, and she is doing her best to run the hell away. During her very clever escape, which I imagined with glee, she encounters the dashingly handsome Captain Carswell Thorne, and using her new-found Lunar powers she brainwashes him into helping her. 

The platonic chemistry Cinder and Thorne have is perfect, and I really enjoyed reading about their adventures. Thorne is exactly the right balance for Cinder, who has become a bit more hardened since the last book. A lot of shit happened to her, after all. Thorne is just very playful, and sarcastic, and he lightens her. In turn, his flirtatious antics would be a little annoying without a more-serious foil to tell him when he's being an idiot. 

All of our named characters end up chasing down Michelle Benoit, both Scarlet and Cinder hoping to find answers about who they are, find something that makes sense out of all the madness their lives have suddenly become. For Cinder, she knows Michelle Benoit was one of those who helped save her life, turn her into a cyborg, and she needs to know more. For Scarlet, she wants to save the only family she really has. 

Meanwhile, Kai is having to deal with the wicked Queen Levana. Kai is now left in New Beijing, with lots of questions about Cinder, his feelings for her, who she is and why Levana seems to have a personal vendetta against her. He is also trying to balance his new role as Emperor. So there's a lot on his plate right now, and Levana is quickly moving to take advantage of that. Poor thing; he doesn't stand a chance in hell against someone as cunning and clever as Levana. 

I like that the women are at the forefront of these books. When Kai agrees to marry Levana to postpone the massacre around the world he knows she is behind, he understands he is right where she wants him. He has never been strong enough to go against her. He needs a knight in shining armour to rescue him, and I'm glad that person is going to be Cinder. Too long has it been the man rescuing the woman in fairy tales. 

For me, I think Scarlet is probably the weakest character we've met so far. That is a shame, because she is in this book an awful lot. It's not that I don't like her, though. She just doesn't engage me the way a heroine should. If she hadn't have been involved - if her story had been cut - I think I would have awarded a higher rating, even though I understand her presence in the book does move the story along from along angle. Wolf is a character I didn't particularly connect with but since I've read the next book I know he's one I can warm towards. Having read the next book as well, I would say this is probably the weakest book of the series, but it does set up the next phase of the books so it does its job. 

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