Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Target Audience: YA/Teen
Summary: 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.
Type of Adaptation: Futuristic Retelling
So, Scarlet is the sequel to Cinder, which we read last month, and I was a little wary of adding it to the review list because of that. And true enough, there’s about half of this book I won’t be touching because it’s a continuation of Cinder’s story, which isn’t our current focus. But I really wanted to read this sequel, and it was Little Red Riding Hood, so . . .
And as an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, this book surprised me. But in a good way.
Where Cinder took place in the Asia area of this futuristic, post-WWIV version of earth, Scarlet takes place in Europe, specifically France. Scarlet is a teenage girl who works alongside her grandmother at a small country farm. Scarlet is largely responsible for driving the delivery hover to vendors in the city and delivering their food.
But Scarlet has been fighting a problem for some time when our story opens, and that’s that her grandmother is missing, and has been for almost two weeks. The police have decided that there is no foul play involved in her disappearance, but Scarlet knows otherwise, and if the police won’t help her, then Scarlet is determined to find her grandmother on her own.
She tries to get the townspeople to help, tries to unite them with concern, but her grandmother was considered pretty odd, and no one wants to help. Scarlet’s temper gets the better of her, and she’s thrown out of the tavern, but she did manage to catch the attention of one person, a street fighter who’s known as Wolf.
So already, we’ve got these familiar elements popping up. A LRRH figure, named Scarlet, whose job is delivering food. She wears an old red hoodie, and she’s looking for her grandmother. And now, we have a character named Wolf.
What I really appreciate about this book is how seamlessly the story of Little Red Riding Hood is blended into the world created for Cinderella. In fact, LRRH actually ends up making a little bit more sense in this world in many ways, but we’ll get to that.
Anyway, Scarlet tentatively accepts Wolf’s help, but that changes when her father, who she hasn’t been on speaking terms with for years, shows up at the farm, claiming that he barely escaped with his life from the people who kidnaped him – and who have Scarlet’s grandmother. He’s able to tell Scarlet that he was tortured by a man with a tattoo of numbers and letters, starting with LSO. And it just so happens that Scarlet knows someone with that tattoo.
She confronts Wolf, furious, thinking he’s behind her grandmother’s kidnaping, and eventually, he manages to convince her otherwise. Yes, he acknowledges, he bears that tattoo, but so do many others. The letters LSOP stand for the Loyal Society of the Pack, a city street gang from Paris. He was a member, but he left, and now it seems the Pack has Scarlet’s grandmother, so she accepts his help to travel to Paris and find her.
But Wolf isn’t what he seems, and really, that sentence can sum up the majority of this book – Wolf’s double and triple and quadruple crossing is incredibly complex and complicated and really quite fascinating.
Because LSOP doesn’t stand for Loyal Society of the Pack, at least not exclusively. It stands for Lunar Special Operative, and this is where Meyer gets brilliant.
Remember in Cinder, that the bad guy in question was the Lunar Queen Levana, who ruled the colony on the moon? Well, she’s still a threat, and it turns out that these LSOP boys are hers. She’s been sending Pack’s like Wolf’s into the major cities of Earth for months, genetically altered Lunar males with the instincts, senses, and killing abilities of wolves — wolfish humans, connected to the moon? LRRH meets the Lunar Chronicles universe seamlessly.
Scarlet’s grandmother, it turns out, was kidnaped by the Pack because years ago, she was the pilot who flew the first and only diplomatic mission to the moon, and Queen Levana thinks she had something to do with saving Princess Selene, the true heir of Luna, who is in fact, Cinder, if you’ll remember my disappointment (which has lessened somewhat with Cinder’s side of the story in this book, as it isn’t being treated as a magical fix, which is nice).
So the Pack has Scarlet’s grandmother, but she has proven herself to be immune to the Lunar mind-control, and Wolf’s initial mission was to find a safeguard against that. To go undercover into Scarlet’s town, convince her he had left the Pack because he disagreed with their actions, win her trust and loyalty. Which he did, but the thing is? He also became captivated by her, which wasn’t supposed to be able to happen.
I love that you never fully know what side Wolf is on because Wolf doesn’t know what side he’s on. He knows what his mission is. He knows that when his instincts are controlled and taken over by the leader of his pack, that control is absolute and he’ll become a hungry, killing machine. And yet, here’s Scarlet, for whom he has this incredibly protective instinct, one that proves in the end to be stronger than the animal instincts genetically grown in him. He’s a marvelously complex character, and I love it.
That protective instinct is what makes him try to convince her to abandon hope of rescuing her grandmother once they reach Paris, but no dice. And so, she has to live with his betrayal as he turns her over to the Pack, revealing that his allegiances still lie with them . . . kinda. They have her grandmother, in an abandoned Opera House in Paris, and they plan to use her to get the old woman to talk.
In the other half of the story, Cinder has escaped from prison, which has pissed off Levana, and when Emperor Kai can’t recapture Cinder, Levana orders attacks on Earth from her LSOP units in those 14 major cities around the world. Wolf knows it’s coming, he manages to show Scarlet (and us) that he’s still on her side by getting her an ID chip that will allow her to find her grandmother once the attack begins.
And Scarlet is able to find her grandmother, but granny’s not doing so well. She’s been beaten and tortured, to find the secret of why she can resist the mind-control and for information on Princess Selene. But neither aim have gone terribly well, and her body has been so broken and abused that there’s no way Scarlet can try and remove her from the Opera House. Granny tells Scarlet to run while she can, but Scarlet won’t leave her again, and that’s when another member of the Pack, Ran, shows up. He kills Granny and eats her flesh/drinks her blood in way that was ridiculously difficult for me to read (the neck/blood phobia is typically linked to vampires, but apparently, it can manifest with the right kind of werewolf, too! Great!), and then he turns on Scarlet.
She tries to get away, and goddamn if she doesn’t fight her heart out against him. But he’s genetically engineered, so it’s just not going to happen, and this wolf-man is on the verge of destroying her, too, when Wolf appears and throws the other wolf-man off and proceeds to wolf-fight to the death in a scene that is gruesome like something out of Grimm.
The thing is, Wolf is still mostly in wild animal mind control at this point. He’s not resisting in order to protect Scarlet; protecting Scarlet has just become one of his instincts. Which plays against the trope, and I like it.
This is the point where the two stories converge and the series’ next installment is set up, but we’ll leave off there because Little Red Riding Hood has come full circle.
Because it is all there. There’s a lot that happens in between the original fairy tale’s events, but the high points of the fairy tale are in place. Little Red goes on a journey to find her grandmother, her grandmother is attacked and eaten by a wolf, and Little Red herself is saved by a protector. It’s all there, and not once is it forced, which was another concern of mine. But Meyer has done this incredibly well, and I am quite impressed.
Make Little Red less of an idiot? I adore Scarlet. She is kickass and hot-headed and a hell of a fighter. She is not a wimp, she is not an idiot, she is not weak and malleable in really any way at all. She is badass.
Develop the world? So well done. Meyer is building off of the world she created for Cinder, and the way she has worked in the LRRH narrative is just masterful. She gives an explanation for the wolves that fits so perfectly into this world where the moon is a threat. It never felt forced, it never felt contrived, it just felt natural and seamless, and I applaud that.
Give me a point? Oh, yeah. There was definite meaning to the journey, urgency and need and high stakes, and just absolutely yes.
So . . . when does part 3 come out?
. . . 2014?