Tag Archives: Scarlet

My, What Big Genetically Engineered Teeth You Have!

Warning: I will be spoiling plot points from Cinder, the first book in the series, with reckless abandon.

Scarlet lunar coverWhen we last saw our fair cyborg Cinderella, she had been thrown in jail after crashing Emperor Kai’s fancy ball. She was there to warn him that evil Moon Queen Levana planned on murdering him when/if they wed as a first step to world domination. Then while she’s waiting to be executed, Cinder learns that she’s actually the long-lost Princess Selene, the niece that Levana tried to get rid of by SETTING HER ON FIRE. Just in case you didn’t think she was evil enough. Because Cinder is the true heir to the Lunar throne, Levana wants her dead STAT, so Cinder resolves to break out of prison.

In Scarlet (Feiwel and Friends 2013), the second book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder uses her newly discovered Jedi Mind Trick powers to break out of prison. She takes her fellow prisoner, Captain Carswell Thorne, with her because he has a ship and he just happens to be there. More on him later. So the two of them along with Cinder’s beloved android, Iko (who’s salvaged personality chip is deposited in an unconventional vessel), become the most wanted fugitives on the planet. Queen Levana is furious about Cinder’s escape and threatens to declare war on Earth. Cinder is supposed to meet up with fellow Lunar refugee, Dr. Erland, in Africa, but she’s sick of having to follow other people’s orders and decides to track down the people who brought her to Earth in order to find out more about her past.

Halfway across the world we have Scarlet Benoit, a sassy French farm girl who’s beloved grandmother has suddenly gone missing. The police have closed the case, but Scarlet knows that her grandmother would never take off without telling her. When Scarlet’s suspicions that her grandmother has been kidnapped are confirmed, she enlists the help of Wolf, the new rough and tumble street fighter in town, to help rescue her grandmother. Along the way Scarlet learns shocking secrets about Wolf, her grandmother, and her own history. Scarlet and Cinder’s stories alternate throughout the novel until the two come together for an explosive and revelatory climax. But not in a dirty way.

Like rhymenocerous noted in her review of Cinder, none of the twists in Scarlet are particularly surprising if you have any familiarity with the source material or have ever read a dystopian novel. However, author Marissa Meyer’s execution of the story makes what could’ve been tired material feel fresh. The tight writing (even at 400+ pages), the quick pacing, and solid characterization make for a real page-turner. I was annoyed when I had to stop reading in order to do mundane things like go to the office.

Both Cinder and Scarlet make strong female main characters. I actually liked Cinder more in this one because she was a lot less victimy than in the first book. It’s not Meyer’s fault because original Cinderella is a pretty passive character in the first place, but in Scarlet, Cinder gets to take action and make choices about her own life. Scarlet comes close to “too stupid to live” territory at times (seriously, perhaps you should have a plan before rushing in to rescue your grandmother), but she’s also tough and not afraid to stand up for herself or others. Both characters are the damsels in distress at times, but they also take their turns doing the rescuing, which is awesome. My favorite character though was Captain Carswell Thorne because he’s one of my favorite types of characters: the charming rogue. He reminds me a bit of Han Solo, if Han Solo was a bit of a dandy. Seriously, Thorne was in solitary confinement because he had led the prison population in a soap rebellion. His skin is sensitive you know. I’ve heard he has a bigger part in the third book, which makes me happy.

Speaking of the third book, in addition to continuing the ongoing storylines, it’s supposed to be a retelling of Rapunzel and we have to wait until 2014 to read it. Booooooo!

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Yet another tedious love triangle: Robin Hood edition

Yeah, she TOTALLY looks like a boy.

Like most people from my generation, my love of the Robin Hood myth began with the Disney cartoon. What’s not to like?  There’s a cheeky little fox in a feathered cap singing songs and robbing from the rich to give to the poor.  Since then, I’ve discovered that there are approximately 87,602 versions of Robin Hood floating around out there.  And while I’ve checked out a lot of these versions (Princess Consuela and I got sucked into the incredibly campy BBC show a few years ago.  Check it out if you ever want to see the shiniest armor that ever shined.), there’s also a sense there couldn’t possibly be any more ways that you could tell this story.  Enter Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen (Walker 2012).  It tells the Robin Hood myth from the point of Will Scarlet, who happens to be a girl in disguise.  Sold!

The plot is pretty typical Robin Hood, although the characters are all in their teens/early twenties.  Former nobleman Robin is the broody leader of his gang of outlaws.  There’s John Little, the frat boyish muscle, and Much the Miller, the everyman who lost his hand when he was caught poaching food for his family.  And then there’s Scarlet, aka Scar, the scrappy thief.  Robin’s gang is getting away with so much that the Sheriff of Nottingham brings in Guy of Gisbourne, a notorious Thief Taker and man from Scar’s mysterious past, to stop them.  This new dangerous foe, along with romantic tensions within the group, threaten to destroy the gang.

I think the concept behind the story is a great one, but I have more mixed feelings about the execution.  I’m feeling a bit lazy today, so I thought I’d just list out the things that I liked and disliked about the book.

LIKED:

  • Scarlet is a strong, intelligent, and generous heroine. I also like that Scar is a badass knife-fighter, but has her limitations.  She’s naturally smaller than her opponents, so if they land a punch, she goes down hard.  But she’s so quick, that they hardly land a punch.
  • Have I mentioned that I really love stories about thieves?  Particularly thieves that steal for noble reasons.  Because I do.
  • In the author’s note, Gaughen talks about how there’s been a long tradition of writing women out of history and attributing their contributions to men and how the concept  behind Scarlet was born out of that idea.  Not that she insists this is actually what happened or whatever, but I love the idea of putting women back into their rightful place in history or historical fiction.
  • Similarly, I’ve always been fascinated with stories like this that propose alternate perspectives to traditional tales or events.
  • I’ve found Much to be really irritating in other Robin Hood incarnations, but he’s he’s really endearing in this one!  Who knew?
  • I liked the tweaks that Gaughen made to the traditional Friar Tuck and Maid Marian roles.
  • This kind of story ALWAYS has the unsuspecting girl who has a crush on the girl disguised as a boy, and this is no exception. I’m a fan.
  • Every time they called her Scar, I thought of The Lion King and started singing Be Prepared in my head.  I’m ok with this.

DISLIKES:

  • Kickass nature aside, Scarlet can be very whiny and clueless.  I also think she comes across as too young sometimes.  Yes, she’s only 18, but she’s 18 in medieval times (Not the restaurant, although that place rocks), which I’ve been led to believe that 18 year-olds were a lot more mature then than they are now, what with the shorter lifespan and all.
  • And the other merry men, particularly Robin, treats her like a child sometimes.  I get that they would feel overprotective of the lady in their midst, but it rubbed my modern sensibilities the wrong way.
  • The pacing is a little uneven.  There’s a bit too much moping around in the woods for my taste.
  • This is completely subjective, but I’m not a fan of dialect in general, so I didn’t care for Scar’s low class, street thief manner of speaking.  I get that authors want to be authentic, but I find that kind of affected dialogue more distracting than helpful.
  • I prefer my Robin Hoods to be saucy rather than emo, and this Robin Hood is definitely emo. Plus he’s kind of a dick.
  • Must every YA book have a love triangle?  Is that really necessary?  And this isn’t even a very good one.  John’s feelings for Scar pop up out of nowhere and Robin clearly has romantic feelings for her, but doesn’t say anything and acts all slut-shamey when anyone else takes an interest in Scar.  Plus, a good love triangle only happens when you can see the heroine with either love interest.  Do we really think that anyone would choose John over Robin Hood?  He’s freaking Robin Hood!
  • This is a little spoilery, but: “You called me a whore, Rob. You said awful things.” “Ah,” he said, and his hand took mine again, tight. “Hurting you is the best way I know to punish myself. And, despite that I’m not much proud of it, I can’t truly control myself when I see you even looking at John.” (p 284-285) WHAT THE HELL!  THIS IS A TERRIBLE THING TO PUT IN A YA BOOK.  OR ANY BOOK REALLY.

Scarlet isn’t a bad book by any means, but I couldn’t help being disappointed.  The concept is so fantastic, that I think my expectations were just too high.

And here’s my favorite moment from the BBC’s Robin Hood.  Go to 2:46 for the cheesiest moment in television history.

And this is for Princess Consuela. Go to minute 4:00 to see the shiniest suit of armor ever.


2012 – A Lot to Be Excited About

Let's hope the Mayans were wrong.

It’s the time of year for lists. Many many lists. Magazines, newspapers, blogs, toilet paper companies, all of ’em are doing their Best of 2011 lists. While I would love to know what the 5 Softest Toilet Papers of 2011 were, we thought it would be more interesting to look ahead to 2012 and talk about the books to be published that we are excited about reading. So, barring that end of the world thing that the Mayans predicted, here are a few books that each Rampant Reads lady can’t wait to get her greedy mitts on.

(NOTE: Rhymenocerous just had to go off to Russia while we wrote this post, so her picks aren’t in this list. Let’s all just be jealous and have a vodka shot in her honor.)


Anatasia Beaverhausen:

The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Jan. 10)

I don’t have to wait long for this one and THANK GOODNESS. They released the first 2 chapters online (you can read them online here) and I am already hooked. The premise sounds a bit grim – girl with terminal cancer finds love – but John’s writing and superb characters will change your expectations and make this not to miss. Plus, he signed EVERY SINGLE PRE-ORDERED COPY, god bless him.

Black Heart by Holly Black (Apr. 3)

Holly is one of my favorite YA authors, as evidenced by my treasured signed copy of Tithe in my intro post. This is the 3rd book in her superb “Curse Workers” series and I can’t wait to see where she takes it.

The Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicles Day 3) by Patrick Rothfuss (Date ?)

Rothbuss exploded onto the fantasy scene with the first book in this series, The Name of the Wind, in 2009, and his brilliant writing and playing with fantasy tropes made it an instant hit with fantasy fans. I think even folks who aren’t fantasy people would eat this series up. Each book takes place over one day and I am DYING to finish this up. GIVE ME A RELEASE DATE!!
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