Review Double-Feature: CINDER & SCARLET are rich with vibrant characters and a top-notch futuristic tale

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cinderIn Cinder, a futuristic world where cyborgs walk the earth with the fully-human, Cinder, whose arm, leg, and other random bits are robotic, has always been looked down on by those around her. She’s managed to get by as New Bejing’s best mechanic, but her home life with her stepmother is frustrating and demoralizing. The only bright spots in her life are her little stepsister Peony and her andriod friend Iko. That is until Kai, the crown prince, stops by her shop to have her fix his andriod, and there’s an instant connection. But as Cinder’s life gets more complicated, and gets more interwoven with Kai’s, life as she knows it turns upside down, and what was once familiar is changed forever. With a terrible plague killing off people left and right, and with seemingly no way to stop it, Kai must make an impossible decision … and Cinder’s right in the middle.

I am angry that I waited so long to read this book. I heard all the buzz and people raving about it, and I have to say that it is just as good as everyone said. Off the bat I was delighted in the futuristic world Marissa Meyer constructed around the main character Cinder. This book is set in Asia, but the culture in there is subtle, which helps it feel like it’s more about the world as a whole, with the culture being a subtle addition. This was an important distinction when relating to the baddie; the whole world is at stake, and I really got it..

It was also really interesting to be in Cinder’s head, as a cyborg, and see what it might be like to experience life that way. Cyborg or not though, she’s such an amazing character, I loved being a part of her life as she struggled with all the elements around her. At one point she’s ready to take off in a car she’s building, and I thought, “You know, we’ve all been exactly here.” I can’t say enough about the people in this book, they’re excellently written.

The romance in the book was perfect. Not too much, but enough that I wanted more. Nothing felt contrived, and the whole time it was wonderfully heart-wrenching to feel her struggles with identity, place, and family as she allowed a sliver of hope for love to contrast with her fear that one so high could ever want her if he knew the truth.

I was blown away by this book. It’s easily moved to the top 10 best YA I’ve ever read. I am so excited to see what the author does with the series from here on out. But seriously? Don’t be like me and wait. Read Cinder. Read it now.

Cinder hit shelves January 3rd, 2012.

And now? On to Scarlet!
IF YOU HAVEN’T READ CINDER, there are some SPOILERS in this review of Scarlet! WARNING!

ScarletScarlet is a continuation of Cinder’s story, with the addition of two new main characters: Scarlet and Wolf. Scarlet’s grandmother disappeared two weeks prior to where we pick up the story, and though the police decided it was suicide Scarlet knows that something nefarious happened. She’s determined to get to the bottom of things, and with the help of mysterious new friend and streetfighter extraordinaire Wolf she sets off to find her missing family member.

Cinder starts the book still in a pickle — being stuck in prison, waiting to be shipped off-planet to her impending death. I don’t want to say too much without giving away some plot goodies, so let’s just say that Cinder deals with trying to escape, along with attempting to wrap her thoughts around the mind-boggling news that was recently revealed to her: she’s the long lost Lunar princess, destined to save the world from evil. Now if only she wanted the job.

I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to love Scarlet as much as I loved Cinder, because that book was just so fab. But the lovely Marissa Meyer rose to the challenge, and Scarlet is just as great as the first book. And what’s even better is that we get to be inside the head of a bunch of different characters (Scarlet, Wolf, Cinder, Kai, even the evil Queen!), which really enhanced the story. No character is weaker than the others, all feel unique and fully-developed. And all are struggling with some big things, in their own way, which creates a universal sort-of empathy for these good guys fighting against a frustratingly cunning evil. I’m extremely curious about seeing how good’s going to triumph bad in this series!

Meyer also manages to make Scarlet’s story feel just as poignant as Cinder’s, even though it’s really a side-note to the main story of the series. But Scarlet is just such a vivid character, and her plight is so desparate and heart-felt, it’s hard not to get caught up in her journey. And there’s some fantastic romance in here, without it overpowering the rest of the story. That’s one of my favorite things about both of Meyer’s books; she manages to balance the romance and adventure/suspense so well that it all works effortlessly, and all you notice are the characters and their stories.

Waiting for book three is going to kill me. This is one of those times that I am happy my memory is poor, though, because I’m excited to re-read these books, even now. Highly recommended!

Scarlet hot shelves today, Tuesday February 5th, 2013.

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