At the conclusion of Cinder, I was left with my mouth agape because of the big reveals. That book packed quite a bit of punch and I was leery of picking up the sequel to see if the author could sustain what she started.
To be brief, the sequel didn’t hit with the same power of the first book, but then it couldn’t, could it? For a few reasons and they are that I am not entering a new and wonderful creative world of the Lunar Chronicles with this installment and that many of the intriguing secrets are out on the table already. Now I didn’t say that in an expression of disappointment in this story just that I had to adjust my expectations. I was looking to see the intensity kept up and the plot lines that were opened to be continued and I am pleased to say that they were. This book was one big rush from cover to cover. The things that were revealed before were now fleshed out and added to the cast of characters backing Cinder, I was presented with a few new and intriguing ones. Cinder now shares her spotlight with Scarlet. Their stories are told separate, but then they come together in a big scene sort of way.
I don’t want to spoil the story for others like myself who are just getting around to this series so I’ll just bump a few highlights. Kai is stuck between a rock and a hard place and both are grinding him down pretty hard so that he has to make some tough decisions and some big sacrifices as Queen Levana maneuvers him into a corner as her plans for world domination progress just as she planned. Cinder’s life has become one tumultuous rush and she doesn’t get any time to process because she is running for her life with enemies on all sides seeking to capture her and or kill her. She acquires an interesting sidekick, Thorne, who is quite the scene-stealer with his vanity in his own appearance and reputation and his sticky fingered ways of acquiring things. Cinder is on the hunt to get answers about her past and help to navigate all the things she has discovered about herself while avoiding capture by Levana and by Kai.
Meanwhile, Scarlet, a young farmer in France, is on the hunt to find her missing grandmother. Nobody will help until she encounters the mysterious street fighter, Wolf. Wolf scares her with his lethal strength and fighting skills, but he has another side too that draws her in particularly when he offers to help her find her grandmother. Scarlet is quick to temper and hasty to speak particularly in defense of her grandmother – that her grandmother doesn’t know anything or have anything that someone would want, but she and Wolf soon learn that things are not what they seem. Lies have been told and betrayal isn’t far behind, but Scarlet won’t give up even if it puts her in mortal danger.
In the end, Cinder has a huge decision to make that will affect the lives of the races of two peoples and she now has formed a few more allies to help her. This one set things up for the series to continue going strong into the next installment.
This was a faster paced book than the first one as it didn’t have to establish the Lunar world or introduce the characters. The focus is so different too. Events have shifted from the east to France. And Scarlet and the ambiguous Wolf are now taking the point on the story though Cinder’s scenes are still big too. It all centers around Scarlet’s grandmother. Where is she and what does she know? Everyone in the story wants the answers to one or both of these questions.
Scarlet is a very impulsive, temperamental girl and this makes her heedless and at times thoughtless. She jumps to conclusions and actions and it causes her trouble. I cringed at some of the stuff she said because she was so controlled by her emotions. I respected her drive, but I struggled to be patient with her since she had a huge learning curve for what she was encountering. She came across very much as an immature, loud mouthed girl with a single-minded focus that would sacrifice anything for her goal. The goal of finding her grandmother and saving her, worthy as it was, kept Scarlet blinded to all the stuff going on around her. She never did see the bigger picture and what all was at stake until the end. Now, I’m going to cut her some slack because she was blind-sided by all that she encountered and she had no preparation. She had good intentions and good instinct just poor execution. I have high hopes that as the series progresses that what happened to Scarlet in the story will temper her and she will grow.
Wolf was a nice foil for her with his calm, even nature which was how he was when they weren’t encountering a threat. Wolf is such a great complex character and I loved that. I loved how any scene he was in just came alive and when his story came out (there’s an extra short story prequel telling Wolf’s early story in the back of the book I read), I just adored him even more. I wanted him to find his way to happiness and peace. Through much of the story, Wolf accompanies Scarlet keeping her safe and getting her where she wants to be. Tiny clues that he reveals as they go foreshadow things for the reader causing anticipation to build for when Wolf finally reveals to Scarlet all his secrets. I would definitely be happy to see him get lots more page time in the series.
So all in all, this sequel was a strong one that built on the first book and carried the main story arc through for the next installment. I am left just as eager to press on as I was with the first book.
The story crosses through so many genres that it will probably have wide appeal for Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Fairytale Retelling and Romance lovers of all ages. This is written for a YA audience, and other than the moderate level of violence, it could be put in the hands of even the youngest teen. The overall story and most of the characters have a mature feel to it that even those who enjoy adult level reads would probably enjoy it too. But definitely start with the first book. They build on each other more like a serial story than a series.
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