Scarlet: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer; Feiwel & Friends, 453 pages ($17.99) Ages 12 and up.
Marissa Meyer offers a marvelous sci-fi take on the Red Riding Hood story, complete with endangered grandma, beguiling Wolf and gutsy heroine, the Scarlet of the title, who wears a red hoodie. This fabulous sequel to “Cinder” offers the same wondrous blend of fairy-tale romance, dystopian setting and pulse-pounding suspense, cleverly weaving in the plot of the first book, a Cinderella update featuring a cyborg named Cinder who left her robotic foot behind at the ball.
“Cinder” was set in a New Beijing in the grip of a plague and threatened by evil lunar queen Levana. This one takes us to the countryside of France and to Paris with landmarks including the Louvre and Opera House in ruins after a Fourth World War. Scarlet’s grandmother is missing, and a young street-fighter named Wolf may know where she has gone. Little does Scarlet know that her grandmother, a former military pilot, has been hiding a dangerous secret all these years about Princess Selene, true heir to the lunar throne and believed to have been murdered by Levana.
Meyer, a gifted writer, amps up the suspense from the first book as genetically modified beasts mount an attack and beleaguered Prince Kai believes he must sacrifice himself to save Earth. The ending offers some sweet resolution to part of the story, as fans await Meyer’s next enchantments: “Cress,” inspired by Rapunzel, in 2014, and “Winter,” inspired by Snow White, in 2015.
– Jean Westmoore
Phantom by Jo Nesbo; Knopf, 400 pages ($25.95)
Jo Nesbo and other Scandinavian crime writers are often praised for casting a harsh light beneath the idyllic surface of the welfare state.
Nesbo’s police and politicians are corrupt, and he portrays that corruption more entertainingly than many writers do. That old standby, the right-wing nut, is the weakest part of “Phantom,” ninth of Nesbo’s novels about Oslo police inspector Harry Hole.
Our first glimpse of Harry, freshly back from Hong Kong, is easily the best part of the book, and it reflects Nesbo’s interest in ghost stories.
How does Nesbo keep things fresh? A damaged, brilliant, ungovernable police detective can get kicked off the force only so many times, lose only so many women he loves because of his own flaws, and drink himself into only so many alcoholic stupors.
Having placed Harry’s on-again, off-again lover, Rakel, in danger in a previous book, Nesbo here puts her son, with whom Harry has formed a bond, in peril. Therein lies the risk of the series form, centered on one character, in noir fiction: How many perils can the author put his protagonist through before the whole thing starts to seem like a soap opera? Don Bartlett has done his usual fluent, unobtrusive work of translation.
– McClatchy Newspapers