For this particular book review I’m spreading my focus across a four-part series, as I’d finished reading the first two books in the quadrilogy before I first began writing reviews. That series is The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, comprising of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. Though there are two other books that technically belong to the series – Fairest and Stars Above – I won’t be including them in this review as they are both stand-alone stories in the same world as, but set outside of, the main narrative.
When I first began reading Cinder, I didn’t know a great deal about The Lunar Chronicles other than it was a futuristic take on several classic fairy tales: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. I was soon to learn that, while Meyer does take a lot of ideas from these fairy tales, she’s also constructed an incredible, original tale that sucks the reader in and begs to be read.
The series begins with Cinder, and we find ourselves in the distant future, after several world wars have come and gone, and peace has reigned on earth for many years. The Earth as we see it – similar to the present, but redistributed into somewhat different geological groupings such as the Eastern Commonwealth and the European Union – is technologically advanced, but not in such a way that makes it seem unattainable and unrealistic. Meyer has created a future in which the average citizen communicates with the world via tablet-like computer devices, space travel is commonplace but not something every Earthen has easy access to, and the sick and mortally wounded are capable of mechanical reconstruction. Unfortunately those who have these “upgrades” – known as cyborgs – are looked down upon, considered to be less than human, with less rights than a fully automated mechanoid – known as androids. Our heroine, Cinder, is one such cyborg, little more than a piece of property to her adopted family, but also one of the best mechanics in the Commonwealth. She is, of course, the Cinderella of our story.
Scarlet shifts the story narrative to our Little Red Riding Hood character, a spunky young woman with bright red hair who lives on a farm with her grandmother and has a run in with a wolf…in a manner of speaking. Cress introduces us to our Rapunzel character, a brilliant young computer genius who has been cruelly locked away in a satellite far above Earth’s surface. Finally we move on to our Snow White, a young princess named Winter who suffers under her vile, evil stepmother, who also happens to want to conquer Earth.
It is rather difficult to say too much about any of the four stories without ruining important moments throughout for anyone who hasn’t stepped into the series yet, but there are a few points of note that I can safely share that may, in fact, make the series that much more interesting to you:
- While Earth is at peace within itself, it has also been suffering for several years under a mysterious disease called Letumosis, also known as “The Plague”. Letumosis strikes seemingly at random and is extremely contagious, so anyone found to be suffering with it is quarantined immediately. There are no survivors. Seeing even the slightest hint of the disease is a death sentence for the victim.
- At some point in the past of this world, the moon was colonized and eventually became known as it’s own country, Luna. One of these first colonists, as a result of genetic damage, became the first true “Lunar”, a mutant capable of manipulating the bioelectric energy around a person’s mind, enabling him to implant thoughts and control another’s actions. This first Lunar passed his gift on, and on, and as the Lunar colony grew this ability became prevalent across their society.
- Earth and Luna have been at odds with each other for many years as of the telling of our story, with the vile Queen Levana of Luna attempting a “truce” by way of a marriage with an Earthen leader.
The real story begins when our cyborg friend Cinder is approached by Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth to help in repairing what he says is a very important android. A series of events follow, sending Cinder on the run as she struggles to uncover a veritable treasure trove of secrets and conspiracies that have been buried since before her birth. On her journey she befriends our other “princesses”, as well as their respective “princes”, and together they embark on a mission to set right the evil plans that Queen Levana has put into motion.
But I hear what you’re thinking: but is it good?
That would be an emphatic “Yes”.
There is no doubt that The Lunar Chronicles are what my husband refers to as “teen-y stories”, full of giddy romances and the like, but it’s also unwavering in realism. People get hurt. People die. People do horrible, disgusting things to one another. This is not a happy-go-lucky story. It’s full of fun characters, humorous moments, uplifting side-stories, but also war. Blood and death and destruction. This is a story of horrible things done by people who believe they’re in the right, and the people who finally turn around and fight back.
It’s an incredibly well-written story, start to finish. Each of the characters – men, women, good, evil – captured me in their own ways, pulling me into their individual stories, which all weave into one another beautifully. I devoured Cinder in a couple of days, Scarlet and Cress just as quickly, and though it took me a while to get around to reading Winter, I scarcely put it down until I had it absorbed. And honestly? I’d turn right around and start the entire thing over again right now if not for the fact that I have dozens of other books that I need to get around to reading. That, to me, is the sign of an excellent book (or, in this case, series of books): if finishing it just makes me want to hit rewind and go back to the beginning, it obviously made a big impression.
Whether you’re a fan of young-adult fiction or not, I would definitely recommend giving The Lunar Chronicles a bit of your time. If you can reach the end of Cinder without desperately wanting to know what happens next, I’ll honestly be amazed. The entire series gets two thumbs up from me!