I’m going to gush about my new favorite series because I can’t shut up about it.
A cyborg Cinderella in a futuristic Beijing who has to help a prince save the world from an evil queen who rules on the moon.
You heard me. And that’s just the first book.
I had seen pictures of these books, collectively called The Lunar Chronicles, floating around Tumblr because the last one was just coming out, and they looked intriguing. And fairy tale retellings? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Then I actually looked up the synopsis for the first book and got myself to the library posthaste.
I devoured it and each sequel as quickly as I could get my hands on them (which wasn’t quickly enough because someone was overdue on their returns). They are now all on my list of books I want to own* because, in addition to being brilliantly written, they’re gorgeous to look at.
Some people say the first book is slow and almost prevented them from picking up Book 2. While I agree that the author Marissa Meyer definitely improved her writing with each book, I disagree that the first was dull. Yes, it had less action, but that’s actually appealing to me. I get anxious when too much is happening all at once.
The first book, Cinder, introduces our Cinderella and her prince, Kai. Cinder is the main character of the story: mechanic, cyborg, revolutionary extraordinaire, and the character to whom I most related (though there was something about all of the girls with which I could connect). Scarlet introduces a spitfire Red Riding Hood and the Wolf; Cress, unassuming but brilliant Rapunzel and her, er, criminal mastermind (he’s basically Flynn Ryder); and Winter, the slightly-insane Snow White and her loyal guard.
I loved Winter in both her lucid and insane moments – and she reminded me just a little of Luna from Harry Potter and Nerissa from the Underland Chronicles, but with a side of sass. Cress, who in my opinion underwent the most development from awkward to daring and reliable, was an adorable genius hacker. I probably related least to Scarlet, who was fearless and independent from the start, though I loved her sarcasm. And then there was Cinder: a bit of a loner at the start, empathetic, witty, self-reliant, determined, and not backing down even when so many people’s lives depend on her.
Don’t make me pick a favorite man. I cannot do it. I won’t.
Naturally, a personal favorite aspect was how Cress, having been locked away for 7-odd years by herself, had developed a vivid imagination and a coping mechanism where she would tell herself she was strong, brave, clever, or talented, and she would wear that self-made persona to get through obstacles.
“I am a criminal mastermind,” she murmured, “and I’m here to take down this regime.” – Cress, from Winter by Marissa Meyer
By the end, we are given points-of-view from over a dozen characters including an android and the wicked queen, but the focus is on the four girls. The story starts in New Beijing and takes us to France, Africa, a satellite orbiting the moon, the moon (or Luna) itself with its different districts, and a significant stint aboard a cargo ship (think Serenity, because that’s kind of what it feels like).
Despite having such a large cast and such an expansive setting, I never mixed up characters (except the few times when I was reading so fast I mistook “Cinder” for “Cress” or vice versa) or felt bored or overwhelmed by new information. I was so invested that, by the end – even though I was fairly certain everything would turn out right – I was crying a little because it was so wonderful. Also, because that last book is intense and I was a little relieved when we reached the wrap-up chapters.
This series has everything: fairy tales which are deftly reworked for a futuristic setting; science fiction, complete with biological warfare and plenty of spaceships and, of course, cyborgs; romance (so much kissing by the last book….); action and adventure and suspense; witty humor; a tinge of mystery; and moral quandaries.
Best of all, it is well-written. No info-dumps, no slumps, no wasted scenes or characters, and, despite the fact that it was loosely a collection of retellings, it wasn’t predictable. Almost every time Marissa worked in an element from the original fairy tale, I had to pause and absorb what she just did, because it was perfect but also felt like a twist. (Just ask Nina about my revelation with the Rapunzel character’s love interest….) The dialogue was sharp and intelligent and natural. Marissa crafted every scene to convey the appropriate emotion. There was violence, as comes with every revolution, and the stakes were high, but it was well-balanced and realistic (y’know, as realistic as a futuristic battle for the throne of the Lunar government can be). I was able to invest in this series and it had me laughing, crying, panicking, swooning, and growling at wicked stepmothers.
There’s so much to this series that I cannot do it justice in a blog post. (Fay knows.) Just read it. Trust me.