By Rebecca Manuel
Golden Week is right around the corner, which, of course, means cherry blossoms and warmer weather and travel! I myself will be going to Okinawa. I’ve never been more excited to cough up a bunch of money just to lie on a beach for a week. Of course, I won’t just be lying. I’ll also be reading (and traversing the islands, but that’s not the point here). If anyone else here is like me, you might be looking for a good book or series to read on your vacation. Well, I’m here to tell you that if you’re looking for a light, fun, beachy read, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is not it. But if you’re looking for a damn good series that will keep you hooked from the first page of the first book all the way to the last page of the fourth book (a whopping 823 pages), then look no further.
The Lunar Chronicles is a four-book series, with each book loosely based on a fairy tale. As is probably obvious from the title, the first book, Cinder, is based on Cinderella. The second book is based on Little Red Riding Hood, the third Rapunzel, and the fourth Snow White. However, although each is based on a different fairy tale, they are all nevertheless a unified story, each adding to the characters and plot of the first book rather than switching stories. Most excitingly–and also most uniquely–the story is set hundreds of years into the future after the fourth World War. Reformed after the war, the countries of the world have formed a peaceful alliance, and a colony on the moon has both separated into its own country called Luna and evolved so far that its people have powers that allow them to control the perceptions and the bodies of others. Essentially, the series is part fairy tale, part epic science fiction adventure (space opera, maybe?), and it’s fantastic.
The story follows the main character, Cinder, a cyborg living with her stepmother and two stepsisters in the city of New Beijing. She is known as the city’s best mechanic, working in a booth at the weekly market, and this is how the crown prince of the Eastern Commonwealth, Prince Kaito, finds her. Their meeting, and the job he sets her of fixing his personal android, sets in motion the events of the rest of the series that eventually lead to a revolution against the evil and powerful Queen Levana on Luna.
This is the series that I’ve hinted at in my last two
articles. Cinder is the third of the three books that I bought in Osaka, and the one that I was most hesitant to buy. Before reading this book, I thought I preferred science fiction in film. And to be honest, the primary source of my hesitation to read a science fiction novel was my biggest issue with the series: sometimes it’s hard to imagine the technology (and consequently the world). For example, hovers, as they’re called, are hover cars, but they’re never described in detail. What do they look like? Do they look like cars? Just as their technology is advanced, are they also aesthetically advanced? We never find out. However, this is a very minor quibble. The story and the characters so outshine any possible failings that I can’t bring myself to be bothered by it.
The characters are probably my favorite part of these books, although it’s a tough call for me between characters and plot. Cinder is my favorite. As much as I love the other characters–which is a lot–I always look forward to returning to her perspective in the story (since the story is written from the perspectives of the other characters as well). What I love most about her is that she is just a normal girl who happens to have some rather extraordinary abilities and an even more extraordinary destiny (maybe you notice a pattern now from all my reviews?). We see her struggle with her extraordinariness. She never wanted to be anything other than normal and free. Most important to her was getting away from her cruel stepmother and older stepsister, who, in keeping with the prejudices of the day, treat her like garbage because she is a cyborg (cyborgs in this time are considered second-class citizens due to various violent historical events). But rising to meet her destiny means chaining herself down in a way that’s much more binding than merely being a ward of a mean stepmother.
It’s not only Cinder who is so well fleshed out. The story also follows Prince Kaito–or Kai–as he rises to the position of emperor and has to deal with all the issues his father is facing. Then there’s Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), a fiery Frenchwoman; Wolf (I won’t give away too much about him); Cress (Rapunzel), a shy computer hacker trapped not in a tower but in a satellite; Thorne, a criminal and a rogue and essentially a space pirate; Winter (Snow White), driven literally insane by her refusal to use her powers; Jacin, who is prickly and arrogant at times but who also loves Winter with all his being; and evil Queen Levana herself, who has more to her than one might imagine (and who gets her own companion novella called Fairest that I have been too scared to read for fear of what I know cannot be a happy ending). It’s such a big, bright, colorful cast of characters, and I love them all.
Furthermore, you might notice how I paired off each character. For those of you who like a little romance in your fiction, you will be well satisfied. What I love most about the relationships in this series is how little drama there was–at least in the juvenile sense. All the characters were mature, able to deal with each other as human beings without being overwhelmed by each other’s good looks (I have experienced this unfortunate trope all too often in YA fiction), and able to deal with their own emotions in a sensible yet compassionate manner, for the most part. Any troubles they experienced, any angst that they felt, came across as real and understandable, and often lead to real suspense or tension that furthered the plot without stalling it. I just love well-written romance. Don’t you?
And the plot–oh, the plot! I wish I could write about it without giving something away, but that’s impossible. In fact, this was the most difficult review I’ve ever written because I was trying so hard to do the series justice without spoiling anything. The whole series hinges on one big spoiler–is it really a spoiler? It’s so obvious from the very beginning. Nevertheless, I won’t ruin it for you, and thus you will just have to accept my vagueness as well as my assurance that this series is exceptional. I can give it no higher praise other than saying that I binge-read the entire series in a week despite the rather impressive page count (and the fact that I’m a slow reader), reading through entire days at work and then going home to read some more. At times I actually had to put the books down because I was squirming or making too much noise in my enthusiasm (my supervisor can attest to this). Read this series. You won’t regret it.
To buy the first book for Kindle, go here.
To check out other books by Marissa Meyer, including Fairest, the novella about Queen Levana, and Stars Above, a collection of companion short stories, go here.
To read more about the fictional history of Luna, go to Marissa Meyer’s website here.
To read about the fictional technology’s relation to real and projected technology (I highly recommend the video at the end called “A Day Made of Glass” – so cool!), go to Marissa Meyer’s website here.
If you read The Lunar Chronicles, or if you have a different book that you’d like to recommend, please send your thoughts/review to: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is Rebecca signing off. Over and out!