Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. 2012. New York, New York. Feiwell and Friends Imprint, Macmillan.ISBN: 978-0312641894
Meyer, Marissa. Scarlet. 2013. New York, New York. Feiwell and Friends Imprint, Macmillan.ISBN: 978-0312642969
Meyer, Marissa. Cress. 2014. New York, New York. Feiwell and Friends Imprint, Macmillan.ISBN: 978-0312642976
Meyer, Marissa. Winter. 2015. New York, New York. Feiwell and Friends Imprint, Macmillan.ISBN: 978-0312642983
The Lunar Chronicles takes place in a future world in which the moon has been colonized and the people who live there are called Lunars. The people of earth have a tenuous relationship with the Lunar Colony. It could lead to all-out war. Most lunars are feared in the Eastern Commonwealth where teenage mechanic, Cinder, lives in the City of New Beijing. More despised than lunars are cyborgs. Cinder lives with constant prejudice thrust upon her by her neighbors, her adoptive mother and sisters, and the public in general. About 30% of her body is mechanical, and this causes her no end of trouble. She works on herself as well as her trusty android, Iko.
One morning, Prince Kai comes to her market stall asking her to fix his android. Cinder goes out the next day for parts to fix it, and while she’s out her younger step-sister Peony contracts Letumosis, which is a highly contagious plague that is sweeping earth. Peony and Cinder are taken to the Quarantine area where plague victims are watched over by the head of plague research, Dr. Erland. Desperate to find a cure, Dr. Erland is shocked that Cinder recovers from the plague almost overnight. As Cinder learns more about her background she comes to discover that she may have a claim to the lunar throne. The Lunar queen, Levana, is known for her ruthlessness and cruelty. Cinder slowly learns to use her lunar gift, (the ability to manipulate bioelectric energy), and she assembles a team to take on Queen Levana and stop the war.
As the series progresses Meyer builds the suspense, action, and drama. Each book focuses on a different character with Cinder remaining important to the plot. Each book also contains fairy tale elements: Cinder, Cinderella, Scarlet, Little Red Riding Hood, Cress, Rapunzel, Winter, and Snow White. Each character is well developed from the sugary love-struck android Iko to the Han Solo-like Captain Thorne. The series has a great supporting cast, heroes and villains alike. It’s easy to get to know the slang and sci-fi elements in the series. Meyer constructs a fully realized futuristic world with enough familiar things to keep readers grounded. For example, Port screens are the new cell phones.
The first book focuses on Cinder and her struggles with letumosis, her burgeoning love for Prince Kai, and trying to gain acceptance from her cruel stepmother, Audrey. Cinder is resourceful, brave, and a compelling female lead. Meyer makes Cinder fallible, and she’s a more relatable character this way. However, she also gives Cinder the determination she needs to take on the Lunar Queen.
The second book tells the story of Scarlet, a feisty, irritable farm girl from rural France who certainly doesn’t expect to be thrust into interplanetary struggle. When her grandmother goes missing, Wolf, a genetically modified soldier of the lunar queen offers to help Scarlet. She doesn’t want to trust him let alone fall in love with him. As she and Wolf unravel the mystery of why her grandmother was kidnapped they find clues to the lost lunar princess, Selene. Scarlet and Wolf are quite the unlikely pair. Scarlet is frank, honest, and independent, while Wolf is brooding, secretive, and tormented. Eventually they become important allies of Cinder, and they travel together in Captain Thorne’s stolen space ship, the Rampion, eventually finding Scarlet’s grandmother. The Rampion takes on a character of its own similar to the ships in Star Trek, Star Wars, and the cult favorite Firefly.
Cress, the third book in the series features a skilled lunar hacker who lives on a satellite orbiting Earth. Cress has been living on the satellite since she was taken from her family by Queen Levana’s head Thaumaturge, Sybil Mira. Cinder and the gang try to rescue Cress who has been secretly helping them for some time. Scarlet is captured in the fray, and taken to Luna for interrogation. Captain Thorne and Cress crash to earth in the satellite. In the desert, they survive by force of will. The two become very close, and Cress tries to get to know who he really is versus her crush on him from her research. Thorne tries to maintain his swaggery criminal veneer, but being reliant on Cress for most of the book starts to humble him. Cress chips away at her fantasy and forms a real relationship with Throne while learning social skills and becoming more capable. They help each other survive, and it’s hilarious to see them tackle each obstacle together. Once back with Cinder, they dash to kidnap Kai so he can’t marry Queen Levana. Captain Thorne provides much of the comic relief in the series.
The conclusion of the series focuses on Winter, Queen Levana’s stepdaughter and princess of Luna. Winter is plagued by madness because she refuses to use her lunar gift. She is disgusted by the way her peers use their gifts for vanity, torture, and cruelty. She refuses to be like them, and suffers as a result. Winter’s bodyguard Jacin is her close friend. They have been protecting each other for years from Levana’s court, and the Queen herself. When Jacin finds out that there might be a device to safely suppress the lunar gift, he immediately thinks of Winter. It’s one of the primary reasons that Jacin and Winter have chosen to support Cinder in the rebellion against Levana. As a new ruler of Luna arises there is much hope for all the characters in the future. The series comes to a close in a very satisfying way, as Meyer resolves all important plot points very well.
There are a few companion books for the series too. Stars Above, a short story collection, is available from Meyer. If you want to know how Queen Levana became a villain you can read her story called Fairest. While it doesn’t excuse her behavior, the reader will gain some key insight into her character. Coming in 2017 is a graphic novel focused on the android, Iko, called Wires and Nerves.
“There’s a lot of moving parts in this fresh spin on ‘Cinderella,’ the first in a four-book series.” ―Booklist
“The author has stepped up the intrigue and plot from the first novel, and readers will be eagerly awaiting the next.” ―School Library Journal
“Once again, Meyer offers up a science fiction fantasy page-turner that salutes women’s intelligence and empowerment. . . . Old and new romances, unfinished story lines, and the prognostication of wartime horrors all pave the way for Meyer’s much anticipated next installment, Winter, expected in 2015.” ―Booklist
“In this final book in the Lunar Chronicles, the stepdaughter of the wicked Queen Levana joins Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress to defeat the Queen and restore Cinder―aka Selene―as the rightful ruler of Luna. Yes, it’s another one of Meyer’s very fractured fairy tales, in which she offers a new amalgam of Grimm’s fairy tales, science fiction, violence, women’s lib, and romance. Our Snow White stand-in, Winter, is beautiful in spite of facial scars, kind to all she encounters, mentally fragile, and in love with her lowly guard, Jacin . . . Meyer’s series has sold well and achieved a degree of acclaim. This conclusion’s cinder-block size should only drum up further interest.” ―Booklist, starred review
Book Clubs or discussion groups could talk about the prejudice that cyborgs face. They could discuss what makes Levana’s regime so oppressive, and how she could have made better choices along the way. Queen Levana herself is deeply self-conscious about her looks, and uses her Lunar Gift to project what she wishes she looked like. Why is being defined by beauty still present in our society? What would we choose to look like if we could project a certain facade to others, and why? What problems would our world face if people could really manipulate the bioelectricity of others?
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Reviewed by Beth K.