Curse you, Marissa Meyer! (Okay, not really).
This is why I hold back. This is why I don’t let myself start new series. Because THIS happens. I read one book. Do I stop? No. I keep going. And before I know it, I’ve read three novels, three short stories, and I’m pulling my hair out over the fact that THERE ARE NO MORE BOOKS. For now.
Last week, I wrote a review of Cinder. And since then, I gobbled up Scarlet and Cress, plus the stories Glitches, The Little Android, and The Queen’s Army.
For those who aren’t familiar with the series, here’s the general idea: In a world set at some point far into the future, over a hundred years since the end of World War Four, planet Earth is divided into large commonwealths who live at peace with one another — but the Earthen peace is threatened by hostilities from Luna. The moon was settled and colonized generations earlier, and over the generations, the Lunar population has developed its own characteristics, most notably the ability to control bioelectricity — basically, the ability to control actions, perceptions, and emotions of others. This makes Lunars very dangerous and very scary to “normal” Earthens.
The Lunar Chronicles books take classic fairy tales and plunk them down in this futuristic landscape, creating a mash-up that’s surprisingly original — and which surprised me by how good it really is.
Cinder herself (think Cinderella) is our #1 heroine, a lowly cyborg mechanic who’s discovered to have a secret connection to the Lunar world. When she catches the eye of Prince Kai, heir to the throne of the Eastern Commonwealth, a chain of events is set into motion that makes Cinder the planet’s most-wanted fugitive.
By the 2nd book, Cinder is joined in her struggle by Scarlet (Red Riding Hood), the farm girl whose grandmother was involved in a royal deception many years earlier. Scarlet is tracked by bioengineered super-soldier Wolf — but she can’t quite tell if he’s the man of her dreams, or the most dangerous thing she’s ever encountered.
In book 3, Cress (Rapunzel) enters Cinder’s world. Cress has been trapped on a satellite in Earth orbit for seven years, completely alone (and with no sharp objects, hence no haircuts). Cress is a master hacker under the control of the Lunar high command, but her true sympathies lie with Cinder and her ragtag band… and the daring, wise-ass space captain Carswell Thorne who comes along to rescue Cress.
And now? Two more books are scheduled for release in 2015: Fairest, focusing on Luna’s evil Queen Levana, comes out in January, and Winter will be released in November. Both relate to the Snow White story — the queen’s version and then the princess’s.
Why do I love these books? Many reasons, but for starters:
In many fairy tale retellings, the fairy tale structure is too obvious. Sure, maybe the story is set in a different time, but the overall story is preserved and presented more or less intact. In The Lunar Chronicles, the fairy tale framework is a supporting structure, but doesn’t dominate or force the story into a shape that restricts the characters or action in any way. So yes, in Cinder, there’s an unloved stepsister, a ball, and a handsome prince — but beyond that, there’s a plague, the second-class citizen status of cyborgs, and geopolitical maneuvering that goes way beyond a rags-to-riches love story.
Likewise, in Scarlet, we have a girl in a red hoodie seeking her grandmother and menaced by a wolf — but also a secret army, mind control, a Big Brother-ish tracking system, and desperate fugitives. In Cress, there’s a girl with long hair locked away, and a dashing hero who is blinded in the rescue attempt — but also space chases, gun battles, kidnappings, and royal subterfuge. The through-stories are never obscured by the fairy tale structure, so Cinder remains the key person of interest throughout the following books, even though the titles would indicate that they’re not about her.
What maybe doesn’t work for me quite as much is the over-emphasis on romance and coupledom. Clearly, with fairy tales as their base, the romance will not be ignored. Still, is it truly necessary for each book to match up its main character with her soulmate? This, I think, is where the fairy tale retelling maybe gets in the way a bit. With so much action, with the intrigue of this sci-fi world — full of new mechanical wonders, genetic mutations and manipulations, and political danger and strategy — we don’t necessarily need so many supercouples. By the end of Cress, there are three clearly defined couples — all of whom seem to have achieved instant soulmate status — and the love story of Winter has been more than hinted at as well.
The super-coupledom is really a minor issue, though. I’d call it a gnat-sized irritant in the midst of an absolute smorgasbord of sci-fi, futuristic, female-powered adventure. I love the ultra-imaginative world-building in this series, the distinctive voices of the characters, and the way that the shifting narrative viewpoints add on top of one another to keep expanding our knowledge of this world and all its hidden nooks and crannies.
If you’re a curmudgeonly old hold-out (like I was until about a week ago), resisting the hype and refusing to give in to yet another YA series craze… well, come on! If I can do it, so can you! Sure, I’m a little bent out of shape about having to wait for more, but *sigh* I’m sure I can find other books to read in the meantime.
And hey, if I need a dose of more of the Lunar Chronicles, I’m sure there are a thousand or so Pinterest boards to lose a few hours to.
Final note: The three short stories are all available free online, and are definitely worth checking out. Of the three, The Little Android actually broke my heart just a little. It’s a stand-alone, in that it does not include any characters from the main novels, but it is set in the same world. And it just happens to be a retelling of The Little Mermaid — the non-Disney version, which is one of the saddest fairy tales ever.
And now, back to my resolution not to start any more series!
Until the next irresistible one comes along…