I have contemplated reviewing The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, time and time again but have always shied away at the last minute because I cannot possibly articulately express how much I love this book series. So if you are reading this, I have finally succeeded.
Fairytale retellings are one of my favourite genres so it was a surprise that I did not pick up this series until a week or so before the release of the third instalment. I admit that its popularity kept me at bay because historically I have not felt the same way about hugely popular series like this. But mostly I just need to come to the decision to pick up and read a book independently and without undue influence. I do not know what finally made me pick up the series but once I did there was no looking back.
The Lunar Chronicles compromises of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter, deconstructions of Cinderella, The Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves respectively. It is gorgeously constructed space opera which borrows from steampunk, dystopian and science fiction.
Needless to say spoilers may follow.
In hindsight Cinder is probably the weakest of the quartet given that it is predictable despite the clever update Meyer gives to the classic tale. That being said, it is gripping none-the-less, because Meyer’s Cinderella takes place in a plague-ridden New Beijing that is under the threat of invasion from the mysterious inhabitants of the moon, the Lunars. Her Cinderella, Cinder, is a gifted mechanic who is a little more than a slave to her stepmother and stepsisters because she is a cyborg.
Both Cinder and Kai are wonderful characters, relatable despite the former being a cyborg and the latter the heir to a futuristic Beijing. Their romance was sweet despite its predictability and building intrigue behind the Lunars’ motives makes it an engaging and compelling introduction to the series. However, it is the follow ups to Cinder that makes The Lunar Chronicles one of the most beloved YA series of recent times.
Scarlet picks up where Cinder left off with our favourite cyborg imprisoned and plotting an escape with an unlikely ally: Captain Carswell Thorne. Meanwhile, on other side of the globe, Paris to be exact, Scarlet Benoit is searching for her missing grandmere with the aid of a mysterious street-fighter who goes by the name of Wolf. And all the while, Queen Levena is revving up her nefarious plans to bind Emperor Kai in matrimony and, like all good villains, take over the world…and the moon.
Scarlet is probably my most favourite instalment out of the quartet mainly because I adore the external and internal dichotomy of Scarlet and Wolf and the unlikely pairing of the two.
Scarlet, simply put, is fierce. A red-hoodie wearing, gun-toting red-head, she is all shoot first, ask questions later. Wolf, who is fierce appearance, is actually of a shy and quiet disposition. He is completely adorable if you ignore the little factoid that he may just rip your throat out. Their hesitant/cautious meet-cute and slow-burning romance was brilliantly developed and rather swoon-worthy, despite its complexities. I must admit I enjoyed it far more than Kai and Cinder’s relationship which was rather conventional in the circumstances.
Where Cinder’s narrative was confined to her point of view, the multiple POVs in Scarlet made the narrative multi-faceted, the various vantage points creating a very wholesome reading experience. I was equally riveted by the all the characters journeys and found myself looking forward to when they’d converge.
Finally, the introduction of Captain Thorne, certainly spiced things up and bridged the second and third instalments cleverly, but more on Captain Thorne later.
Cress opens with Cinder and Captain Thorne, now fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. The foursome are still vigorously pursing to overthrow evil Queen Levana. Their best hope: Cress, a lunar, imprisoned on a satellite since she was child, for the purposes of monitoring Earth and perpetuating Levena’s world domination plans. But there’s a catch, she has just been commissioned to track down Cinder and Thorne (for whom she harbours a major crush) by Levena. When a daring rescue plan for Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom but it comes at a high price.
Cress was surprisingly an improvement on Cinder and Scarlet, an arguably tighter narrative with a stronger focus on the development of the individual leads.
Cress is a technological genius and an adorable combination of sweet, naive, terrified, quietly brave and immensely lonely. For someone so disenfranchised, her belief in people is unshakeable. She did not allow the destruction of her preconceived notions to destroy her, instead she learnt from it and strengthened he resolve. She has a lot of growing up to do in limited time and I loved seeing her negotiate that mind field. I particularly enjoyed her reconciling her feelings for Thorne with the realities of Thorne. She is a hopeless romantic and while it was painful to see her dreams of a fairytale romance being dashed, it was also harrowing to see her deal with it so pragmatically.
Carswell Thorne is easily the most likeable character of the series, exuding all the charms of your favourite space cowboys, whether it be Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds or Peter Quill. For me, he was not dissimilar to Flynn Rider from Disney’s reimagining of Rapunzel, Tangled. Therefore, before I knew it Zachary Levi was delivering his lines in my mind palace. Carswell’s journey from a loveable outlaw/rogue is also not dissimilar to Flynn’s, in that he is forced time and time again to re-consider his materialistic priorities once his journey become inextricably linked to Cress’s.
In short, if you, like me, loved Tangled, you are already on the Cress/Thorne bandwagon whether you have started to read the book or not.
Scarlet is not present as much in Cress, mostly because she has a larger role in Winter. Her absence has a profound effect on Wolf. I initially found it unbecoming of him but ultimately I decided that it was sort of cute. That being said, there were times when I just wanted to shake him and scream, ‘pull yourself together, man!’.
Cinder’s efforts into furthering her efforts to overthrow Levena progresses simultaneously to Cress and Thorne’s journeys and further connections are revealed between the characters to solidify their intertwining destinies.
Introductions to Princess Winter and her loyal guard Jacin at the conclusion of Cress set the scene for Winter.
Winter, if you have not guessed, introduces Princess Winter who is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness. Despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana. As Levana’s enviousness for Winter reaches a deadly fever pitch, she and Jacin join forces with Cinder and the gang to launch a revolution and win a war against Levena atrocities once and for all.
Winter probably was a slower read than than its predecessors in that it had its fair share of highs and lows. The highs were Winter and Jacin, Wolf and Scarlet, Cress and Thorne and Thorne and everyone else.
A GoodReads reviewer described Winter as ‘certifiably adorable’ and I have to agree. I loved her child-like playful personality, a contradiction to her abusive past and painful present. Her relationship with Jacin was so weirdly wonderful, both equally stubborn and equally loyal to each other.
It was nice to delve a little into Wolf’s past and Meyer certainly made his reunion with Scarlett worth the wait.
Cress and Thorne’s relationship continued to evolve and it was brilliant to see Cress blossom into a more confident version of herself and outgrow her crush on Thorne. Equally brilliant was the marked change in Thorne feelings for Cress.
Thorn’s interactions with the rest of the ensemble was also quite precious, especially Jacin. I loved their dynamic so much that I wish Meyer had written a spin-off featuring the two of them as leads in a buddy-cop kind of storyline. Sigh. I girl can dream.
The lows: Kai continued to become less crucial to the revolution while Cinder’s repetitive doubts about leading the revolution got old, quickly.
The ending was slightly rushed and a little too convenient for my liking but deconstructed or not, The Lunar Chronicles was a fairytale at the end of the day and they all lived happily ever after.
In summary, Marissa Meyer is my spirit animal. I have read copious amounts of re-tellings and none have given me as much pleasure and glee as devouring The Lunar Chronicles. Apart of the cleverly deconstructed tales the diverse characterisations and the intricate intermingling of the tales/characters are what makes this series such a winner. So, if there is only one overrated YA series you read these holidays, make sure it is The Lunar Chronicles.