Series Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I bought the first instalment of the Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder, on a Bookshop Crawl in London in…February. I picked it up in Foyles when I was with Hanna, waved it around a bit until she assured me that the series was worth starting and then I bought it. Wonder of wonders, I actually then picked it up within a couple of weeks of having bought it.
“Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time“
Cinder is set years in the future, on a version of Earth that is populated by humans and cyborgs and beset by a deadly plague. Cyborgs are treated as secondary citizens, seen as technological abominations and used as experiment subjects as the government of New Beijing hunts for a cure to the plague. Linh Cinder is a cyborg and renowned mechanic, working long hours to support her ungrateful adoptive mother and her daughters and kept outside of her family’s participation in high society balls and social events. Sound vaguely familiar? Rightly so. Each of the instalments of The Lunar Chronicles is loosely based on a popular fairy tale, with Cinder being a take on Cinderella. It will come as little surprise then that the Emperor’s son, Kai, visits Cinder in “disguise” (I think he’s maybe wearing a hoody or something equally non-disguising sounding) to commission her to fix his android and they hit it off. Fortunately, there is enough about this story and the series generally that is unique to stop it feel like a pointless science fiction rehash of the story that we all know and love.
As well as being a completely addictive story in itself, the first instalment sets up the main story arc for the series, the growing tension between Earth and its human inhabitants and the Moon and the ‘Lunars’ who live there. Lunars can use ‘glamours’ and change others’ perceptions of themselves and control the will of humans, making said humans understandably wary. Their queen, Levana, is deranged, set on intergalactic domination and pretty damn creepy (and one of the most interesting characters of the series for it). I was surprised at times by just how dark some of the twists were. Later books are grittier than Cinder lets on and focus ever more on the political wranglings of Kai and Levana. It’s tense stuff and the fact that Meyer doesn’t let even the main characters come out of every scrape unscathed really kept my interest.
The characters in this series are almost all wonderful. It’s a refreshing change to read a YA series that puts female characters centre stage as gifted mechanics, hackers and pilots without being heavy handed about making a Point. Cinder’s group is balanced and the dialogue is sharp and snappy, helping set up relationships that are all so much fun to read. There are romances (perhaps inevitably for a YA series) but I actually liked and bought into most of them. For the most part, they develop over time and are based on friendship and loyalty, feeling appropriately, wistfully fairy tale-esque without being completely unrealistic.
Every single book is fast-paced and completely absorbing. When I was reading every single one, the pages and time flew by. I bought Scarlet (a take on Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (a techy version of Rapunzel) and Winter (Snow White minus the dwarves) before I’d even finished Cinder and I regret nothing. Each book is longer than the one before it, with the series culminating in an epic 827 page tome. I never felt that the books were labouring, though, and none feel like filler. There’s easily enough plot to spread across the four books and I flew through each one. My favourite one was Winter, because I love the damaged title character, Princess Winter (“…prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken“), and because the tensions of the preceding three books all come to a head in a brutal whirlwind of a story. The ending might not have been absolutely perfect but it was pretty bloody close.
Overall: The Lunar Chronicles might not be the most sophisticated series but it’s one of the most fun I’ve read in a while. So much so that I read all four within the space of a few months and I quite fancy picking up the novellas in the series. If you’re looking for a story to really get swept away in over what’s left of the summer, I’d vouch for this one.