By: Julia Sikorski Roehsner
*Warning – minor spoilers
Readers of ‘Renegades’ or ‘Heartless’ by Marissa Meyer may be familiar with ‘The Lunar Chronicles,’ written by the same author. ‘The Lunar Chronicles’ is a series of sci-fi fantasy young adult books based on Grimms’ fairy tales.
There are four main books in the series—‘Cinder,’ ‘Scarlet,’ ‘Cress,’ ‘Winter’—along with an accompanying book of short stories (‘Stars Above’), a villain backstory novella (‘Fairest’), and two graphic novels (volumes one and two of ‘Wires and Nerve’).
The first book, ‘Cinder,’ is a loose retelling of the classic story ‘Cinderella’ set in a futuristic version of planet Earth, focusing on New Beijing. Technology has advanced, and hover cars and androids are parts of daily life.
The future is not without its strife. On the faraway moon dwells a more developed race of humans, the Lunars. Earthens live in constant terror of the Lunars, as the Lunars are capable of manipulating human bioelectricity.
As well, in an eerie reflection of today’s COVID-19 virus, a plague known as letumosis has swept across the world, and a cure has not yet been developed.
Within this tangled web is a single girl by the name of Linh Cinder. Cinder knows nothing of her past and is forced to live with her abusive stepmother, who despises the fact that Cinder is cyborg—parts of her body replaced by metal and wires. One of the few bright spots in Cinder’s otherwise dismal life is her talent in mechanics.
Cinder’s world changes when the soon-to-be-emperor of the Commonwealth stops by her repair booth asking for help. Kai doesn’t know that Cinder is a cyborg, and has no reason to believe that she’s any less than a “normal” human. Impossibly, the prince and the outcast begin to fall in love.
Unfortunately, nothing is that simple. After Cinder’s kind and gentle stepsister, Peony, contracts letumosis, her stepmother volunteers Cinder for antidote testing, a certain death sentence for Cinder. Yet Cinder discovers that she is inexplicably immune.
Meanwhile, Prince Kai is struggling to balance his nation’s needs and the demands of the ruthless Lunar queen. The last thing he wants to do is marry the power-hungry Levana, but with her tantalizing offer of a letumosis cure, for the good of the Commonwealth Kai can’t justify saying no. Even if it means risking his life. If only he could find the mysterious Princess Selene, the rightful heir to the Lunar throne who supposedly died years ago, but is thought by some to be alive and in hiding.
I quite enjoyed ‘Cinder.’ I was a little overwhelmed at first by the plunge into Cinder’s world, but as the reader is introduced to characters and their motivations, the story breaks itself into bite-sized, understandable pieces. The protagonists are likable, and it was easy for me to sympathize with them from the beginning.
I also liked Meyer’s writing style. It’s not overly complex, but it also isn’t simplified to the point of being boring. It was interesting to have the story mainly focused on one character, but to hear from multiple points of view. I found the writing to be appropriate for a fantasy novel with a teenage cast and a young adult target audience.
The plot line of ‘Cinder’ definitely drew me in, but as a reader who generally doesn’t see what’s coming next, I found many of the major plot twists far too predictable. Guessing them before they were revealed certainly didn’t ruin the story for me, but the surprise was obviously lacking. I would mainly attribute the predictability of ‘Cinder’ to it being Meyer’s debut novel.
In the first book of ‘The Lunar Chronicles,’ Marissa Meyer weaves a story of love and war, tension and heartbreak, and leaves the reader desperate to find out what happens next. I give it a four out of five star rating.