The Lunar Chronicles: Book Review

So far I’ve only reviewed individual books but The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is a completed series, including four novels, a prequel novella, and a collection of short stories, though I’ll only be reviewing the novels. I suppose you’d class the series as science fiction, as it’s set in the future and none of the plot would be possible without advanced technology, and it was because of this science fiction element that I was reluctant to read The Lunar Chronicles for quite a while. Eventually, though, I was swayed by the hype (and after all, I just can’t resist fairy tale retellings).

The series focusses on Cinder, a cyborg mechanic who lives in New Beijing in the Eastern Commonwealth. Cinder’s world is threatened by a deadly, incurable disease called letumosis – nicknamed ‘the plague’ – and by Queen Levana, the ruler of the Lunars, a moon colony of people with the ability to alter perceptions, who wishes to extend her control to Earth. Closer to home, Cinder dreams of escaping from her hateful stepmother to create her own life where she wouldn’t be discriminated against for being a cyborg. But a strange twist of events leads Cinder to make some startling discoveries that (as cliched as it may sound) dramatically change Cinder’s life forever.

As I mentioned previously. these are retellings of classic fairy tales, with each book focusing on a different one: Cinder is Cinderella, Scarlet is Little Red Riding Hood, Cress is Rapunzel, and Winter is Snow White. While this may make the plotlines of the individual books a little predictable, the story that Meyer creates in order to weave these stories together is rather original and wonderfully exciting. Each book also introduces a new protagonist, whom each book is named after, and who are incredibly unique and vivid. I think the characters are my favourite part of this series: they are extremely well developed, and Meyer’s wonderful writing really makes them come alive. They’re also all involved in some very cute romances – and not a single dreaded love triangle in sight!

Personally, I would say that Cress is my favourite of the four books – probably because she, a naive Lunar programmer with a huge imagination, may well be my favourite character;  – but I do love all of them. Scarlet is probably my least favourite; it’s a little slow and takes a while to get into, and it took me a little longer to bond with the main character – a tough and fiesty farmer/pilot from France. Compare that to Cinder, which had me hooked literally from the first line (a very good thing to do, in the first book in a series). What I really loved about Cinder – both the book, and the chapters written from her perspective throughout the series – was the unique point of view she has as a cyborg with interfaces in her brain. I can’t help but think that her sections must have been really interesting (and fun!) to write.

Another thing I love about this series is the example it sets to the teenage girls who it is primarily aimed at (though that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by anyone of any age or gender). All our main characters are incredibly talented and are not restricted to stereotypically ‘female’ roles: Cinder, for example, is the best mechanic in New Beijing, and I’ve already mentioned the career choices of Scarlet and Cress. Meanwhile, Winter remains strong, brave, and incredibly cheerful while battling with mental illness (though admittedly Lunar Sickness isn’t a mental illness that exists in the real world), but this aspect of her defines neither her personality nor her storyline. Also it’s nice to see that the ‘fairest in all the land’ is a Black girl rather than one of the white models we’re so used to seeing on magazine covers. So although some of these characters might be princesses, none of them are damsels in distress, and all of them are not only believable and lovable but also great role models.

One of the few drawbacks of these books is the depiction of New Beijing, and by this I mean that there isn’t really one. Although we are told that Cinder is set here, there is little evidence of this; there is little to no worldbuilding, so New Beijing never comes alive. This means that if Cinder is praised as being “diverse” and “representative” for being set in an Asian country, it shouldn’t be: any “representation” within this book is very superficial. So if you’re looking for a book set in China, either to see your own culture represented in fiction or to learn about Chinese culture, I would suggest you look elsewhere.

Otherwise, I highly recommend The Lunar Chronicles to:

  • anyone who loves fairy tale retellings
  • anyone who likes science fiction without too much science
  • anyone who loves books with characters that stay with you for years after you read them
  • anyone who loves a nice, cute romantic subplot
  • anyone who is looking for a light-hearted but exciting read.
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