Okay, so we all know there have been a lot re-envisionings of classic fairy tales in recent years, but Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles is by far one of the most interesting and, frankly, brave additions to the fairy tale fad. The story Meyer’s telling carries on over a series of four books (of which three are out), beginning with the Cinderella story.
Lihn Cinder is a cyborg. She is essentially almost half mechanical; she has a robotic hand and a rusty old mechanical foot (in place of the famous glass slipper) and much of her internal organs are operated by wire and prosthetic nerve impulses – she even has a control panel attached to her CNS at the base of her skull, with fully synthetic eyesight. She can pull up newsfeeds and the net on her eyes. Are you thinking this is awesome yet? Let me keep going.
Set centuries in the future, the world is much the same but divided a little differently, not to mention the colony on the moon, known as Lunar, full of people who can control bioelectricity to manipulate people and change their own appearance. They’re scary as shit, by the way.
Probably thanks to her own cyborg body, Cinder is one of the best mechanics in New Beijing, the capital of the Eastern Commonwealth – made up of what was once Asia, and just so happens to be suffering madly with plague outbreaks. In the midst of this, the heir to the throne of the Commonwealth, Prince Kai, arrives at her stall to have his android fixed and if you think this is where everything changes for Cinder because the hot boy magically appears in her life, boy are you wrong. Sure, it stirs things up a little, but this meeting actually only sets up plots and reasoning behind certain decisions later in the book(s). Cinder’s life actually takes its horrifying change when her youngest and beloved stepsister contracts the plague, and Cinder is given up by her legal guardian (read ‘evil stepmother’) for testing in ever-failing attempts to cure the luetomosis plague, only to make a huge discovery about herself and, strangely, her doctor.
Suddenly Cinder is at the edges of multiple intrigues and quickly being pulled deeper into them, including finding a cure for the increasingly deadly leutomosis, fighting off an unwelcome attraction to a prince, and the fast approaching war between Earth and the moon colony of Luna, lead by their viciously beautiful Queen Levanna, who is desperate to marry Prince Kai for her own malicious purposes.
Cinder was definitely the most unique take on a fairy tale I have ever seen, and more enjoyable than most due to the depth Meyer went into, both within the confines of the original Cinderella story and the series’ world as a whole. She created a vivid and enthralling story filled with political intrigue, the beginnings of love, family, the consequences and fear of war and, maybe most importantly, how society ostracises those who are different. It is very impressive that Meyer manages to touch on all of these issues while building a beautifully varied world around it, constantly throwing in hints and clues as to the larger plot and promise of future adventures.
In terms of plot progression Meyer sticks close to the original story, but does still twist many points and gives the story some shades of grey rather than the black and white tale we are used to, particularly in the heroine herself. This results in more than a few heart-wrenching moments centred around the unexpected adoration between Cinder and her youngest stepsister Peony, the remarkably human-like house robot Iko who longs to be a beautiful woman, and Prince Kai’s loss of his father and too-sudden ascension to the throne.
Two faults I’ll pick at with this novel, though reluctantly, is that I wanted the worldbuilding to be a little wider-reaching in Cinder, as we only see the rather limited confines of Cinder’s personal world, and a few other scenes from other character’s POVs. This, however, is more than addressed in the rest of the series. Secondly, the ‘plot twist’ near the end? Yeah, I’m gonna say it’s not exactly world-shaking for the reader if they’ve been paying attention, and a bit anticlimactic as far as plot twists go. But, trust me, the rest of the novel more than makes up for it. In fact, it may even make it a little more exciting to read along having figured it out long before Cinder ever does.
The next two books introduce us to Cinder’s allies and the rest of the heroines: Scarlet, featuring Little Red-Riding hood, or rather, French, skilled pilot, shooter and all-around badass Scarlet in her red hoodie; Cress, the Rapunzel character, a Lunar computer hacker with an imagination as big as the galaxy and trapped in a satellite orbiting Earth; and finally, Winter, or ‘Snow White’. She is the terrifying Queen Levanna’s stepdaughter and Lunar princess, driving herself insane with the refusal to use her own Lunar abilities. This final book is unreleased, but there’s a lot of excitement surrounding it, not least because it’s the final instalment, and oh yeah, takes place on the moon!
Overall, Cinder is a fantastic début novel from Marissa Meyer and introduces a bloody wonderful story. It is an awesomely new take on fairy tales and carries with it the refreshing message that a girl’s ‘happy ever after’ is not so rigidly defined by a romance, that some things take precedence over it, like actually surviving to reach just your ‘ever after’, never mind the ‘happy’ part, and they don’t always need a flick of a fairy godmother’s wand – sometimes, a girl just has to get out there to the scrap heaps and build her goddamn carriage herself.
4.5/5 Stars, go read this book!