by Marissa Meyer
**The review is a bit long. Sorry!
In anticipation of the 10th Anniversary Edition of Cinder (which is out today…woohoo), I binge The Lunar Chronicles. It was a great reason to knock all four books off my TBR. The Lunar Chronicles consists of 4 books: Cinder, Scarlett, Cress, and Winter. Since their release, additional books and novellas have been added to the series including a graphic novel duology featuring my favorite android Iko, the Lunar queen’s story in Fairest, and an anthology that wraps up some of the characters’ stories. There is a “choose your adventure” book for Cinder as well, which was just released. I will be grabbing that soon.
Cinder is a cyborg. She leads a dreary existence with a stepmother who despises her and treats her like a second-class citizen. Her life changes irrevocably after her stepsister gets sick and Cinder becomes caught in an intergalactic war between Earth and the Lunar Kingdom. As she fights to save Earth from the clutches of the Lunar Queen, she makes allies along the way: Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. They’ll have to work together if they hope to win against a ruthless foe.
Cinder’s story is the central focus of the series, but the other characters play crucial supporting roles. I appreciated the way the story unfolds throughout the series as it expands to include the points of view of new characters while ensuring prior characters continue to be a vital part of the books. Cinder, for instance, remains a central character to all four books with chapters dedicated to her viewpoint even as the story changes to a new fairy tale and focuses on a different couple. Scarlet is the focus of the next book and remains a part of the series with chapters also told from her point of view in the subsequent books. This continues with Cress and finally Winter. It’s important to note the books are not standalone despite the focus on a different fairytale.
WRITING AND PLOT
Binging the series allowed me to experience how Meyer’s writing evolves from Cinder to Winter. With each book one part of a whole, Cinder is very much an introduction. While Cinder’s story, which spans the entire series, is my favorite, her book is not as exciting. The book is slower in place, and it’s only toward the end that it becomes completely absorbing. Meyer ends the book brilliantly, and I jumped right into the next one.
The writing in Cinder is a bit different, more austere in its descriptions as compared to the later books. The differences were immediate as soon as I began Scarlet. The writing is considerably better, and the plot and pace pick up considerably as the story becomes more complex–it becomes more than just a cyborg on the run. For the most part, the rest of the books keep pace with Scarlet.
Cress is probably my favorite of the books with the pieces and our ragtag team coming together. The tension grows as a showdown becomes inevitable. Additionally, the romance in this book is a slow burn and I completely loved it. Cinder’s story might be my favorite, but the best romance is Cress’s. Thorne was my favorite leading man.
It’s in Winter when there is much more action. This one is nearly as interesting as Cress but begins to drag a bit. It takes a long while to get to the final showdown. There are several setbacks and I wish one or two had been removed. I also need to mention that throughout the series some of the dialogue is cringe-inducing. It made me shrivel up inside and ask, “did the character just say that?”
I understand why the series is so popular, and why it’s deserving of a 10th Anniversary Edition for the first book. It’s a unique reimagining of each fairy tale that allows our heroines greater agency in their outcomes. Cinderella (Cinder) certainly doesn’t wait for her prince nor does Rapunzel (Cress) or Snow White (Winter). Red Riding Hood (Scarlet) is nearly as dangerous as the wolf. They are their own heroes with their romantic counterparts acting as supporting characters.
Different themes also come to light. One of the most prominent is cyborg rights. While the books don’t delve deeply into it, Cinder questions her lack of rights and being viewed as less than human. What does it mean to have rights? Who should have rights? Who gets to decide? This was always in the back of my mind while I was reading.
While Cinder has the most compelling story, her journey is spread throughout the series so it takes longer for her resolutions in her story to come to light. Even when the book ends, it’s not entirely satisfying. Getting to know Cinder and seeing her growth requires reading the entire series. This also means that Cinder and her love interest spend more time apart than together, making her romance the least satisfying. Reading the anthology will help a little and I hope Cinder’s Adventure will lead to a more fulfilling ending.
(Individual ratings: Cinder – 3 stars; Scarlet – 3 stars; Cress – 4 stars; Winter – 4 stars)