Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Lunar Chronicles, Part 1

Series: The Lunar Chronicles
Titles: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter
                + companion novella Fairest
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA Science-fiction Fairytale Retelling

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Cinder:

The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean.

Tossing the screwdriver onto the table, Cinder gripped her heel and yanked the foot from its socket. A spark singed her fingertips and she jerked away, leaving the foot to dangle from a tangle of red and yellow wires.

She slumped back with a relieved groan. A sense of release hovered at the end of those wires—freedom. Having loathed the too-small foot for four years, she swore to never put the piece of junk back on again. She just hoped Iko would be back soon with its replacement.

A lost princess and her odd assortment of rebel friends seek to stop a powerful, mind-controlling queen from conquering earth.

The Craft: I fell in love with the premise of the The Lunar Chronicles from the first time I bumped across Cinder over three years ago. After all, fairy tales have captured my heart since I was a little girl (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, anyone?), and science fiction fascinates the more intellectual side of my brain. So a cyborg Cinderella? How could I resist?
And The Lunar Chronicles didn’t disappoint. Each book focuses on a different fairy tale (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White, respectively), incorporating in unique ways the most recognizable elements from the original tales. Yet the overarching science fiction world is carefully detailed, pulling from some of the best-known devices (space travel, cyborgs, androids, genetic engineering).
If that had been all the stories had to their credit, I probably would have still enjoyed the books. But Ms. Meyer didn’t stop there. The characters are complexly drawn: The good guys are likeable but flawed; the villains are evil but weirdly understandable without being sympathetic. (The latter is especially true in Fairest, the story behind the main villain. Usually I hate villain stories because they toy with my emotions and sympathies to the point I want to justify their evil. But although Fairest helps us understand the evil queen, the evil is still portrayed as evil and we remain repulsed by her actions.)
The plot is a bit slow to get going in Cinder due to all the foundation to be laid; I also was a little frustrated Cinder didn’t put together what was going on sooner. But once we got past that, the pace picks up and drives ahead at a reckless, page-turning rate, slowing only on rare occasions, long enough for readers to catch their breath. The overarching story also adds an unpredictable element to the familiar fairy tales, and indeed, Ms. Meyer masterfully uses our knowledge of the original tales to make us worry even more over the characters.
What else can I say? By topping off the whole series with a satisfying conclusion (an area many series fail in), The Lunar Chronicles is one of the best secular YA series out there.

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