This series. I still feel giddy thinking about it.
Read if you… love sci-fi + fantasy | crave crafty fairytale retellings | dream of a badass-slash-supportive-slash-diverse-slash-funny crew that is also a group of friends that is also a found family | want romance (there’s no denying that it’s a core topic) | have I already mentioned smart af fairytale retellings?
Why I read it: Everyone and their mom had read the series and LOVED it. And it’s a collection of fairytale retellings. And it’s set in the future and was rumored to have empowered female main characters (I confirm). Why should I have NOT read it?
The Lunar Chronicles is a YA series of sci-fi fairytales retellings set in a futuristic version of our universe, and has for characters earthens, cyborgs, androids, and a race of moon colonists called Lunars.
The series begins at a rather critical political moment and follows the story of a group of teenagers who will try to set things right in the world by facing an evil queen and her wicked governing ways, a lethal global disease, and many other obstacles – such as forbidden love.
Death, disease, blood, detachable appendages (of a cyborg), insanity, burns, mental abuse, forced isolation, xenophobia, physical abuse, gun use, lab experiments, family separation, minority oppression, other possible triggers
Third-person POV. Sometimes it jumped from focusing on a character to another one mid-chapter and back again, which was a bit frustrating
I read this series so breathlessly fast that I couldn’t really say what part belongs to what book. They’ve all delightfully blended into one single amazing story in my head.
There was a sort of crescendo in many aspects of the story: in the location of the action (drop a comment if you know what I mean), in the swelling of the crew (arguably one of the best group of friends in YA fiction), in the romance (ajkhfksjdhf), and in the stakes (*overly-dramatic inhale*).
The humor, sass, sarcasm, friendship, solidarity, love, support… Gosh, how I enjoyed the characters. And the ships. About the ships. Meyer always found a clever way to connect them to the original ships. And I STAN. Also, they are all more or less examples of healthy relationships (I didn’t like the one in Scarlet much, but to each their own).
I adored how details from the original fairytales were incorporated into the cyberpunk world. That’s what I love the most in retellings and, aces, Marissa Meyer seems to have a knack for it. (I cannot wait to read Heartless.)
Aside from that, there’s intergalactic politics and laws, History that makes sense to back up the reorganization of the Earth, a compelling system of society organization, and the evident analogies for mistreated minorities and outcasts.
Even if there aren’t LGBTQIA+ characters in the series, it isn’t hard to relate to the way shells and cyborgs have to hide what makes them different.
The series has my top-3 favorite things in books: a fast pace most of the times, information that isn’t dumped on the reader all at once or in indigestible chunks, and coherence in the plot and dynamics. The whole story just flowed. Of course, some things were a biiiit predictable, but hey, it would be unfair to expect anything else from retellings.
I just remembered that I don’t usually enjoy outer-space stories… Which is to say.
Another plus: everything ended up fitting in somewhere! Many little details that would have been dismissed as unimportant were later picked up to lead to major events/revelations! The foreshadowing in this series was- aklfshdkjljgdfgh!
I’ve seen many people saying they aren’t satisfied with the ending, but I beg to disagree. By the end of the story, even if some closures are idealistic and perhaps too hopeful to sound like something our cynical world might consider, permanent scars remain – metaphorically, euphemistically, and literally – and the characters do their best to find a way to normalize their life bearing those scars. They don’t get erased by magic.
Let’s be honest… We would have been very angry at Meyer if she hadn’t given us a well-deserved ending after everything the characters (and us readers with them) faced.
Expected rating: ★★★★★
Actual rating: ★★★★★
The first book in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer! See where the futuristic YA fairytale saga all began, with the tale of a teenage cyborg who must fight for Earth’s survival against villains from outer space.
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
With high-stakes action and a smart, resourceful heroine, Cinder is a Cinderella retelling that is at once classic and strikingly original.
Review: Holy Molly, I breathed this book. In two days.
As the introduction to a well-built futuristic world, Cinder knocked me off my feet. It felt fresh and new and perfect. I tend to prefer when initial conflicts are kept to a small, routine-y scale in series that are set in a new world, so this was a great first book in my opinion.
The prose was very agreeable and I never found words that I thought did not belong in the story or in the mouth of the characters. The chapters were quick to read, which added to the flying-like experience.
I instantly liked Cinder because she is a mistreated female MC who deserves better, but she is neither wallowing nor brooding like most mistreated female MC are. She is tough and smart and resourceful and a beautiful soul, but also a teenager with teenager feelings.
Also, peeps, Iko? She’s so funny and quirky and absolutely does not compute when human BS is involved. Iconic. Add to that that Kai and Peony and Torin are well-rounded, likeable characters with a realistic personality and that’s already more than most YA novels could boast. I love how I hate Adri.
The retelling details I liked the most (spoilers)First, Cinder being a cyborg and thus an outcast, the reason why her step-mother hates her.
Second, I kid you not when I say that (because of all the action, of course) I hadn’t realized that the Peace Ball was the equivalent of the Prince’s ball in the original tale.
The discarded dress and the orange old car… They just did something to my feelings, okay?
Obviously, the falling foot.
And, well, Kai being the prince/emperor and all (the main tie to the original ship).
Expected rating: ★★★★★
Actual rating: ★★★★✰ (where are half stars when one needs them?)
Reveal synopsis (mild spoilers from Cinder)
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
Review: I don’t usually give half-star ratings, but I can’t help feeling like this book deserves a 4,5. It did not strike me as much as the first in the series, but still, I loved it!!
To be fair, Little Red Riding Hood is one of the fairytales I like the least, so I was bound to be a little less excited about this one. However, the beginning frankly caught me. Learning more about the cyberpunk (yet somehow vintage) society organization in those first pages made me feel a swirl of longing in my stomach. I do love to read about a solidly-built world.
The pacing was still mostly brisk, but I felt a tad disconnected from Scarlet’s action in some moments. I admit I was even a bit bored on a couple of occasions (I wasn’t joking when I said what I said about Little Red Riding Hood), but that feeling didn’t last much. Sometimes, the prose and description were a bit heavier than in Cinder?
There was an increase in the characters & POV departments. I first thought that Thorne was an utter idiot (because of that initial description) so it took me a bit to warm up to him. He’s hilarious and now I love him. Wolf… Wolf is a softie. And Scarlet is one of those overly-aggressive female MC that I usually don’t like, but she was surrounded by so much good stuff that I didn’t pay much attention to how irritating she could be.
The retelling details I liked the most (spoilers)The grandma who’s gone missing and how she was actually captured by wolves (I mean, the tour de force).
Scarlet and her red hoodie, because hello.
Scarlet accepting the “wolf’s” help (not really how it happened in the original story, but ya know).
And I just wanted to say this here, but I’ve a hard time imagining Scarlet’s alter ego picking flowers while about in the woods.
Expected rating: ★★★★✰
Actual rating: ★★★★★
Reveal synopsis (spoilers from previous books)
Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.
Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.
When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.
Review: I cannot compute… My love… For this book…
This is perhaps the book that touched me the most from the series. It felt more real than any of the others (as real as cyberpunk-fantasy, intergalactic stories can be). Why? Because it had more small-scale conflicts, and it is easier to feel connected to the characters if what they face has more chances of being similar to a situation you might find yourself in.
In Cress, we welcomed two additional main characters: one I won’t mention because no spoilers in this house, and the one after whom the book is named. How have I lived for 18 years without having Cress in my life? The girl is precious, bubbly, lovely, but most of al A DARN CAPABLE SMART BADASS, okay? She’s a break from the shy girls who always end up being ridiculous. She’s not. She’s sometimes naive, but just rightly so; let’s not forget that she was cut from society.
And this one old man that is not a MC but is still a crucial character? His story and the closure he got had me crying. As did Thorne’s gift to Iko, while for a totally different reason.
The retelling details I liked the most (spoilers)Cress is held captive… By a mistress who uses her for her incredible abilities… And who’s the only one who can access her ‘cage’…
In the original-original tale, the prince was blinded when falling from Rapunzel’s tower. Blinded by Thornes. Ah whoops, sorry, thorns.
Also, his vision was healed by Rapunzel’s tears… or drops…
Expected rating: ★★★★✰
Actual rating: ★★★★✰
Reveal synopsis (spoilers from previous books)
Princess Winter is admired for her grace, kindness and beauty, despite the scars on her face. She’s said to be even more breath-taking than her stepmother, Queen Levana…
When Winter develops feelings for the handsome palace guard, Jacin, she fears the evil Queen will crush their romance before it has a chance to begin.
But there are stirrings against the Queen across the land. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even find the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter claim their happily ever afters by defeating Levana once and for all?
Review: Winter is the best part of the series as far as sprinkling of fairytale details goes. This kept me tied to the book when it started feeling a bit too unrealistic and, perhaps, too rushed.
I am not a fan of feats that feel tooooo stretched, achieved only at the last possible moment and a hair’s breadth within the limits of what should be considered doable, even in a fantasy world. In Winter, we get some of the most impossible events in the series, and there were bits of lack of coherence here and there.
Spoilers to let you know some things I’m referring to
Winter convincing a whole pack of hyper-violent, instinct-driven, blood-and-flesh-thirsty mutant wolf soldiers to fight on her side just because she exists? (Because that’s what it felt like.) Um…
What about Wolf being completely alternated, not being able to remember tangible things from his past after the operation, saying that humans “have the sweetest flesh” but then not even lifting a finger against Scarlet? I get the Alpha thing, but still.
And, ahem, of course, the immediate talk of making Luna a republic. That was a bit of a stretch.
I’m not going to lie, I was more impatient to finish reading Winter than any of the other books, because some of the action didn’t thrill me and I just wanted to know how it would all end. However, it did absolu-freaking-tely not feel as if it were over 800 pages long (which it is).
I still do prefer Cress and Cinder as characters, but if I had to choose one of the girls from the Lunar Chronicles cast to be like (apart from Iko), it’d be Winter. She is literally insane, but she is strong and holds on to her values, she puts other people first, she doesn’t give herself the right to judge or decide of anyone’s faith.
What to say about the other characters? I loath Levana and her backstory did absolutely nothing to change that (what a nest of crazy people), I admire the main Lunars we met on our side, and the crew is just… The crew are my babies, okay? No one touches them, OKAY?
The retelling details I liked the most (spoilers)The scarring because Winter was growing to be more beautiful than Levana. Actually, she was getting more adored.
Jacin… Being… The huntsman…
The apple candies……..
JACIN WAKING WINTER WHEN SHE’S IN THE COFFIN!
Plus, later in the lab, when he kisses her on the mouth and she wakes up.
And I mean, that’s surely not intended to be a thing, but casually… The crew is made up of seven people + Winter… Make of that what you will. (Jacin is Grumpy.)
Expected rating: ★★★✰✰
Actual rating: ★★★★✰
Reveal synopsis (spoilers from previous books)
The enchantment continues….
The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?
The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.
Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch…
The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.
Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.
The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.
After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.
The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a game called The Princess
The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.
Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century…
Review: Cute! It was Cute!! (Yes, capital C.) You know the AO3 fanfics (the good ones) written about your fav characters’ past? This book was like that. It’s not necessary to read it, but you won’t regret it if you do.
I loved The Little Android to bits. My, oh my, the way it matched the original fairytale…
Glitches, The Queen’s Army, Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky, and After Sunshine Passes By were definitely interesting, but didn’t strike me too much. I was more captivated by The Keeper and The Princess and the Guard as they revealed crucial information whose absence in the previous books made my brain itch.
The Mechanic was my least favorite? We’d just already seen the scene, and Kai’s POV wasn’t a game changer. I’d rather have discovered something about Kai’s past, like with all the others.
Something Old, Something New was FLUFF but ahhhh 🙂
The Lunar Chronicles was definitely worth the hype in my opinion. Even if it was not steampunk like I hoped it would be, the cyberpunk world was very fun to discover. The main characters were all unique and there usually was a right balance between romance, humor, and action.
I was not left with an unbearable fictional universe hangover, so unless one of you absolutely recs it, I will not read Fairest. I cannot stand Levana, and what’s the point of reading if the crew won’t be there.
My rec pile would feel empty without these wonderful books, so of course they’ve landed right in it.
Have you read The Lunar Chronicles? Who’s your favorite character? What’s you favorite book/ship? What moment did you prefer in the series? What was your favorite detail from the original fairytales?
Do you know any other good cyberpunk stories?
Or maybe some steampunk?