This year marks the tenth anniversary of the first installment of The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder. Written by Marissa Meyer, this series is one of my all-time favorites. With characters that are easy to love on a mission to stop a war, Meyer weaves a brilliant story inspired by classic fairytales with twists and turns. Meyer draws inspiration from Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Each of our heroes is fleshed out and adds something unique to the overarching story.
Starting with a reimagining of Cinderella, we are introduced to Cinder and Kai. Cinder is a cyborg in New Beijing and the best mechanic with a mysterious past. Sarcastic yet genuine, Cinder tries to do the right thing even though her stepfamily treats her horribly. But at least she has Iko, her android best friend, and Peony, one of her stepsisters, who loves her. Prince Kai’s need for the best mechanic brings the two together and ultimately sets them down the same path to stop the Lunar Queen from wreaking havoc on Earth. They have to face political turmoil, murder plots, and a plague. (Thankfully, the plague is not the main threat because after living through the Covid-19 pandemic, I would not enjoy this series as much if the central conflict was stopping a plague.) Kai takes his responsibility as Prince and then Emperor seriously, always wanting to do the right thing for his people and live up to the title handed to him with the perfect amount of sass on the side.
The following three books introduce more characters to join the fight against Queen Levana of Lunar, a manipulative tyrant that wants to get her hands on Earth. She uses her Lunar gift (a superpower) to control people and to keep herself in power. Criminal Mastermind and ex-cadet Carswell Thorne joins Cinder reluctantly at first and adds comedy to some of the darker themes in this tale. Then there is Scarlet, a brave pilot and farmer from France, and her new companion Wolf, a genetically enhanced soldier from Luna. We are also introduced to Cress, a socially awkward non-gifted Lunar who has lived in a satellite for years and is the best hacker in the galaxy. Finally, we have Winter and Jacin, who have been friends forever. Winter is the beautiful stepdaughter of Queen Levana, and Jacin is her guard and best friend who once wished to be a doctor before becoming a soldier.
It is difficult to put the books down with a compelling model of characters and many obstacles before them (including a heist! Who doesn’t love a heist?). I love that Meyer actually has her characters talk about things fully. I often feel that when serious conversations happen, they tend to be rushed, but Meyer does a great job of letting the characters breathe and talk. I also appreciate her for not ending the final installment, Winter, too quickly. We get a glimpse of everyone, allowing each couple to have a moment after the battle ends and before the conclusion.
Cinder and Kai’s journey together and apart over the course of these four books is my favorite part of the series, followed closely by the friendships. Meyer does an excellent job playing with the dynamics of the Rampion crew, which makes you appreciate all of them even more.
As someone who loves fairytale adaptations, I was surprisingly hesitant to read this when I first heard about it. (I’m not going to lie because the first edition covers did throw me off. They reminded me a little too much of Twilight’s design, and I don’t think they captured the essence of The Lunar Chronicles.) I usually like more fantasy settings than sci-fi and futuristic settings, but I was kicking myself as soon as I started reading for not picking them up earlier.
I just recently finished rereading this series for the first time in a few years (a little nervous to see if I would like it just as much), and it turns out I liked it more than I remembered. I was immediately attached to Cinder, Iko, and Kai again. Only a few chapters in, I was trying not to cry at work while listening to the audiobook. After finishing, I wanted more of this crew, and luckily Meyer has released two graphic novels: Wires and Nerve, which takes place after Winter, and Stars Above, which has more backstory on our favorites and something of an epilogue that has our crew reuniting for a special occasion. There was so much to continue to explore in this world, and I’m glad we had an opportunity to glimpse their futures.
Further Recommended Novels: By The Book by Jasmine Guillory and The Princess and The Scoundrel by Beth Revis
If you’ve read The Lunar Chronicles, let us know what you think! If you haven’t and are in need of a new series, I highly recommend this one!