I have not come to praise The Lunar Chronicles but to bury them.
Actually, I’ve really come to do both.
You may remember that many moons ago, I wrote a post about Marissa Meyer’s YA book series The Lunar Chronicles. To sum up that post: I really, really, really like The Lunar Chronicles. However, I did write that post before the final book in the series Winter and the series prequel Fairest came out. So, now that I have read both those books and the main core of the Lunar Chronicles series is done, I thought it would make sense to both review the latest book in the series and do a sort of post-mortem on the series.
So, after reading the entire series, do I still really, really, really like The Lunar Chronicles? Yes. Yes, I do.
To sum up what both Winter and the rest of The Lunar Chronicles is about: it’s the story of cyborg Cinderella as she attempts to launch a revolution against the Evil Queen of the moon assisted by a gun-toting Red Riding Hood, hacker Rapunzel and a Snow White whose mental powers are driving her insane. Also, there are wolf soldiers, a deadly plague and some male characters derived from the storybook princes.
That phrase might be a little hard for some people to take in. However, it’s one of the things that shows just how geek-friendly this series is. Reading the series, I was constantly reminded of other science fiction and fantasy properties but never in a way that took away from the story itself. The most notable ones I could see were Sailor Moon, X-Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. This is probably because of the influence of the series’ writer, Marissa Meyer. The writer herself is a geek and a fairy tale fan. How much of a geek/fairy tale fan. Well, her and her husband went to San Diego Comic Con and cosplayed as Little Red Riding Hood and the Woodsman. That’s how much. And given that she seems to be about the same age as I am, I wouldn’t doubt much if those properties I listed were in fact influences on the story.
The title character of this volume is Queen Levana’s stepdaughter Winter. Winter is a Lunar and has the Lunar gift like most Lunars do. However, Winter is so opposed to using her power to manipulate others that she refuses to use it. As a result, lack of use is driving her insane. This insanity is manifested through vivid and often scary hallucinations. The one thing that seems to keep her grounded is her affection for childhood friend and royal guard Jacin. Jacin plays the role of both the prince and the Huntsman who lets Snow White get away. The story beats of Snow White play out in this future world as all the while a revolution is underway. Only, instead of an apple, it’s an apple candy laced with a deadly plague and instead of dwarfs it’s Cinder and her ragtag group of friends. What’s truly great about Winter is how the metaphors for both her and Levana play out. Winter is beloved by the people and seen as the most beautiful girl on Luna. This is despite the three scars she has on her cheek from when Levana made her cut herself. The scars may even enhance her beauty. Winter is someone who is genuine and beautiful despite and because of her flaws that she doesn’t try to hide. The people love her “warts and all”. Levana however is scarred because of burns she received during childhood when being manipulated by her sister. However, she hides it all behind a Lunar glamour. The scars may be physical in the book but they represent her inner scars and the ugliness she hides beneath the surface. Levana, as shown in Fairest, was someone who was ruined by her own manipulative family and her belief that love is a battle. Winter herself even becomes something of a good model for people with mental illness. It gives away some of the story though, so I won’t elaborate.
I’ve praised the world-building in this series before, but you have to love how well planned out it all is. There are things that are introduced three or four books before they receive their ultimate payoff. The plague which takes the role of the poison in Snow White is introduced way back in book one. Carswell Thorne, who plays the role of Rapunzel’s prince is introduced in Scarlet, the book before Cress in which he really becomes important. Meyer also isn’t afraid to break from some of the more traditional associations of these fairy tale characters. In this world, Cinderella stand in Cinder is of royal blood while Snow White’s analogue Winter is only royal by marriage. Also, the characters of Kai, Thorne and Jacin who are analogues for the princes from “Cinderella”, “Rapunzel” and “Snow White” are transformed into a prince, thief and guard respectively. If those last two characters hadn’t been changed, then the story would have been awash in princes. Interestingly, both characters also remind me of other fairy tale motifs with Thorne being Jack (both as a fool and a lucky rogue) and Jacin reminds me of the soldiers from stories like “How Six Men Got on in the World” and “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”. The end result is a series of books that does not feel like a rehash but like an echo of something old and familiar. The last couple of books even redeemed the character of Scarlet for me a little in having her play off of Winter. I still think Scarlet is the weakest in the series, seeing as it’s yet another tale of Red Riding Hood falling in love with the Big Bad Wolf. This is practically the oldest story in teen fairy tale fiction. However, Scarlet is just grounded enough to be the perfect foil for Winter when Jacin isn’t around.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. The main part of The Lunar Chronicles is done. There are still some ancillary parts left, though. I still haven’t read Stars Above which is a book of short stories set in the Lunar Chronicles world. Also, I hear there are graphic novels forthcoming based around Cinder’s android friend Iko. However, Marissa Meyer is moving on to other projects and I’m eager to see what they are. There are lots of reasons to read these books and I’ve seen many of them listed on Tumblr sites and Pinterest, but my reasoning will be that they’re fairy tale fiction that actually feels fresh and shows just how well these age old tales work with new genre fiction elements. If you have the chance to read The Lunar Chronicles, don’t wait. I feel they are definitely worth reading.