Review: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles)

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is not a series I would have considered reading if it wasn't inspired by fairy tales, and even then, I had some hesitation. It takes place in a dystopian cyberpunk-like world filled with robots, aliens, and disease. It's hardly the setting you would expect for a story based on "Cinderella," yet the first book, Cinder, wholeheartedly embraces this odd combination. I was intrigued by the concept after reading a good short story about a robotic Cinderella, but this world was a bit too dark for my tastes. Though I have little interest in reading the rest of the series, I have to give the author credit for her creativity and passion.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is a cyborg working as a mechanic in the dystopian city of New Beijing. She has several chance encounters with Prince Kai, who is in a marriage alliance with the wicked Queen Levana, an alien from the Lunar Kingdom with mind control powers. He hopes to get out of the alliance by finding the lost princess of the Lunar Kingdom, Selene, and forging an alliance with her instead. You can probably tell where this is going. However, Cinder is hardly just a futuristic love story. I was surprised by how little focus was placed on the romance. Most of the book is devoted to the disease plaguing their land and how it affects everything from Cinder's relationship with her stepfamily to Kai's relentless devotion to protecting his kingdom.

The story begins with Cinder's younger stepsister catching Letumosis, the deadly virus that had spread throughout the kingdom by Lunar immigrants. Cinder's stepmother responds to this by volunteering Cinder against her will as a guinea pig for scientists to find a cure. Cinder is horrified and does everything in her power to try to escape since being a test subject means certain death. However, this unexpected opportunity allows her to discover more about herself and the true nature of her birth family than she ever thought possible. The lab visits also bring her closer to Prince Kai, who keeps a close watch on the studies in the hopes that he can find a cure for his father and the rest of his people.

"Cinderella" already had a wicked villainess with the stepmother character, but Cinder introduces a second villain who is even more evil with Queen Levana, the power-hungry ice queen with a strong grudge against Cinder. It seems like almost everyone in this book is against Cinder, which justifies her guarded personality. However, Levana is a threat not only to her, but to the entire kingdom of New Beijing. She can use her mind control abilities to make an entire crowd of people worship her with just a glance. The monumental threat she poses to the world at large is likely to carry the the rest of the books in The Lunar Chronicles.

If you're looking for whirlwind romance and happy endings, The Lunar Chronicles is not for you. This is a dark world of death, disease, and lust for power. However, if you are a fan of cyberpunk and dystopian fiction, the fairy tale elements add a unique twist to the normal trajectory for this type of story. I admire how the author was able to incorporate the classic elements of "Cinderella" in such a unique and innovative way. It wouldn't surprise me if there's a large fanbase for this series because it does what it does extremely well. It's just not my cup of tea.


Sugar said…
I'm not a fan of dark stories but that you find this dark makes me think about how depressing dystopian worlds and youth books have become since the Lunar Chronicles is one of the least violent even quite "clean" sagas in literature current youth.
Lisa Dawn said…
That is something I noticed when I read The School for Good and Evil recently in anticipation of the upcoming Netflix film. One of my first thoughts was "How is this for CHILDREN?" I also found it kind of offensive because the message was more or less "If you like pretty clean princess stories, you deserve to be thrown into a smelly pit and tortured by ogres and imps." I guess I'm a little out of touch with modern media...
Sugar said…
I've also noticed the disrespect in some reviews elsewhere they call "special snowflakes" or "fragile snowflakes" to people who don't want to read cruel, bloody, explicit, but. yes bright and hopeful things. A little irreverent for my taste.
Lisa Dawn said…
Well that's not very princess-like of them...
Anonymous said…
Ahhh I wish the fanbase for this book was larger because I adore this book! But I can see why it isn’t for everyone. I’ve been going through your blog as well and I’ve actually been inspired to maybe start my own blog of reviews of things I like and such! I also play time princess and every time I finish I story, I go and find your review to see your thoughts as well. Thanks for having such a wonderful blog!
Lisa Dawn said…
Thank you so much! It's so validating to hear that I'm inspiring others! <3 Good luck with your writing and have a lovely day!

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