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Book Review: The Lunar Chronicles

Spring break was a very unproductive, but much-needed, time of relaxation for me. I enjoyed the absence of work to do and spent some time for myself. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain new reading material but spent some time rereading old favorites. The Lunar Chronicles-- Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter, with Fairest and Stars Above as extras-- by Marissa Meyer was one such series. I was much too young to catch the books when Cinder was first published in 2012, but I stumbled upon the series in sixth grade, and thoroughly enjoyed the series. (This review will contain some spoilers, but I will do my best to keep them to a minimum.)

Each main book of The Lunar Chronicles is centered around a fairytale but is all connected in one story. Cinder is based on the story of Cinderella, Scarlet on Little Red Riding Hood, Cress on Rapunzel, and Winter on Snow White. The story starts off in a dystopian world during the year 126 of the fictional Third Era (T.E. for short). Cinder, the namesake of the first book, is the main protagonist of the series and a cyborg. Much like Cinderella, on which Cinder is based off of, Cinder is treated as little more than a slave in the home of her adopted family. Cinder’s only friends are her younger stepsister, Peony, and family android, Iko. She becomes entangled in an interplanetary agreement between Emperor Kaito of the Eastern Commonwealth and Queen Levana of Luna (a country on the moon that arose from a colony established on it). Most Lunars possess the ability to manipulate others thoughts and actions by controlling their bioelectricity. Furthermore, the Lunar monarchs and their court-- both aristocrats and officials-- are infamous for abusing their ability on the weaker common people and being exceedingly cruel and sadistic. Thus, Earthens fear Lunars. Levana wants to take over Earth, but her plans have a wrench thrown in them when Cinder discovers she is the lost Lunar princess Selene, who had been known to have been killed in a fire many years ago.

In Scarlet, Cinder’s story continues with the addition of new characters. Scarlet, the namesake of the second book, is an ordinary Earthen girl. However, Scarlet’s grandmother, Michelle Benoit, was one of the pilots in the last diplomatic mission to Luna from Earth and is kidnapped by Lunar special operatives to be questioned on the whereabouts of the Lunar princess. Scarlet goes to search for her grandmother herself with Wolf, a streetfighter that seems to know the organization that took her grandmother. Cinder escapes from prison along with Carswell Thorne, and they go to search for Michelle Benoit. Levana feels threatened by the reappearance of the niece she believed she had killed, and thus attacks Earth. Cinder, Thorne, Scarlet, Wolf, and Iko (as the control system of the spaceship) join forces at the end of the book. Cinder tells the others her true identity, and they decide to go to Africa to meet Dr. Sage Darnel, the person that told Cinder about her true identity.

Cress continues the story with the addition of Cress, a shell (a Lunar without the ability to be bioelectrically manipulated as well as unable to manipulate others) and the queen’s best hacker, and Jacin, a Lunar guard that decides to join Cinder. The Rampion crew, as Thorne calls the group, attempt to rescue Cress from her satellite as she, too, wants to see the end of Levana’s rule and prevent her from taking over Earth. Despite initial failure, which results in Scarlet being taken to Luna as a prisoner, they manage to kidnap Kai to prevent a marriage alliance between Earth and Luna (and the imminent death of Kai and the conquest of Earth by Luna) from occurring.

Winter, the last book in the series, wraps up the story well. Cinder and the Rampion crew make it onto Luna after Kai reschedules the wedding to be on Luna. Princess Winter, the queen’s step-daughter, aids Cinder as she, too, suffered under Levana’s rule. Cinder manages to lead a revolution on Luna, and kills Levana, becoming the queen of Luna.

Despite being classified as science fiction, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this series was so much more than that. Elements of fantasy, touches of fairy tales, and even some aspects of today’s world made the series enjoyable because it was not two-dimensional. Meyer skillfully created a world that, while fantastical, was easy to imagine as being real. I also saw a striking parallel with the current world situation in the series in this reread: an epidemic disease. Letumosis is prevalent throughout the series and is later discovered to have been crafted in Lunar laboratories to weaken Earth. Societies are ravaged by the disease as there appears to be no cure. This was strikingly similar to COVID-19: a worldwide epidemic disease is ravaging societies, with no cure in sight. Overall, I found that The Lunar Chronicles was an enjoyable read and would recommend it.

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