Let me start out this review by saying SPOILERS BELOW! After the first picture, all bets are off. I can’t review these books without using details, because some of them get me feisty. I actually wrote these reviews on paper last night because I had many #feelings. I randomly found this series from my library through the Overdrive app. I’ve listened to all three books that way. Cinder is #1, Scarlet is #2, and Fairest is #3.5. I’m on a waiting list for #3, but I figured that since Fairest is more a of a prequel / backstory, I could read it before #3. Anyway, SPOILERS BELOW!
Cinder is a modern retelling of Cinderella. This Cinder is a cyborg living in what used to be China in a future after a plague has hit. She lives with her really terrible stepmom (who calls her her charge, not even her stepkid), her asshole stepsister, and her mostly nice stepsister. She’s also the best mechanic in New Beijing.
The prince of New Beijing seeks her out at the marketplace to get her to fix his personal Android (Neancy – that’s how they prounounce it, I’m not sure on the spelling). Cinder also has an Android friend named IKO. She’s really her only friend.
Cinder seems like a good egg, but for some reason cyborgs are second class citizens in this future. She’s treated pretty crappily by everyone who knows she’s a cyborg. The prince is nice to her, but he doesn’t know she’s a cyborg.
So, back to the plague. It’s called Letimosis (again, just guessing on the spelling), and it’s a very fast moving killer that nobody recovers from. Cinder’s good sister gets it eventually and dies. It sucks.
As this book is the first in the Lunar Chronicles, we learn about the Lunars, who are a race of people living on the moon. They have the ability to control minds and get people to do what they want. They’re unfortunately ruled by a mean, paranoid, manipulative, powerful queen named Levana. She tries to force the prince into marrying her, and on her visit to Earth sees Cinder. Apparently Cinder is also a Lunar, and she was smuggled off the moon when she was a baby. Levanna is enraged when she sees Cinder because there’s some kind of treaty between Earth and Luna where Lunars who escaped to Earth from the moon are jailed.
There are a lot of fun nods to the classic Cinderella story. There’s a prince, a ball, an evil stepmother, and a lost foot (instead of a lost shoe). Cinder is just a teen in this story, and I think that was a part of my minor issues with her. She’s super unconfident and has no self esteem. That doesn’t really change much no matter what happens to her, and no matter how good she is. Hopefully that’ll evolve throughout the series. This is probably just a book thing in general, but there are secrets that could’ve prevented or solved a lot of issues if they were just talked about.
Anyway, I liked the characters, and the story, so I continued…
So this one is supposed to be little red riding hood. There’s a girl named Scarlet, a grandmother, and even a wolf!
Scarlet lives in France, and her grandmother recently went missing. She meets a street fighter who stands up for her, and his nickname just happens to be Wolf. He volunteers to help Scarlet find her grandmother. There’s this whole were-wolfy backstory involving Lunars and genetically modified armies that is super interesting.
Cinder breaks out of jail with a guy named Thorn in this book too. I forgot to mention that Levanna got Cinder thrown in jail. The whole world finds out that Cinder is a secret Lunar, and Cinder finds out that she’s really Princess Celine (more about her in Fairest, below).
Again, telling people things in this book and opening up and sharing feelings and blah blah blah would’ve made everything easier, but of course nobody does that until they have to! Wolf actually turns out to be one of the genetically modified Lunar soldiers that Levanna had created to defeat Earth.
I think Scarlet and Wolf are my two favorite characters so far, and I think Scarlet might be my favorite book out of the three I’ve read so far. Anyway, on to Levanna’s story…
This is technically book 3.5, like I said above, and it’s supposed to be Levanna’s backstory. We learn about how she got where she is and how she turned into the monster queen she is present day.
Unfortunately I have a hard time empathizing with a selfish, manipulative, lying jerk rapist.
We start out the story when Levanna is fifteen. Her parents have just died and she barely cared. She wasn’t sad, and she mostly just worried about her dress for the funeral. Her sister Channery is even worse though. There’s some awful disfiguring fire that’s hinted at near the beginning of the book, and actually plays out near the end where Levanna is burned by Channery. Again, it’s realllly hard to care because Levanna is so awful. Unfortunately Levanna does so many terrible things in this story before we hear about the fire, so her character is already ruined in my eyes before I get the semi-mitigating story.
Channery becomes queen after their parents die, she has a baby (Princess Celine), she gets sick, and she dies all within the year. Channery’s baby is to be the future queen when she’s 13, and Aunt Levanna keeps the throne warm until then, and is generally supposed to keep Celine safe.
Levanna uses her mind powers to force a newly (like super newly) widowed palace guard to have sex with her (here’s the rape! It’s just youthful love in her mind though) and marry her. She starts out as a lovesick kid with too much power. She falls in love with the guard, and then his wife dies tragically in childbirth. Somehow Levanna is convinced he loves her, even though he’s still mourning his wife, and she has to use mind control constantly on him. All she does is manipulate him, and the whole time she thinks it’s true love. She’s just a big old asshole.
THEN! She decides her life would be better if she was really queen, and baby Celine was out of the way. She gets the nanny (through mind control) to fall asleep with a burning candle, and her and Celine die…. Except we know that Celine was spirited off Luna and saved, and became Cinder. Anyway, Levanna had a rough life (FOR A PRINCESS), but she’s totally an asshole, and she’s irredeemable in my book! Hopefully Book #3 (Cress) comes off hold soon!