A while back, I wrote a review of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, which begins a series the author calls The Lunar Chronicles. After I bought it, I did not read it, but put it off for a while. I like science fiction and have no problem with YA titles, but it sounded kinda weird. Once I read it, I did like it. I really liked it, actually. And, once again, I bought the next installment, but put it off while I read another book (Darrell Bain’s The Frontier Rebellion). Then, a few weeks back, I clicked on the cover of Scarlet, and I will admit that I was not entranced after the first chapter, but I pushed myself, and the book did pick up. If you begin and wonder if it is book extolling the virtues of organic gardening, just hold on. Scarlet is a worthy tale, but I will offer a warning to readers—it would be quite confusing to a someone who did not read Cinder first. The story of Scarlet, who abandons the family farm to search for her lost grandmother, is so intertwined with Cinder’s continuing adventures that it is far better to begin with that book and then pick up this action packed story. If this were just the story of Scarlet and Wolf, I would not give it a five star review, but when I reached the end of Cinder, Meyer was clearly not finished, so I was expecting to see her again. Perhaps not so much of her, but that is actually a plus. Now, the character of Scarlet is interesting, and there is plenty of suspense as she struggles to find her grandmother before something really bad happens, but I especially like the multilayer enigma of Wolf. Even more than the first book, this one has the trappings of a gritty urban fantasy, with science fiction elements, and a bit of romance, too. Many times, I have stated that the best fiction is aimed at younger audiences, and this novel is more evidence of that. I noticed that Cress is now available, so I will buy it soon.
Young adult fiction is the best place to look for new ideas, or old ones wearing new garb. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder is the latter, as it is a science fiction version of Cinderella. The reviews were fabulous, so I purchased the eBook version, and promptly pushed it aside. Part of me wants to dislike YA, since I skipped into the adult section at the local library while I was in the seventh grade. Instead of beginning Cinder, I read a nifty self-help book called the $10 Root Cellar: And Other Low-Cost Methods of Growing, Storing, and Using Root Vegetables (Modern Simplicity). Yeah, I know, I can’t quite believe I read that one either. But, hubby and son have been watching a bunch of YouTube vids on how to survive a time WOROL (without rule of law) and/or zombie attacks. And, I don’t know about everyone else, but if I am staying cooped up, I want something to eat!
Okay, okay, I digress. So, having learned all about burying an old fridge to store root veggies in (for that zombie apocalypse), I pulled up Cinder on my iPad. And, almost immediately, I was hooked. The character is amazing; Meyer has so skillfully drawn her, that I can just see her stuffing her grimy gloves in a back pocket. And, yes, there should be little suspense. How many times did my kids watch the Disney version of Cinderella? Not to mention my reading the Golden Books version to my daughter. She used to call the stepsisters, “the uglies.” How cute, right? So, I know the plot.
But, while Meyer’s tale is sorta/kinda true to the traditional tale, there is sufficient deviation to give the reader some suspense. And, the narrative is pretty good, but the characters just about jump off the pages. Especially Cinder, who is a cyborg with a mean stepmom, two flighty “uglies” A/K/A stepsisters, and an android or two for good measure. The queen of Luna is perhaps the best villainess I have read about this year. Maybe this decade.
Others have noted that the Oriental overtones seem to be grafted onto the story, and that is a valid criticism. But, I am not sure that the storyline would have worked at all if the characters had been more realistically Oriental. This yarn is the first in a series, and I am looking forward to revisiting Marissa Meyer’s retelling of traditional stories.
So, even if you don’t get into re-tellings of fairy tales, if you like gritty science fiction, you might just like this story. And, if you do like re-tellings, this one is very good.