Books by Marissa Meyer include:
She also wrote Fairest which is in the same world and psuedo-prequel, but for this review I don’t think I’m going to add it. I listened to all of these via Audiobook, so if I misspell something it’s because I heard it rather than read it
Synopsis: Cinder is a cybor in New Beijing, practically a slave to her step mother and step sisters. When tragedy strikes, she finds herself in an ugly predicament which eventually unravels her own past in a set of Cinderella-inspired escapades. The first books’ revelations lead Cinder to strike out in a campaign against the queen of the moon, Levana. Collecting friends in tales inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty: Scarlet, Cress & Princess Winter the step-daughter of Queen Levana.
Overall: I thoroughly enjoyed this series. The narrator did an excellent job with variations in accent and tone for the multitude of characters in the books. It does a fabulous job of re-envisioning the classic fairy tales in a futuristic/sci-fi setting.
World Building: This is always a big deal to me, and the first three books do a great job of building up the settings for each one: New Beijing, France, & North Africa. I didn’t feel that way about the fourth book. When she moved to the Luna setting I suddenly felt like I was muddling through the landscape. The walls were left blank. The architecture turned to legos instead of beautifully crafted buildings with variety and culture. ESPECIALLY culture. I noticed about 2/3 of the way through book four that I still had no idea what kind of culture existed on Luna. Not really. Glimpses. I could kind of fill it in with stereotypes. The earthen cultures were very well done, there might be some stereotyping there, but – letting me stereotype what the “American Republic” might be like is different than a colony-turned-dictatorship/monarchy-on-the-moon. Who were the settlers? What art, architecture, and style did they bring with them? How did their own struggles as a colony and then free-state impact those things? I found myself wanting more.
Characters: It’s hard to re-imagine fairy tales. Some of them are just a thin veneer of a tale. Making good heroines after some of the “princesses” of fairy tales is a challenge. Marissa Meyer does this beautifully. Even better – her villians. Fairest, the book I’m not reviewing is about Queen Levana (pre-queenness). Meyer’s villians – from Cinder’s stepmother Audrey Lin to Queen Levana, to the thamaturges (“mages”) who work for Levana are all believable. There isn’t anyone who I read and thought “real people would never do that” – no, real people would totally behave that way. Even when it depresses/angers me – I believe.
Review: If you enjoyed Harry Potter; if you grew up enjoying Disney movies (if you still enjoy Disney princess movies!); if you want a creative jaunt through a set of fairy tales with a futuristic/modern twist – READ Cinder. If you hate it, leave it there. If you enjoy it even a little bit, read all four in the Lunar Chronicles. They are young adult, so don’t expect the sort of gritty depth of a George R. R. Martin. Don’t expect the science of a Timothy Zhan or a John Scalzi. Come for the characters, enjoy the ride and relax. After all, fairy tales are told to entertain and warn. Marissa Meyer captures that essence entirely.