If that isn’t the most clever marketing phrase to promote Marissa Meyer’s cyborg Cinderella series, which began with Cinder. And I will freely help promote it, for this sci fi fairy tale universe is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. It’s a metallic jambalaya, a mechanic’s box of spare parts from fairy tales. And watching Marissa Meyer assemble it—well, it’s like the two-minute montage in every episode of The A-Team when the team assembles a tank from common household objects. You hum along to the music and marvel, “Oh, I guess those pieces could connect! How’d they see that?”
You’re humming, aren’t you?
So first, I buy my Cyber Monday $0.99 deal from Enclave Publishing.
And now I celebrate Cyborg Monday with a review of
The Lunar Chronicles, Book 2
Sci fi/Fairy tale
So I was all attached to Cinderella (aka Cinder the mechanic) after reading the first book in The Lunar Chronicles. What would happen to Cinder and Emperor Kai after the ball, when she so disastrously tripped and lost her metal foot on the steps of the palace? When he discovered she was Lunar, a liar, a crown traitor, and a cyborg?
And she hasn’t even had the chance to mention she’s the lost Lunar Princess Selene yet.
But author Marissa Meyer diverts us into a completely different fairy tale: Little Red Riding Hood.
It took me a moment to adjust, but after I did I enjoyed reading what Meyer excels at: transposing fairy tales into a sci fi world. Scarlet is a feisty farmer in a red hoodie sweatshirt. She delivers farm produce (in a basket) to local restaurants. Where she also throws tomatoes, scolds patrons for making fun of cyborgs, packs a gun, and befriends a street fighter named Wolf.
Well, befriend is too strong a word. She’s one streetwise Red Riding Hood. Her grandmother’s been missing for over 2 weeks, and Wolf may be the only one who can help Scarlet rescue Grandma. If Scarlet doesn’t shoot him first.
Wolf himself is a great character. He’s soft-spoken, restless (he’s constantly jiggling his leg), and even innocent at times. For example, Scarlet forces him to try one of her homegrown tomatoes (he’s a virtual vegetable virgin).
Yet he’s the toughest street fighter around, can pick up a grown man in one hand, and seems to be an escapee from a mysterious gang that operates like a wolf pack. He has superhuman smell and reflexes. He even has pointed teeth. (Grandma, what big teeth you have.)
Wolf and Scarlet become unlikely allies as they go off in search of Grandma.
And here our two fairy tales intersect. Grandma may have been abducted because she knows something about the lost Princess Selene. Cinder.
And Cinder knows Scarlet’s grandma (Marie Benoit) may have clues to Princess Selene’s past, so Cinder goes in search of her, too. Bringing along with her my FAVORITE character in the series, Captain Carswell Thorne.
You can spend all book 2 trying to figure out which fairy tale character Thorne is supposed to be. I wouldn’t believe his own claims. Criminal mastermind? He’s in solitary for starting a soap rebellion. He may help Cinder escape prison, but he can’t even remember where he parked his ship. He’s a funny rogue and occasionally useful. In a series where every other major character is motivated by Big Things (Love, Hatred, War, Peace, Curing the Plague, Gang Loyalty, Family, Justice), Thorne is just along for the ride. He provides some much-needed levity and perspective to the story.
The Cinder storyline doesn’t advance much during this section of the series, other than get Cinder out of jail. Emperor Kai does even less than Cinder. It’s politically justifiable that he has to sit around a bunch, but it’s like watching someone pluck off flower petals. (I don’t want to marry the tyrannical Lunar Queen Levana. I may have to marry the tyrannical Lunar Queen Levana.) But it’s all necessary setup to the overall Lunar plotline. And the Scarlet/Wolf storyline is a satisfying fairy tale within itself.
Something I respect about The Lunar Chronicles is that while it all creates one magpie, entertaining whole, each book has its own slightly different tone. A few climatic chapters out of Scarlet could be ripped out of a horror book, complete with raving werewolves. Wolf, however, is not a werewolf. He’s something much more interesting…
Scarlet is a strong, sassy heroine, brave enough to do whatever it takes to rescue Grandma. Girl’s got guts. The reader has to admire that. Wolf clearly does. Which makes their whole relationship of mixed motives an exciting ride. Sometimes literally.
I give Scarlet 4.25 out of 5 stars.