4 out of 5 cybernetic stars
Winter, the final book of the Lunar Chronicles, came out on November 10th. I have really enjoyed this series, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read it. Instead of just jumping into Winter, I’m going to marathon the series. I haven’t read Levana’s story, Fairest, yet, either. Here is my review of the first book.
Cinder holds up well to a 2nd reading. It’s fast paced, and if you should have the hardback, it’s a wonderful reading experience. I’m surprised when these YA hardcovers, which are so collectible and inexpensive, are also well made and beautiful. I did have some problems with the story, which I shall briefly mention nearer the end, but I’m glad to say they were the same ones I found on the first read. (In other words, I didn’t find new things to be raw about.)
This series is a broad re-interpretation of fairy tales set in a futuristic Earth, the first taking place in the city of New Beijing. Cinder is obviously Cinderella – but she’s a cyborg Cinderella, not with a glass slipper but a robotic leg. She lives with her adopted, or step-mother, as she calls her, and her two daughters. In general, Cinder, and all cyborgs, are despised for their robotic modifications. Medical advancements with robotic extensions/additions can save you from horrific injuries, but I wonder if it’s worth it, as you aren’t considered human anymore. As a child, Cinder was in a terrible hover accident (ie: there are flying cars in this world!!!), losing most of her limbs to terrible burns. She has some kind of computer connection in her brain/central nervous system, and there’s an ocular device she uses to communicate with the internet and she can read information on it (kinda like the Terminator). It’s very cool. She works to pay her way (and keep the family fed) as a mechanic, and is one of the best in New Beijing. This doesn’t keep her from being ostracized and being a virtual slave to her stepmother – something she fights tooth and nail. It’s at her booth in the market that she meets the Prince.
It’s not a fairytale without a handsome Prince and Kaito, or Kai, fits the bill. He brings a malfunctioning android to her and asks her if she can get it up and running before the ball. Again, it wouldn’t be a Cinderella retelling without a ball, and Cinder is not allowed to go. This one is held each year to celebrate the end of World War IV. Sadly, another war looms on the horizon. The Earth’s relations with the Lunar colonies are very tenuous. The Lunars have evolved some terrifying, almost paranormal abilities. They can alter people’s perceptions and basically brainwash them. They despise things like androids and cameras, as their abilities are foiled by com screens and even mirrors. Of course, they can’t affect robots. The current Queen, Levana, a satisfyingly evil villain, rules with an iron fist, and she has her sights set on ruling Earth as well. She wants to do this by first marrying the handsome Prince. To be honest, in this first go round, I don’t find Kai to be very compelling. He’s a nice guy who will make a good ruler but in this book he doesn’t really shine. Though he wants to refuse Levana and her wishes, he feels it’s best to give in to her demands to keep everyone safe. this made me want to strange him. I did like that he was looking into things, and let’s just say that he needs his android back before the ball for more than reasons of vanity or convenience. And since he’s the male lead, he obviously has to have a crush on our main character that doesn’t make any sense. Cinder knows this, and does whatever she can to keep him from knowing she’s a cyborg. But she is so much more than a cyborg.
Kai isn’t Cinder’s only connection with the palace. After a frightening brush with Letumosis, a deadly plague that strikes randomly and usually ends in death, she is sent in as a “volunteer” for testing. We learn a lot more about what is going on beneath Cinder’s cyborg wires. She meets Dr. Erland, who seems to lie to her a lot. But he has a lot of information about the Lunars, and despite his unreliable character, he keeps her secrets. You always feel he knows more than he’s letting on. Things get really intense as you get towards the end
I do have a couple of nits to pick. First, you would think the Earthens, who use androids and robots would be more accepting of cyborgs. I don’t understand the hate they get. I mean, if we’ve developed these life-saving devices, wouldn’t you be glad that your loved one made use of them? And seeing as how the Lunars are so ruthless and will kill anyone born without the Lunar abilities… it just seems people on Earth would be different.
Second is the bloodthirsty supervillain side of my nature. If you possess an overwhelming force and the ability to magically (or biometrically) affect people and force them to do your will, what would stay your hand? Bloodshed? Queen Levana isn’t concerned with bloodshed. Why does she care about the ruse of marrying Kai to gain access to a crown? Why doesn’t she just bring her overwhelming force down and lay waste? That’s what I would do. Theoretically. I mean. The earth is safe as long as I don’t develop supervillain powers.
This is just a great, fun sci fi with a touch of fantasy. Also, as we go along, we pick up more female characters until we end up with a girl squad who tries to save the world. What’s not to love?