Spoiler warning ahead – if you have not read the entire Lunar Chronicles, there will be spoilers a plenty!
The Lunar Chronicles was a series I started on my birthday last year, I picked up Cinder with gift card I got, having heard a ton about it. The premise seemed right up my street so I dived straight in. Last weekend I finished Winter which is the final book in the series (I know there are spin off’s) and I was completely blown away by the finale, I’m not ashamed to say it brought a lot of emotion and quite a few tears.
So what makes it so special? The premise of fairytale retellings isn’t a new one, however, most are either set in the same period or moved to a more contemporary setting. The freedom of interpretation given by setting these books in a distant future is huge and really allowed for a unique story to come through. The 4 books represent 4 fairytales starting with Cinder. We have the traditional – she has a wicked stepmother and 2 sisters, one of which isn’t as bad as the other. However our Cinder is a cyborg mechanic and rather than leaving her shoe at the ball, she leaves a cybernetic foot – not as gross as it sounds. Scarlet is an interpretation of Red Riding hood, travelling to rescue her grandmother from the big bad wolf, however, her travelling companion is the wolf himself. Cress is drawn from Rapunzel but her tower is a space station orbiting the Earth and finally Winter is Snow White, still the fairest despite the efforts of a wicked queen to make her disfigure herself.
I have found that too many series now focus so much on a romantic angle, it becomes the driving force, the end game, and often an unwelcome distraction that feels forced in to tick a box. Whilst the Lunar Chronicles has some of that element, in that there is always a pairing, it’s never too much and it’s always as a side arc to the main story. These characters have a mission, they know they have to succeed and that is where their focus lies. Too often in other books I find myself eye rolling at encounters between characters at inappropriate times and places (sewers whilst running from mechanical zombie hybrids – mmmm yes please….). What really sets this series apart is the fact that it’s driving force is friendship. I know that might sound twee but it’s actually really refreshing. “A hand slipped into hers offering one last moment of comfort” Not a love interest, but Cinder’s best friend Iko. When Winter gets to know the Rampion Crew, she bonds with Scarlet the most, always referring to her as Scarlet Friend, because that distinction is the most important to her. In the closing scenes it is not Kai that Levana uses against Cinder, it’s Thorne, her captain and first friend on her journey – the author putting just as much anguish into the peril of a friend that there would be for a love interest. This inclusion makes you feel so much for every character as they are all treated with the same importance. In fact when it comes to Kai, we’ll still never know – although we have a pretty heavy hint! Before I started reading a friend of mine said that it’s a series that will make you feel sorry for the antagonist, and I have to admit that the glimpse of Levana towards the end of Winter really did give me an insight into how she’s actually quite damaged and been through some terrible things herself. It doesn’t do enough to redeem her (similarly to Tamlin in ACOWAR) but I can certainly see how she became the person she did.
The other thing this series does well is to incorporate disability and mental health without really drawling any attention to it. From the outset, Cinder has lost limbs, she has a cybernetic foot and hand, her heart and brain are bolstered by implants. The only time we are ever aware that this causes her issue is when she is forced to wear a prosthesis meant for a child. Thorne loses his sight yet he adapts with barely a mention of it hindering him and Winter is likely struggling with PTSD after having been forced to watched countless murders. Whilst the crazy angle is played up it is never done in a belittling way. These are all characters which can be related to in some way and I think that it is such an inclusive series across so many aspects of humanity. Sounds like a big love in? It really doesn’t come across that way, the writing is so skilled that I find myself thinking back and realising that there was so much more to everything, I think I will pick up on so much more on a re-read that I missed in my excitement the first time round.
The writing style is particularly up my street too, I prefer a 3rd person narrative with an intelligent use of words that doesn’t meaning using 10 words when one will do (if that makes sense). I know I bandy around the term cinematic a lot when I review books but I got this feeling so hard when I was reading. I felt like I was watching my favourite TV series, an amazing world which was able to be formed so completely in my mind. The action and adventure is something else too, I mean next level in comparison to other similar books I have read, I honestly felt edge of my seat so much of the time and the words “just one more chapter” flowed frequently
So it’s official, I’m shrugging of the Dregs (sorry Kaz) to make the Rampion Crew my squad of choice! I’m off to scour Etsy for Lunar Chronicles merch and if you haven’t picked it up yet, please do think about adding The Lunar Chronicles to your tbr!!!