Something I feel is underappreciated in book series is when authors don't try to cram in as much material and side stories as possible to pad each of the books to be longer than they should be. Keeping the core books of a series concise helps drive the main plot forward without requiring larger and larger volumes to tie up all the loose ends introduced along the way. The Lunar Chronicles excels in this. Look no further than the "prequel," Fairest, and the collection of short stories and epilogue that is Stars Above for proof of this restraint.
I can appreciate that worldbuilding will often create so much content that it doesn't always make sense to include it in the actual storytelling. Still, some origin stories might seem interesting, only to find out that most of these moments of exposition happened along the way as the character's motives are revealed to the reader. Ergo, some stories don't need to be told. Stars Above has some stories like this, but it also contains a few worth reading, the best of which is the pseudo-epilogue to the Lunar Chronicles.
With so many different fairy tales to pull from into the Lunar Chronicles, I'm glad that Marissa Meyer had some restraint in recognizing when some of them wouldn't work with the main narrative of Cinder's rise to claim her rightful throne. The "Little Mermaid" story in this collection works on its own, but I would find myself hard-pressed to see how it would add anything to the overarching plot of the Lunar Chronicles without reworking the whole thing. Even so, it's a good story that any fan of this series will likely enjoy.
Some necessary (and not so necessary) short stories that round out the Lunar Chronicles, I give Stars Above 3.5 stars out of 5.
If there's one thing I appreciate with a series, it's when all the loose ends are tied up by the end. In the fourth and final installment in the Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer manages to wrap up all the disparate parts of the story that had been running in parallel for three books. Not only does this series have a satisfying ending, but there's even enough time to flesh out the titular character, Winter, so that her presence makes sense in the context of the whole series. Still, even if the backstory for Levanna in Fairest isn't directly needed to understand more of Winter's character in this book, it certainly helped that I had already read it going into this final chapter of the series.
While my standard qualms with the "teenage girl" style of characterizations remain for this book (as it has for the entire series), the dialogue feels very natural (as it has for the entire series). Ultimately, though, it feels like the ending takes forever to arrive, especially since the audience has already known for some time that Cinder is the true heir—a fact that only became apparent to her in the last few books. Plus, there's the almost constant sexual tension that runs through these books as well. I've never wanted to scream at fictional characters, "Kiss already!" so much in my life.
I will say that the sci-fi fairy tale reimagining Meyer does in the Lunar Chronicles is unique in its interpretation while also remaining relatively close to the source material's references. And while there were moments where the characters might have been annoying, all of their motivations were clear and drove them to make decisions that felt logical based on their background. Overall, I think this has become one of my favorite series lately, and I'm now looking forward to reading more of what Marissa Meyer has to offer.
A satisfying ending to the best series of sci-fi fairy tale reimaginings, I give Winter 4.0 stars out of 5.
I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere in the last decade or so, the idea of “redeemable villains” took off. So many stories had antagonists that had their heinous acts justified by some past trauma that somehow made them more human and understandable. While I appreciate flawed characters and the bad decisions that eventually led them down the dark and evil path, I don’t think it’s always necessary to make villains redeemable. That is unless it’s done well. Fairest does it well.
Right from the first pages of Fairest, the reader understands that Levana was the runt of the family. The amount of teasing and hypocrisy that formed this young girl into the evil queen she would eventually become is understandable. However, the real brilliance of this story comes in when Levana tries to solve her problems the only way she knows how: by manipulation. It’s not entirely her fault, as the royal family seemed to be built on this foundation of getting what they want by any means necessary—still, it doesn’t excuse what she did.
Even if Fairest is only a side-story for the Lunar Chronicles series, I think it’s required reading to understand the series’ main antagonist fully. If you want to read it chronologically (before Cinder ), it’s a good amount of backstory that will help bring you up to speed, even at the expense of being spoiled by some of the (albeit obvious) twists of the series. If you read it after Cress and before Winter, then it stands as a much-needed flashback before the conclusion of the series. At the very least, I’m glad that this story wasn’t crammed into the other books and was given the room to be its own story.
The best “understandable villain” I’ve ever read, I give Fairest: Levana’s Story 4.0 stars out of 5.
Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time with me will know that one of my top three favorite movies is Tangled (2010). It then comes as no surprise to me that the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series that adapts the Rapunzel fairy tale into this sci-fi retelling would be my favorite of the set. It wasn't until I was reading original fairy tales to my daughter that I realized how close Cress came to representing the story it was based on instead of just relying on the familiar accouterments of the fairy tale.
While I didn't appreciate as much of the split storylines in Scarlet , I felt they improved the greater story arc of the whole series here. Cress explored much of the inner workings of the antagonist faction of Lunars that had been missing up until this point of the series. As such, I was able to gain a greater emotional attachment to the rag-tag group of rebels. It also helped that there was clear character growth in some of the minor characters like Carswell Thorne and Cress through the challenges they had to overcome.
Perhaps the best reason this was my favorite book of the Lunar Chronicles series is that it truly was building toward the climax of the series as a whole. Watching all the different pieces fall into place to set up the final book of the series was what had me hooked on this story all the way through. And sure, it still had that "teenage girl" quality to its prose, but at least it helped make the characters realistic—even if it was to adhere to the tropes of the Young Adult genre.
The sci-fi Rapunzel retelling I didn't know I needed, I give Cress 4.5 stars out of 5.
I continue to be impressed with Marissa Meyer's ability to weave a compelling narrative based on common fairy tale themes but set in a sci-fi framework. A continuation of the story that started in Cinder , Scarlet felt a little distracted as it added in elements from "Little Red Riding Hood" and split its time between the new characters—mainly Scarlet and Thorne—and advancing the plot of Cinder to its next logical step. As long as you realize this series centers around Cinder and her rise to the Lunar throne, this book should provide some great entertainment.
Perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book was how it seamlessly integrated with the lore already established in the previous volume while also being true to its source. Nothing strays too far from the themes of wolves/werewolves, so it's a bit of an obvious connection to make in a series that's titled the Lunar Chronicles. Still, the thought put into constructing a plausible plot from the pieces of a short fairy tale is something that must be applauded. Even so, Scarlet does have some weaknesses that have carried over from its predecessor.
The charm of the characters in this series comes from how realistic they seem. Granted, most of the characters are teenage girls, so there are many quirks that are amusing at first but become irritating over time. In particular, Scarlet seems quite stupid. Her logic is clearly flawed, and it's obvious to the reader that she's going about things all wrong for far too long until she finally "gets it." And—of course—she's going to be attracted to the "Wolf." The other new character, Thorne, seemed underdeveloped as well, but I'm sure we'll see more of him soon.
A somewhat distracted but still excellent follow-up to Cinder, I give Scarlet 3.5 stars out of 5.
This book is about the Queen of Hearts and how she became so evil. Catherine's dream in life is to be the best baker of all of Hearts. These skills end up wooing the king and he eventually asks for her hand in marriage. Her mother wants her to agree, but Cath soon finds her heart is drawn to someone else, the mysterious Joker. With Hearts under attack by the dangerous Jabberwocky, Catherine gets pulled into an adventure that soon unfolds the reasons behind her infamous tale in the book: Alice in Wonderland.
I really liked this book mostly because of the characters. They were really well developed and I felt as if I knew them and was a part of their story. The plotline gets really slow in the middle, but by the end, I really enjoyed it. Meyer is the same author who wrote the Cinder Series. Even though this book is not like the Cinder Series, they are still really similar, so if you enjoyed that series, you will like this book.
I adored this series in middle school. Now that I'm older, I'm better able to recognize that it isn't exactly high literature, but it was fun to read. Putting a twist on middle grade and YA fiction's beloved fairy tale retellings, in Of Giants and Ice, main character Rory discovers she's a "character" when she joins Ever After School, which is supposedly an unassuming after-school program but actually a school where characters go on missions and eventually end up in "tales." As the name suggests, tales are when characters become characters in a fairy tale. Rory and her two friends, Chase and Lena, are thrown into a Jack and the Beanstalk tale, but discover there's something waiting for them that's more sinister than just giants. Of Giants and Ice follows a fairly typical middle grade fiction structure, with a "chosen one" middle school protagonist on an adventure with some friends and eventually solving a massive problem that, for some reason, the adults are incapable of handling without the help of kids, but it's an entertaining read with a fun premise. I would recommend for younger readers who are looking for something light and diverting.
Reviewer grade: 10
The book Cinder by Marissa Meyer follows Cinder, a cyborg in New Beijing. Cinder is a mechanic in the futuristic city of New Beijing. She lives with her adopted mother Lihn Adri and her two adopted sisters Peony and Peral. One day, while she is in the market square, the Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth, comes to visit her about his droid. The droid Nainsi had key information about the lost princess, Selene, of Luna. With the new disease Letumosis spreading rapidly around the globe, a cure needs to be found immediately.
The futuristic retelling of the classic tale Cinderella was truly amazing. There were lots of hints at the original story that were incorporated into the plot consistently. Marissa Meyer even includes the ball at the end of the book with her own twist on the tale. All in all, the book was truly amazing and very engaging.
Based off Lewis Carroll's character the Queen of Hearts, Catherine is a young woman living in Hearts with her parents in their bakery. Catherine knows that the King intends on proposing to her, but she doesn't want to marry him, convinced that he's infatuated with her beauty, but not in love with her. At the King's ball, Catherine meets Jest, the joker, and she falls in love with him. In an attempt to be with Jest, Catherine tries to run away with him to Chess, but doesn't make it.
I like how this book is one perspective of why the Queen of Hearts is 'heartless'. The characters are very similar to Carroll's characters, but the plot is a little different, which makes it more exciting! I also enjoyed how the book touched on the idea of fate, and whether people can outrun their fate, like Catherine tried (and failed) to do. My favorite character was Jest. Being a Joker, he was naturally an amusing character, and his ending hurt me just as much as it hurt Catherine! Hatta was my least favorite character because of all his tricks, and I was surprised when he confessed to Catherine at the end and went mad. This book had the perfect balance or romance, drama, adventure, and heartache.
Your classic Cinderella story, but with a geeky twist. Geekerella takes us on the story of Elle Whittimore and Darien Freeman. They are two teenagers in love with an old TV show, and they fall in love with each other over a series of text messages. A take on the classic story Cinderella, we get to sit back and watch as all of the fandom-filled fun plays out between the two characters, who only know each other over text, and mostly hate each other in real life. Darien Freeman is taking over the role of Prince Carmindor, from the TV series that both of the characters love, for the movie adaptation, and Elle runs a scathing blog that is starting to make Darien's life much harder than it needs to be. As both of the characters face many different challenges in their separate lives, everything leads up to ExcelsiCon, a con started by Elle's late father, and a con where the two both happen to be in the same place at the same time. I chose this book because I am a long time lover of the Cinderella story, a story that is classic and I have seen played out on the screen many times. That is what originally drew me to the book. But as I started reading the book I was immediately enraptured in the world that Ashley Poston has created. Starfield, although it may not be a real television show and was just created for the sake of the novel, is a show that I would be happy to watch. I think it is safe to say that if it ever did become a show, it would stand beside science fiction classics such as Star Wars and Star Trek. The tale of the two characters, Elle and Darien, while it is a fun and lighthearted story to read, is also filled with grief and loss and love. Both of the characters are dealing with their own drama, and while I may not personally understand the drama that Darien as a celebrity is dealing with (a manager he doesn't like, a somebody sneaking onto set and leaking pictures of him), I do know about the drama that Elle has to go through: drama with friends and drama with school. The story had me reading late into the night, anxiously awaiting to see what would happen next. Geekerella takes on the themes of loss and grief, as Elle is dealing with the loss of her father and mother. We see Elle deal with this grief in many different ways, and she is also forced to deal with her terrible stepmother and stepsisters on a day-to-day basis. Darien is coping with loss as well, but not in the typical sense, and not like Elle. He is dealing with the loss of himself, because we see him dealing with who he used to be before he was famous, and get a sense of grief about who he is now that he is famous. If you love the Cinderella story, and geeky and nerdy TV shows, Geekerella is the book for you.
For years, I had heard of The Lunar Chronicles and thought people were referring to the two Sega Saturn video games, Lunar: Silver Star Story and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue. However, seeing as most people haven’t heard of these video games, I eventually figured out that they referred to the Young Adult series of books. While 2012 was definitely around the height of the re-imagined fairy tale craze, I do have to admit that this science-fiction take on these classic stories is a fresh new way of adapting the plots that we all grew up with through Disney movies.
The first book in the series, Cinder, takes Cinderella's down-and-out heroine and updates her to a cyborg unaware of her royal origins. What made this story engaging was figuring out how the standard trappings of the Cinderella story would be adapted to this futuristic setting. Granted, this made some of the plot points more than obvious well before they happened, but I usually ended up smiling at the bits of homage that Cinder paid to its origins—such as a “pumpkin” of a car and the leaving behind of certain footwear.
While the plot was mostly predictable, I appreciated the awkward “teenager” dialogue of the titular protagonist but only to a point. I’ll admit that YA books have a kind of frenetic style that matches their main characters' emotional turbulence, and Cinder certainly reads like a teenage girl replete with the insecurities, slang, and missed steps that a full-grown adult wouldn’t necessarily have as character quirks. The problem is that having to follow such a snarky young individual for so long through the story makes it eventually grate on my nerves, especially when the path she needs to take in her life is so obvious. Then again, perhaps I’m just a crotchety old man who isn’t in-tune with the youth anymore.
A great sci-fi Cinderella retelling, I give Cinder 4.0 stars out of 5.
Acclaimed Young Adult author Elana K. Arnold knows there is realism to be found in dark fairy tales and the award-winning author delivers once again, following up her Printz Award-winning Damsel with Red Hood (Feb. 2020), a retelling of the classic fairy tale geared toward older teens. The story centers on Bisou, a girl in a red hooded sweatshirt, who discovers she has inherited the instincts and supernatural strength -- triggered by menstruation during the full moon -- to stop the boys who turn into werewolves at that time from hurting the young women they prey upon. It's a violent and bloody tale enhanced by layered depictions of strong females, positive male allies and a realistic portrayal of teen life. Arnold effectively blends magical realism, dark fantasy elements and modern prose together into a disturbing but ultimately empowering story that celebrates sisterhood that spans generations while shining a light into the dark shadows of rape culture. The story quickly builds to an ending that does not disappoint.
Cinderella is dead is about a girl in a society where women are expected to behave like Cinderella in the beloved (well, they're forced to love it) fairy-tale: wait until you're somethingth birthday and then you must go to a ball to be chosen by a boy/man/grandpa who you will be forced to obey for the rest of your life. Those who refuse are executed. When our main character falls in love with another girl instead of waiting to be chosen at the ball, she decides it's time for a change.
I saw this book ages ago on Netgalley and while I love the cover (and don't be afraid to chose a book by it's cover, kids!), I'm pretty over anything to do with Cinderella as I feel as though I've read around 8 million re-tellings in the last five years or so. Then, I heard some folks from Bloomsbury talk about this book at a recent conference, and I was sold! Unfortunately, though, there was way too much Cinderella in it for me to truly enjoy it. The worldbuilding and plot waffled between being creative and a bit silly. The characters were one-dimensional and the romance unearned. That said, I think the book's audience, younger teens, will enjoy it, so I'll definitely be recommending it.
This is the perfect book for younger teens who just can't get enough of Cinderella or who are looking to make the jump from middle grade to young adult fiction. For this older reader, the coolness of the author's innovation with the Cinderella fairytale was outweighed by bland characters and forced romance. 2 stars - it was ok.
Thanks to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for the eARC which I received for an unbiased review. You can put Cinderella is Dead on hold today!
Premise: Guinevere died in the convent where she'd been sent by an her father. An imposter, Merlin's daughter and Arthur's new protector, is her replacement, and all have been fooled into thinking she's the "real" Guinevere, save Arthur, who she immediately marries and starts to protect.
I found the beginning of the book, with its delicious hints of a larger story of evil and darkness, to be captivating. Unfortunately, those hints, for the most part, stay hints, and the book ended up being a pretty predictable retelling of sorts that was paradoxically too faithful and not faithful enough to its predecessors. It had glimpses of the humor from Mallory, T. H. White and Steinbeck. It had the promise of the adventure that lies in those tales. It just never fully delivered. And the end, when it finally came, was predictable enough to be a bit disappointing.
That said, I do love Arthurian legend, and this version of Guinevere is not without promise. If the next entry gets great reviews, I'll give it a go as my familiarity with the characters and story would render a re-read unnecessary. 3 stars. I...liked it? I'll recommend it to younger readers new to the legend.
Thanks to Netgalley and Delacorte for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Guinevere Deception will be on sale on 05 November, but you can put your copy on hold today!
I love well-done fairy-tale retellings and there has been a brash of good ones coming out lately. This one is wildly imaginative mash up of the fairy tale Cinderella. I loved this lush atmospheric feminine take on this classic story.
Beginning at the end of the tale we all know; Ella has just gone off with her prince to become the queen of France and start her beautiful life. And Isabelle and her sister Tavi are left behind with their harsh, overbearing mother. Having done the unthinkable and mutilated themselves for a chance at fortune and a good marriage, both Isabelle and her sister are all but shunned from the town they live in. Shortly after, a mysterious fire brings down their home and they are all left destitute. As a last resort the sisters turn to a difficult neighbor whom they barter with to allow them to stay in exchange for working on their farm. They lead a harsh life and though Isabelle wants to better herself, she soon loses all confidence in herself.
Called ugly by everyone around them Isabelle starts to believe it, until she meets a curious character who gives her the chance to change her story. Unbeknownst to her, two other forces, are also fighting for her fate, one for it the other against. Who will win? Only Isabelle can determine that.
This cleverly retold fairy tale brings a fresh take to a very old myth. It is a story of one girl’s journey of self-discovery but also a strong statement on one’s ability to determine their own course instead of following the path that society has laid out for them. Once she discovers she can control her own path, Isabelle’s intense desire to change and find redemption, coupled with her strong will, and feisty attitude develops her character in such a meaningful and real way. We all fight against stereotypes “she’s too fat” “he’s got a disability” “she’s ugly” etc.” If you’re not beautiful and perfect and an idealized version of what the world deems attractive or good, or beautiful, in other words if your different, the world will push back and fight against you. This beautiful tale reminds us that when the world pushes against you, you have the strength and the ability and the write to push back and fight against it.
Set against a backdrop of a classic story. With strong heroines, the added change of Fate and Chance as characters which I think is a awesome detail, beautiful worldbuilding and lush prose! This is feminism at its finest! Thank you to the publisher Scholastic Press and Edelweiss for my ARC for review!
This book was the essence of the life and struggles that can be overcome with the strength that women can hold when they believe in themselves. This book has given me a moral that treats the spirit in telling us that we can do anything if we strive for and work hard to achieve it. Great book, and great writing style. Loved every happy, and bittersweet moments that were inhabiting this story.
Have you ever wondered what it's like being a princess? Well, if you ask Dorthea Gale Emerald, princess of Emerald, it's not easy. Especially when the only thing you can't have is fire.
This is an amazing read about a princess you accidentally curses all of Story and embarks on a mission with a servant, her fiancé she was forced to get married to, and a pair of beautiful ruby heels. It has a lot of plot twists, romance, bickering, and , of course, villains and heroes. This book is part of a three book series and a twisted version of Wizard of Oz. There are no bad parts to the book in my eyes. The major theme is don't judge a book by it's cover. All ages can enjoy this book, but there is slight cursing and blood. So if you have a book wish list, definitely add this book to it.
"Heartless" by Marissa Meyer is near the top of my favorite books list. The book tells the story of Catherine, future Queen of Hearts in Wonderland BEFORE she was queen. Normally romance isn't my cup of tea, but the suspense from the very beginning kept me hooked. Marissa Meyer does a fantastic job of weaving her story with the original; including some of the old cast (The Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat, for instance) while giving us fresh characters who will steal your heart (Catherine, Jest, and The Sisters). I found this book through my love of other Marissa Meyer novels like the Lunar Chronicles. I would definitely suggest it to any teenager looking for a fun twist on a classic story.
Reviewer Grade: 8
The Hazel Wood is an interesting mix of modern perspective and fairy tale magic. This book took a Grimm's fairy tale turn in it's dark and twisting paths. The main character has always been followed by bad luck and when she goes back to her dead grandmother's estate, she finds out why. I really enjoyed this book as a fan of fairy tales and darker ideas. I would recommend this book for fairy tale lovers and people who have a love for the darker side of the world.
Would you all like to know what kept me up, new years eve, until 1 am? It was not the obvious fact that it was new year’s eve, and staying up until 12am was what we are all supposed to do, right? No! It was the simple reason, that I was spellbound and entranced, by this beautiful fairy tale of a book, and could not get away until I knew what happened. This tale captivated me and wouldn’t let go. This fable is a brilliant and magical retelling of a Norwegian tale called East of the Sun West of the Moon with references to other fairytales smattered throughout including Tam Lin and Psyche.
It’s basic premise is that one day after her father leaves town and mysteriously disappears, Echo Alkaev goes to look for him. She finds him on the brink of death. In order to save him she is sucked into a deal, by the same talking white wolf which disfigured her face and whom, she saved years before. A deal that will define and change the rest of her life. Live with me for a year in my enchanted house under the mountain, and I will save your father. There is only one rule, you cannot look upon me at night. Desperate and scared, and propelled by the mystery surrounding him, she does as she is asked.
She is soon launched into a magical world she never knew existed. With an enchanted house; in each room a different magical wonder, woven together like a tapestry; a magical library, with books explored through mirrors that one could travel into and experience, the four winds, a witch, a goddess and, a dreadful curse; Echo finds this world, on the edge of magic itself, dark, mysterious, lonely, full of peril, and wonder, and fantastical beyond belief. But more importantly, she finds a resiliency and strength in herself she never knew she possessed, the capacity to love beyond belief, and the courage to do what’s right even in the most dangerous of circumstances.
This book is filled with so many layers, it’s impossible to describe them all here, but suffice it to say, that if you let it, this story will weave itself into an incredible tapestry around you. It’s filled with so many different worlds that I just wanted to dive into and stay there forever. It’s filled with likable and relateablecharacters that felt like friends. Hal, the love interest, the tortured and lonely white wolf, Echo, the heroine, and so many lovable side characters, I can’t choose. It’s filled with vivid prose and world building and just so much goodness, and magic, and love, I just can’t even….
All I can say is pick up this book when it comes out. If you love fairy tales, and magic and heart felt story telling that will get you lost in worlds you don’t want to leave, and heart wrenching secrets that will make you happy and sad all at the same time. Than do yourself a favor and pick up this wonderful, fable! Total5 star read for me all the way! Thank you to Netgalley and Page Street Publishing for a Digital Review Copy for review. This comes out January 15 but you can pre order it, or put it on hold at your local library today!