Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Book Review Club - Cinder, Scarlet & Cress (The Lunar Chronicles)

Cinder, Scarlet & Cress
Marissa Meyer

This review has me torn. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Cinder. On the other hand, I had a hard time moving from book 1 to book 2 because main protagonists change. Is this a revolutionary way to avoid the sequel slowdown? Or does it kill the reading momentum?

But one thing at a time. First, Cinder.

Basic premise: A retelling of Cinderella as a cyborg/lunar girl living in a future Beijing in which the Queen of the Moon threatens to attack and enslave (or destroy) earth. Cinder, a mechanic and adopted daughter of the archetypically evil stepmother and one evil stepsister and one nice stepsister, is (spoiler alert!) secretly the rightful heir to the lunar throne. She doesn't know it yet. She thinks she's just a mechanic, who is also partly cyborg, and thus despised by most. Cyborgs are considered de-humanized by the cybernetic parts. Add to that, earthens suffer a plague caused by a viral strain introduced by runaway lunars.

As Fate would have it, the crown prince, Kai, is looking for the lost lunar heir, and comes to Cinder to repair  a broken android that may hold the answers to the lost princess's whereabouts. Cue: meet-cute.

The rest of the book is action-packed unraveling of the plague, who the princess is, the love interest between Cinder and Kai that all lead up to the annual ball where (spoiler alert!) the princess does not get her prince. In fact, he sacrifices her to the Lunar Queen to save earth.

Despite how much is going on in this story, it held my attention and was a fun read. Definitely a dessert book. My youngest loved the book so much, she asked if we could get the second book. We listened to both as audio books. We got it. We almost didn't get through.

Scarlet begins with a wholly different protagonist, namely, a character based on Little Red Riding Hood, with a parallel story about the people who helped Cinder escape from the moon, hide her and transform/heal her as a cyborg. It was very jarring to trade out one main protagonist for another, and in this instance, Scarlet is a very angry 18 year old, which makes it hard to feel empathy for her. She constantly lashes out. But we stuck with it (partly due to a very long car ride) and eventually, about halfway through the book, were able to listen without checking the clock.

I'm not sure I'd have bought the third book, but Scarlet ended in the middle of said long car trip, so we did. Cress follows the same pattern as Scarlet, introducing yet another new main protagonist and another retelling of a fairy tale, Rapunzel.

All of the main female lead's stories are connected and interwoven. The writing is tight and filled with action. And I admire Meyer for coming up with a novel way to avoid the sequel slowdown. I'm not sure introducing a new protagonist as the lead works particularly well. The reader is forced to alter heroes from one protagonist to another, while also following the original protagonist's main story as it unfolds in a sort of b-story role.  Clearly, these books have sold exceptionally well, so something is working. Maybe it's my misperception that I'm getting hung up on. This isn't a trilogy. These are chronicles, loosely related stories that are nevertheless connected and do move forward toward a common goal. Still, it was jarring to move from book 1 to 2. And yet, here I am on book 3. Like I said, these books have me torn.

For other great May treasures, click on over to Barrie Summy's website. Happy reading!


Linda McLaughlin said...

Retold Fairy Tales are popular these days, and always have been come to think of it. I don't think I'd have a problem with the change of protagonist since I come from the romance reading world where that's generally the way "series" work. Setting or relationships tie the stories together but each one stands on its own. Just a different approach to the notion of series.

Glad you liked Cinder so much at least.

Sarah Laurence said...

I only read the start of your review (thanks for the spoiler alert) since I haven't finished the first book. My 13 year old niece loved the first book.

Barrie said...

I think there was a point in time when the first five chapters of Cinder were free on kindle. I read those. I liked the premise. I thought Claire and was thinking about getting it on audio. I wonder if you would've had a different experience reading rather than listening to the 2nd and 3rd book. Maybe not. But maybe. Thanks to you, I've gotten addicted to audio books! thanks for reviewing, Stacy!