( Cinder + Scarlet + Cress + Winter)
It’s a few hundred years into the Third Era, and after rebuilding from the ground up after World War 4, Earth is finally united and at peace. The only thing that poses a major threat is the mysterious, incurable letumosis, a pandemic sweeping the planet that is devoid of either mercy or survivors. The only ones not infected are Lunars, inhabitants of the moon and those gifted with the ability to manipulate the bioelectricity of people’s minds and emotions. Levana, the powerful and evil queen of Luna, claims to possess an antidote to letumosis, and is willing to share—for a price.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old Cinder struggles to please her stepmother and keep from being drafted into medical testing for a letumosis cure—all on account of being a cyborg. Her story—and destiny—will soon become intertwined with a French farm girl, a Lunar super soldier, a conceited captain, an imprisoned hacker, a tortured princess, and a stressed-out emperor as they all seek out the fabled lost queen of Luna in an effort to overthrow Levana and restore peace to the galaxy.
Where do I start with these books? I heard about them several years back, but I’m not really a YA person, or a dystopian person, or a “Cinderella is secretly a robot” person. Multiple different people recommended them to me, including my sister-in-law, who’s on her way to working for a publishing company, so her bookish opinion is one I trust. But I still wasn’t really feeling it, and anytime someone would make a shocked exclamation over the fact I hadn’t read them yet, I’d give the standard “my tbr is soooo long right now, I just haven’t gotten to them yet” response. They were in the category of books that, if I had absolutely nothing else to read, I might try them, but I certainly wasn’t motivated to give them a shot on my own.
Last month, however, my mother-in-law and I were chatting about books (I got a pretty sweet deal when I got married, can you tell?) and she mentioned TLC and how much she liked it. I barely had the words “I’m just so busy—” out of my mouth when she said, “Oh, well I have them right here, why don’t you just borrow them?”
Dang it. No more stalling for me, I guess. That night I cracked the first one open, trying to ignore the cyborg foot wearing a glass slipper on the cover that so loudly proclaimed “I will take everything you love about fairytales and twist it all up” and got down to reading.
And… wow. Did I fall head over heels for this series or what? I read the first two books in two and a half days, book three in another couple of days, then really took my time and read all 827 pages of book four in just under a week. It was a wild ride, and definitely some of the most fun reading I’ve done in a long time.
In short, I really loved these books. The characters were interesting and more than skin deep, the world-building was intricate and well developed, and the plot was unique and kept me turning pages like a madwoman, while still retaining the classic fairytale feel. There was intrigue, and romance, and action, and humor. Over all, I felt that it was well written, especially for young adult novels, and while the series definitely was a pleasure read, I never felt like my brain was turning to mush from too much “cotton candy literature”.
However, there were a few aspects that kept me from giving these books a full 5 stars. The temptation to post spoilers and vent a little is *SO* strong, but I’m going to resist with all that is in me and be as vague as I can.
The main problem I had was the ending. Some might call this nit-picky, but the ending just felt TOO good. EVERY single loose end was tied up, EVERY single character got their just desserts, and it felt like the PERFECT storybook ending…which ended up feeling so unsatisfying. There was no real sacrifice, no bitter but necessary loss that made the victory deserved and sweet. I spent over 2,000 pages getting to know these characters, building up to this climax, experiencing how real it felt, that the ending—while very much the perfect fairytale—was too fake for my taste.
Other than that one problem, my differences with the series were minimal and not super important. I didn’t much appreciate how EVERY main character had to have a love interest (particularly the whole Cress and Thorne thing—eventually it grew on me, but for all of book 3and most of book 4 it felt pretty forced). I also didn’t understand why Scarlet had to be so angry ALL THE TIME, or why Cress had to be so terribly timid. They all went through a lot, and I felt like they didn’t have much of an excuse for acting the way they did.
But I digress. All in all, I enjoyed this series immensely, and would 100% recommend. It was truly a very fun, unique, and exciting reading experience!
I’ve seen a lot of differing opinions on whether the two bonus books, Stars Above and Fairest, are worth the read. You don’t need to read them in order to understand or fully enjoy the main series, but they do lend some added interest and backstory to most of the characters. Personally, I didn’t care for Stars Above a whole lot, because the amount of background character development seemed a tiny bit overkill (but that’s probably just me, see above 😬). As for Fairest, I’ve seen a few negative reviews because people don’t want to be made to feel bad for the villain, but I actually think Marissa Meyer did a fine job of explaining the factors that shaped Levana into the evil queen that she is, without justifying or condoning her actions.