Monday, 9 September 2013

book review: cinder and scarlet by marissa meyer

Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi YA
Rating: 7/10
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

It's been a while since I've done any reading for pleasure and a really long time since I read any YA and these two books were the perfect re-introduction to reading after a summer of academic reading! These books are the first two books in the Lunar Chronicles series, a YA fantasy/series very loosely modelled on traditional fairy stories.

Cinder is very much 'Cinderella with robots' and pretty much all of the elements of the original story are there in some form or another. I enjoyed it a lot though I felt that some of the action scenes were a little difficult to follow with the characters' confusion infiltrating a little too much of the narrative. I also thought that Prince Kai could have been a little more developed - I appreciate that this is the beginning of a series and that all the characters will get fleshed out as we go through but there wasn't enough of Kai for me to become particularly invested in him or his and Cinder's relationship. That said, I loved the ways in which the story was modernised - the world building was great and I really hope we get a little more backstory and history of Earth and Luna as time goes on. I also really appreciated the global scope of the novel - international relations and foreign diplomacy are some of the key themes of the book and I was really intrigued by the 'new' geography of the Eastern Commonwealth, Luna and the other nations that had emerged out of the Fourth World War. YA lit tends to limit itself to very specific settings so it was really refreshing to read one which was initially based in the East and which reached out to the rest of the world and space.

I don't want to give too much away about Scarlet but I think I preferred it to Cinder. The story deviated from Red Riding Hood in interesting ways and I thought Meyer did a really good job of developing the universe she'd set up in Cinder. While Scarlet was a slightly less interesting protagonist than Cinder (probably a result of the numerous POVs this book covered), Wolf was developed much better than Kai; while I was less emotionally invested in Scarlet and Wolf's story I was more engaged by their relationship than Kai and Cinder's. Like I said, the global scope of the novel was set up from book one so the change of setting felt really natural - the characters grew in to the world rather than the setting having to expand in line with the story. While the premise of Cinder was relatively straight-forward, Scarlet was a more nuanced exploration of that universe and a more interesting use of the fairy story framework.

Telling stories of an intriguing sci-fi world filled with lady protagonists who are far from being damsels in distress, The Lunar Chronicles is an imaginative and engaging series that I'll definitely be following.

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