Cress by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles embed fairy tale retellings in a story of interstellar war, plague, intrigue, and romance, in a future fantasy world where cyborgs and androids fly space ships and the men in the moon have special mind control powers. The villain, Queen Levana, ruler of the moon, is trying to marry Emperor Kai and gain control of the Earth. Cinder, the first novel, introduced the central character, a cyborg mechanic princess-in-disguise who puts Cinderella to shame. Scarlet, the second, gave us Meyer’s answer to Little Red Riding Hood and her Wolf, who join Cinder in her quest. Cress, like Rapunzel, has been trapped in a satellite for years, unable to cut her hair, until Cinder’s crew rescues her. She has lots of little romantic fantasies that keep her going, reveal her whimsical yet plucky character, and provide some humor. Cress is very dramatic, in an over-the-top way that allows us to laugh at her while still liking her.
This series is incredibly enjoyable. The world is complex and immersive and strange and gorgeous. It’s fun to look for the little fairy tale touches, and especially for the moments when the fairy tale is critiqued or turned upside down. Here’s my favorite line, and I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler:
“The people of Luna don’t need a princess. They need a revolutionary.”
None of these “princesses” are passive, and all have important skills. Cinder can fix anything mechanical or electronic, while Cress is a master hacker. I especially loved the big scene between Cinder and her “prince,” Emperor Kai, where he is totally humbled when she finally tells him her true identity. It’s kind of beautiful the way he grows because of the way Cinder has made him rethink some of his beliefs and assumptions. In this Cinderella story, it’s not so much about the prince raising her up from the ashes. Instead, it’s about what he has to learn from her.
The ending makes it clear that the next book in the series will be called Winter, and will focus on the stepdaughter of Queen Levana, who’s mentally unstable because she doesn’t use her “lunar gift,” and in love with the guard who was a new character in this volume. I can’t wait for it.