Hi friends, and happy Sunday!
There’s really something so special about finding a new favorite series. Sure, as we read more books, we’re bound to find more books that steal our hearts and books that make us cry and laugh. But, a lot of these books that we love, end up making it at far as our favorites list, despite the fact that there’s even a higher level. We have those books that we mark as our favorites, but then there are books that are untouchable. They’re the books that we can’t stop thinking about. They’re the books we can’t stop screaming about. Arguably, these books and stories become a sort of our own, personal cult classics.
I recently read The Lunar Chronicles for the first time, after marking Cinder as “to-read” more than four years ago. I knew I was going to love the stories; how could I not? I’m a huge sucker for fairytales; I’m obsessed with strongly written, complex, and flawed characters; I love stories where princesses save themselves. Except, the thing is, I didn’t quite expect for this series to become one of my cult classics—along with my beloved Darkest Minds, Six of Crows, and The Raven Cycle.
Without me just simply yelling about how much I love and respect Carswell Thorne as a person and character, there are elements on top of elements that made me fall in love with this series and binge read it within the month I was gifted Cinder.
From its strong portrayal of different types of women to the representation of human rights and varying social classes, these books are more than stories. There’s a lot of reasons that I’m obsessed with The Lunar Chronicles, and I think you’ll see why.
1. A woman can be strong and brave in more than one way.
Portraying a strong and brave women in any type of story is nothing of short of incredible. Usually, these characters have overcome something—or have to in the near future—before going on and saving the world. Typically, these women are represented as someone more physically strong and has a stubborn personality. They’re willing to jump straight into battle and don’t particularly care about anyone else’s opinion. That’s great and all—I love that kind of representation as much as the next girl—but it can become harmful if that’s the only representation of strength that we get to see.
There is more than one way to be strong. You don’t need to be skilled with weaponry or in self-defense. You don’t need to be so brave that you have no hesitation about anything. You can be strong through your will, wit, and ability to help others. You can be strong quietly, using your best skills to help everyone else. And, I’m not sure that I’ve seen a better representation of these different forms of bravery than in The Lunar Chronicles.
First, we have Cinder. Cinder has just about zero knowledge of who she actually is, but she does know that she’s a cyborg. She also knows that cyborgs, for the most part, are feared and hated among her society. Because of that, she diminishes that part of herself and hides in her stall, in which she works as a mechanic. But, when the world comes knocking at her door, she begins to take charge. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to save the people she cares about. She will be the one to jump into battle first. She’s your more conventional type of “strong and brave.” Cinder is valid.
Then, there’s Scarlet. Scarlet hasn’t had an easy life, but she’s as happy as she can be living on her grandmother’s farm and helping make deliveries to companies in her town. She’s built an outer armor for these companies and has become strong-willed because of it. Scarlet also likes to think things through, to take her time before throwing herself into any situation. She wants to make sure that all of her choices are outweighed so that she has the best possible outcome. Scarlet is valid.
Next, we have Cress. Based off of Rapunzel, Cress has been locked away in outer space and has had very little communication with anyone outside of her own little world. She daydreams about Earth often, wishing she could be closer to other people and closer to the natural, non-artificial world. Soon enough though, her world turns upside down and she ends up where she never expected to. She’s confronted and pushed into problems that force a fast answer, but Cress is more methodical than that. She’s curious about the world and wants to take her time, but she’s terrified of what she may see. Cress doesn’t want to find herself on the front of the battle lines, but she will protect you from behind a computer screen without a second guess. Cress is valid.
Finally, Winter. Winter is a princess, step-daughter to the worst possible Queen, and she’s laughed at. Often. Winter voluntarily chooses to ignore her lunar powers, and in doing so, she contracts lunar illness, driving herself mad. Winter sees the walls bleed, she sees people that aren’t there, and she’s quickly become the entertainment among the royals because of it. Winter isn’t often taken seriously, and her decisions are almost always questioned by the people around her. But, Winter knows what she’s doing. She understands the politics that she’s drowning in. She silently learned how the world works from behind the palace walls. Winter is valid.
In showing a reader that people can be strong and brave in more than one way, we’re validating every reader out there. Sure, you may not be a trained soldier, but you sure can charm your way around a conversation. There’s value in that, and it’s valid. I will forever respect Marissa Meyer for writing these characters like this.
2. Your confidence and character development comes from within, not from others’ approval.
There was so much that was fantastic about the character development that you see over every book in the series. From not feeling like you belong to becoming a world leader, The Lunar Chronicles has some of my favorite character development, and all of it comes from accepting yourself.
It would be easy to ramble on about Cinder and how she comes to accept her cyborg parts and how she comes to accept herself, but I really want to focus on Thorne here for a minute.
Thorne has been a trouble maker all his life, and we first meet him in prison. He doesn’t exactly start on the best foot with the reader. But, despite the fact that he’s a criminal doing his hard-earned time, the man is chockfull of himself. He holds himself in the highest regard, always paying himself compliments regarding either his personality or his physicality, and it begins to annoy just about everyone around him. This is the outside of Thorne, what he wants everyone to see. It’s his armor, his shield. Then, he finds himself amongst the company of someone that sees past his criminal record and his debauchery and is convinced that he’s a better person than he’s letting on.
After a number of fairly one-sided conversations with Thorne about how he’s a kind, thoughtful, and generous hero, he breaks. Thorne admits that he’s nothing more than the scum on the bottom of your shoe, and that he really does belong behind bars. Soon enough, Thorne is thrown into a number of situations that rely on his generosity and his kindness. He begins helping others before ever thinking about helping himself. Then, in his own terms, he realizes that maybe he is a little bit of a hero. He’s come to accept himself, and he understands that maybe he is worth it.
3. Your gender does not determine your skillset.
One of the best aspects of this whole entire series is the idea that you can do anything you want to. Marissa Meyer breaks so many gender stereotypes that I couldn’t even keep track.
There are princesses that save themselves while their princes are on the sidelines, waiting to ask, “how can I help?” Cinder is always on the move, trying to find the next right thing to do. Kai is always watching her, amazed at her ability to make the world a better place, and offers help and support whenever he can. That’s not to say that Kai isn’t a strong character that is crucial to the plan, but he’s willing to step back because he knows there’s someone better suited for the job.
There are female Einsteins when it comes to technology and computer systems, while their male counterparts try to trick the guards into looking the other way. Because of her years spent alone and as a spy for the Queen, Cress knows her way around just about any computer system. She can hack palaces and castles, she can stop weddings, and she can most certainly save the world.
Something about showcasing strong women skilled in areas that are most often saturated with testosterone is just about the most refreshing thing I’ve ever read. I’m kind of obsessed with it.
4. The difference of social classes really affects your chance of opportunity.
We saw it in Cinderella and every remake time and time again: there are barriers between the rich and the people that serve the rich. Heck, we see this in everyday life.
As a cyborg, Cinder is diminished to working as a servant. She’s expected to clean, make repairs around the house, and do just about anything that’s requested of her. And, when one opportunity comes up, her stepmother squanders it and reminds her of the place as a cyborg and a servant. Cinder can’t go to the peace ball because she’s low class. Cinder can’t wear nice clothes because she’s low class. For Pete’s sake, Cinder’s stepmother signs her up for scientific experimentation because her life is nowhere near valuable because she’s a lowly cyborg.
We even get to see this representation of social class on Luna, in which residents of the outer sectors are treated inhumanly. They work day in and day out, providing resources to the higher classes, and they must return home before curfew before waking up and doing it all over again. These residents help make life large and grand in the palace, giving them the best foods and products, whereas they see no results of their hard work within their own homes. Because they’re the working class, they get absolutely nothing.
What was so wonderful and horrible about this element of the series is the fact that it’s directly reflecting our world. Our classes determine too much of our life’s worth, and that shouldn’t at all be the way life works.
5. Everyone deserves human rights.
A huge aspect of The Lunar Chronicles focuses around Cinder and her cyborg-ness. For a majority of the first book, Cinder is denied plenty of things because she’s not fully human. She fears other people’s reactions to them finding out she’s a cyborg, so she hides those parts of her. Don’t even get me started on the fact that a whole part of this society’s infrastructure is the idea that cyborgs have a lower-valued life so they’re getting injected with a plague to help produce an anecdote. Not to mention, there’s a whole other class of humans on Luna that are seen as useless because they don’t harness any powers. I’m sorry, what?
The idea of everyone being deserving of rights is a constant theme throughout the four main books, and it was honestly beautiful to see that develop. Again, this element directly reflects our own world and the struggle that different groups of people have to face solely because of something about their identity.
I could go on about this series for days, that much is obvious, but there are so many wonderful things about it, these five just being the tip of the iceberg. I’ve also come to realize that this post has turned into something weirdly professional and technical, but I just had to get all of my thoughts out there.
As readers, we know that books are more than just stories. Books can change lives and give us insight on our own, nonfiction world. That said, The Lunar Chronicles is something special and if you choose to pick it up if you haven’t already, I hope that you love it as much as I do.
PS: If you don’t want to pick up the series because of any of these reasons, please just grab is solely for the fact that you can meet Carswell Thorne and Iko.