The Lunar Chronicles

I actually remember when I first read Cinder. A friend who had recently been to ALA had picked up a galley and sent it my way because she knew I’d love it. And I did. I am the Cinderella girl after all. Who knew picking a topic for an undergraduate thesis would haunt me so?! But, let’s face it, at this point, I’ve read a LOT of Cinderella re-tellings and Cinder remains one of the more unique and fabulous ones to date.

From the start of the series, what I appreciated was the level of detail that Marissa Meyer was able to bring into the world she was creating and yet not bog her story down with world building. I find this a lot with fantasy and science fiction. The author is so preoccupied in creating the world for her characters that she forgets about her characters. Or her plot. That never happened in the Lunar Chronicles and I think that is because of the strength of the characters Meyer brought to the table.

From Cinder, Meyer moved to Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel) and Winter (Snow White). While I should not have been surprised at how well these fairy tales translated into a futuristic world (one of the main tenets of my thesis after all was how well Cindy does in alternate genres), I was. Each of these tales was cleverly re-imagined for the world that Meyer had built. Scarlet became a farmer whose grandmother goes missing just as a “lone wolf”- type character appears in the local street fighting ring. Cress is a computer genius shut inside a satellite where she can monitor and hack the earth’s systems for the Lunar crown (bonus? her hero ends up blind for awhile – gotta love when they use the old school versions of the fairy tales). Winter is the stepdaughter of the evil Lunar queen, scarred by an attack by her stepmother and yet still more beautiful than her, who is felled by a plague-laced treat.

With each book, the heroines’ tales were woven together until Winter’s story where the Lunar queen (SPOILER) meets her defeat at the hands of them all. I am glossing major details and plot development here mainly because you need to read these books so I don’t want to spoil them too much for you. I adore all 4 heroines and their heroes (check plus to Meyer for also never having a love triangle, square or any other shape) but I will admit to loving Scarlet best which surprised me, she’s not from my favorite fairy tale, but I adored her story and her character as well as her relationship with the other characters especially Winter. She turns into the big sister for the group in a lot of ways and she is never afraid to tell it like it is.

If nothing else, I haven’t seen a series this well edited in a long time. As I work my way through book series this year, I am finding the longer they go, the more they unravel. The author clearly loses sight of where they want to go or they forget their own mythology (BIG pet peeve of mine, not only in books but in TV shows). Meyer never does this and, even though the books grow in page number, they never drag. I can’t think of one chapter, one scene that could be removed. Everything had a purpose towards the final conclusions and that my friends, is very impressive to me. I also must give a slow clap to Meyer for resisting an epilogue. These have not proven to work well (though I kinda like the Harry Potter one even though I know I will go down in people’s estimation for admitting to that) and it wasn’t needed here. Meyer very brilliantly went with “and they lived happily ever after” because, let’s face it, how else do you end a fairy tale? Even one that includes space ships, cyborgs, genetically modified soldiers and trips to the moon.

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Poetry and I (or is it Me?)

Poetry has never really been my thing. I’ve tried goodness knows. So many of my favorite literary heroines have adored it; Anne Shirley being the one who comes to mind first. I tried to read Tennyson in 6th grade because of her. It did not go well… But every once in awhile I try again to figure out what is so great about poetry. My latest attempt came to me at the book sale for the library this past summer. I found two old copies of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s The Courtship of Miles Standish and Other Poems and Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other Poems. I knew the titles and figured, I should read these! They’ve sat on my shelf until this past week when they came up first on the queue for my reading project. One good thing about poetry, once I sit down to read it, it doesn’t take too long for me to get through it.

I started with Longfellow. I knew he was an American poet, one of the Boston Brahmins (thank you Matthew Pearl) but that was about the extent of my knowledge. Oh, I knew he’d written “The Song of Hiawatha” too (thank you Disney!). So I went into these poems not knowing much. I must say I enjoyed “The Courtship of Miles Standish” though the title doesn’t exactly make sense. Standish never goes to court Priscilla, instead he sent his best friend John Alden to court for him. 25 years of romantic comedies told me before I got three stanzas in how well that was going to work. Still, I liked the story itself. Longfellow kind of lost me when Standish goes off to fight the Native Americans. A war story girl I have never been. The other poems included in the collection were interesting though nothing caught my fancy. I read through them and promptly forgot them. Clearly, a lover of poetry I am not meant to be.

Next came Coleridge. A man I knew even less about than Longfellow. Once the introduction to the version I had explained a bit about his relationship with Wordsworth and the Lake School I had a somewhat better idea of where he fit. A lover of Austen I am and thankfully Marianne in Sense and Sensibility was in love with Cowper (even though that may or may not have been her downfall, I’ve never quite decided). So once I had that in my mind, his poetry wasn’t surprising. It fell right into how I expected him to sound and act. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was interesting and slightly creepy at times, the premise is fascinating if nothing else. The Mariner must wander the world in search of people to tell his tale to in order to give penance for murdering the innocent sea bird. Of course, I also enjoyed the lines I recognized from other stories and movies over the years. My favorite was “Water, water, everywhere, /Nor any drop to drink. (lines 121-122)” I could just hear Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka in the Fizzy Lifting Room when I found that line.

I will say I enjoyed “Christabel” thoroughly and wished Coleridge had finished it. I like a story, even in my poetry, and Christabel’s story was shaping up to be a wondrous tale of good and evil, with the damsel being saved by her belief in her dead mother’s protection. In that it reminded me of medieval tales and the original versions of Cinderella where there is no fairy godmother. Instead it is Cinderella’s mother who provides her with the means to attend the ball. In fact, it was shaping up to be an interesting take on Cinderella even though that wasn’t the intent of the writer. What I could have done with that in my senior thesis! An unconscious re-telling of the Cinderella myth. It’s fun to think about anyway (the perils of being an English major never really leave you just so everyone knows).

With that, another shelf is completely read! Woohoo! I might make my end of the year deadline at this rate though I have some long reads coming up. And some ILLs from the library to read by November 13th. Those will have to be tackled first!