Literature: Lunar Chronicles

aka: Cinder

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer are a quartet of fairytale retellings with a sci-fi spin on them. The books in the series are Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and the upcoming Winter. There is also the prequel, Fairest, which is the story of the wicked queen, Levana. It is recommended that Fairest be read after Cress, since the prequel reveals the queen's plots that are discovered in the first three books.

In a distant future, Earth is in chaos. There's a deadly plague epidemic spanning the entire globe, with no hope of a cure in sight. To make matters worse, the planet is on the brink of war with the Lunars - humans that colonized the moon hundreds of years ago, have since gained the ability to manipulate bioelectric energy, and have also made huge technological advancements.

Their ruthless Queen Levana of Luna is determined to take control of Earth, by right or by force. But there are rumors that Levana’s niece Princess Selene, who would have ascended to the throne if she had not died in a mysterious fire when she was a child, is actually alive somewhere on Earth. If it’s true, she could be the key to overthrowing the tyrant queen of Luna and saving Earth from her wrath.

There are also a number of short stories available online. Most of them aren't too spoilery, but The Queen's Army is a gigantic spoiler for Scarlet, and should be read after.

The short stories include (and will be released in print as of February 2016 under the title Stars Above):

  1. Glitches A tale of Cinder's adjustment to New Beijing.
  2. The Queen's Army The story behind Wolf's transition into one of the Queen's hybrid soldiers.
  3. Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky (available free via Meyers' newsletter) This reveals the incident of the port screen retrieval between 13-year old Thorne and Kate Fallow.
  4. The Princess and the Guard (not available anywhere yet)
  5. The Little Android (available free via Meyers' Wordpress account) A novella featuring separate characters with a cameo from Cinder.

The series provides examples of:

  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Kai is a rare male victim of this trope. Queen Levana is determined to get a legitimate claim to Earth via marriage to an Earthen leader. First she tries holding the antidote for the Letumosis virus over his head, then later Cinder's life, to force him into agreeing to marry her. As of the end of Scarlet, she has succeeded. Kai begs her to stop call off her special operatives in exchange for the marriage alliance.
  • Bad Moon Rising: The moon gives people on Earth the creeps, because it's no longer just a big piece of rock in the sky, but an advanced nation of Fae that “evolved” from humans. Knowing a permanent fixture in your sky is home to a colony that can nuke whenever they want is enough to scare anyone. The fact that they can also mind control you doesn't help much.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Cinder, naturally. And Cress, to an extent.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: A lot of people seem to believe cyborgs are no longer capable of human emotion, including Cinder's stepmother Adri.
    Adri: "Do your kind even feel love, or is it all just... programmed?"
  • Doing In the Wizard: In the first two books, humans are convinced that the Lunars are using their powers to hide their space ships. It turns out that it was actually Cress scrambling the signals from her satellite.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The computer hacker with Rapunzel Hair who warns Cinder about Kai's impending murder is implied to be Cress, the heroine of the upcoming third book.
    • Jacin is one of the Lunar royal guards that is part of Levana's entourage when she goes to Earth in Cinder. He's just a background character until Cress.
    • Similarly, Jerrico, the captain of the royal guard, is also present in Cinder and makes an appearance in Cress. He isn't named until Winter, where it seems he will play a larger role.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: As you would expect from a series that's apparently inspired by Sailor Moon and based on fairy tales. A large chunk of the series' plot revolves around people trying to locate the mysterious Princess Selene, who is actually Cinder, to either kill her or help put her back on the Lunar throne. There's also a Princess Winter, the protagonist of the upcoming final book.
  • Evil Matriarch: Cinder, Cress, and Winter all have an abusive mother figure.. Cress has two, if you count her birth mother, who disowned her after discovering she was a shell.
  • The Evil Prince: Levana is a female example. She murdered her three-year-old niece in order to ascend the throne.
    • She also spent ten years raping and brainwashing Winter's father while wearing his dead wife's face.
  • Fantastic Racism: Four different forms so far. Cyborg discrimination, Lunar hatred of Earthens, Earthen hatred of Lunars, and Lunars extermination policy for shells.
  • Fantastic Slur: A "shell" is a Lunar who does not have the gift and is also immune to it.
  • The Future: The series takes place 126 years after World War IV.
  • Glamour: Lunars have the ability to create illusions, which they usually use to alter their appearance. The effect only works on the naked human eye, however, so they tend to dislike reflective surfaces (like mirrors), recording devices, robots, and cyborg technology, as all of these either see or reveal their true appearance.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Lunar Queen Levana, who frames a palace servant for gravely insulting her and almost forces her to blind herself with a knife, just to see what Prince Kai would do.
    • And interestingly enough for this type of story, Levana's older sister Channary, wasn't any better when she was alive. She was sadistic and manipulative and regularly bullied Levana. She once cut off the feet of her seamstress so that the woman would have nothing better to do than sit around making more dresses for her. Evil seems to be a Lunar Monarchy trait. Thankfully, Cinder doesn't seem to have taken after her mother or her aunt.
    • Ironically, this is somewhat inverted in that Cinder is the rightful queen of Luna and Levana is truly just a princess.
  • Human Alien: The Lunars. Justified in that they are descended from Earthens. The only difference is that Lunars have evolved the ability to detect and manipulate bioelectricity.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: Lunars, the "evolved" humans of the Lunar Colony.
  • Insistent Terminology: Cinder and Cress both refer to the "maternal" figures in their lives as their "legal guardians" when discussing them with other people. Cinder's not very consistent with it, but she will correct people when she's particularly mad at Adri.
  • Magic by Any Other Name: The Lunars' "manipulation of bioelectric energy" apparently has a science to it, but in practice it works more like a magic, to the point where many Earthens refer to it as such.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Queen Levana.
  • Muggle Born of Mages: "Shells" are Lunars born without the ability to manipulate bioelectricity, making them essentially human, except for the fact that, unlike humans, they're also immune to Lunar glamours and mind tricks.
  • Never Found the Body: Princess Selene’s body was never found after the fire in the royal nursery, just a few scraps of flesh, leading to rumors that she's still alive. She is. It’s Cinder.
  • The Plague: Letumosis. It is theorized that the plague was brought to Earth by Lunars fleeing the oppressive regime. The Lunars were asymptomatic carriers.
    • Synthetic Plague: It turns out that the Lunar monarchy has been developing this disease for generations for use in biological warfare. Levana unleashed it by exposing Lunars in the working class domes to the disease, knowing that they would be the most likely to flee to Earth. She then allowed them to escape, knowing they were carrying the disease with them. The plan was to both wittle down the Earthen population and to introduce the antidote as a political bargaining chip. Though the whole plan may be backfiring on her, as it turns out the plague has mutated, developing at a faster rate and now affecting Lunars as well.
  • Prince Charming: Prince Kai. He's even sincere about it, too!
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Most androids seen act like a typical computer program, having limited responses and being incapable of understanding things that don't fit their programming. However, Adri's housekeeping android Iko acts like a teenage girl with a love of fashion, due to a "faulty" Personality Chip.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Emperor Kai. He has to make decisions that affect the entire planet, and try to balance securing peace with Lunar and not being a doormat to Levana.
    • Funnily enough, although he is by far the youngest of the Earthen Union leaders, he is doing the most, personally, to make peace with Levana.
  • Space-Filling Empire: There are now only six nations in the world, each of them spanning continents, and together they form the Earthen Union.Emperor Kai rules over the Eastern Commonwealth, which is composed of all of Asia and many of the surrounding islands.
    • It is implied that the damage from WWIII and WWIV is responsible for the existence of these huge mega nations. The massive evacuations and the poisoning of land by radiation and chemical warfare has forced many disparate cultures to be mixed in unconventional ways. We see this most clearly int he Commonwealth, which has developed an Asian fusion culture.
  • Theme Naming: Most Lunars have names that relate in some way to the moon: Levana, Selene, Crescent, etc. Naming children after other things associated with the moon seems popular too, like wolves.
  • Twice Told Tale: Each book is a retelling of a classic fairytale, and follows the basic outline of the story, but with scifi flavor and some other twists.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Multiple characters throughout the series, as you'd expect for fairy tale retellings.
    • Adri. Technically, she's an adoptive mother, but she still fits the trope completely. Also, Cinder refers to her all adoptive family members as her stepfamily. She verbally abuses Cinder, mostly about being a cyborg, and uses her as the family's sole source of income, rather than getting a job herself. All of which she's legally allowed to do, as Cinder is considered her property due to the cyborg laws.
    • Though we have yet to see how Levana interacts with her stepdaughter Winter, considering her fairy tale counterpart is the Evil Queen from Snow White, and Levana's character in general, we can safely say she fulills the trope. It is rumored that she forced Winter to scar herself.
    • Sybil, one of Levana's minions, who keeps Cress locked away in a satalite that orbits Earth. She is responsible for bringing Cress food and water and is the closest thing to a mother than Cress has ever known.
    • Channary had been considering marrying Emperor Rikan, which would have made her Kai's stepmother. Levana tried doing the same thing herself, until Rikan's death.
  • Wicked Witch: Queen Levana and Mistress Sybil. And, presumably, many other Lunars, specifically the queen's thaumaturges.
  • Wrench Wench: Prince Kai first looks for Cinder because he needs her to fix his android and he's heard she's the best mechanic in New Beijing. The only thing is, no one told him Linh Cinder was a teenage girl instead of an old man.

Cinder provides examples of:

  • Actually, I Am Him: Prince Kai assumes Linh Cinder, the best mechanic in new Beijing, is a man. Naturally, he's embarrassed when he realizes the sixteenyear old girl he thought was a shophand is Linh Cinder.
  • The Alleged Car: Cinder's "pumpkin", an ancient orange wreck she finds in a junkyard and repairs. It barely gets her to the palace before crashing into a tree.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Zig-zagged. Our heroine Cinder would be considered disfigured due to being a cyborg, but otherwise her appearance is normal. Her stepmother Adri and stepsister Pearl are describe as beautiful, but are as stuck-up and abusive as you’d expect, given their roles. The younger stepsister, Peony, is also pretty, but sweet and close to Cinder. Many Lunars appear beautiful thanks to their glamour. Levana in particular is stunning to look at, but underneath her glamour she is severaly scarred. He stepdaughter, Princess Winter, is even more beautiful without glamour than Levana is with glamour, to the point where the scars on Winter's face only add to her beauty.
  • Celeb Crush: Cinder's stepsisters and her android friend Iko have it bad for Prince Kai. Cinder thinks he's good-looking, but doesn't develop a crush on him until she actually meets him.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: It's mentioned early on that Queen Levana's niece, the Lunar princess Selene, died in a fire when she was young. Most of her body was never actually found, leading Kai to suspect she was rescued and hidden on Earth somewhere. He's right. Cinder is Princess Selene, which explains practically every question about her backstory.
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: According to Meyer, Cinder was modeled after Mew Azama, the actress who played Sailor Jupiter in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.
  • Dances and Balls: The Peace Festival.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cinder.
  • Evil Aunt: Levana is Cinder's aunt on her mother's side. She attempted to murder Cinder when she was three in order to gain the throne.
  • Failsafe Failure: To make sure she passed as human, Cinder was implanted with a chip in her spine which suppresses her Lunar powers, but Dr. Erland disabled it while inspecting her. It slowly begins to stop working, meaning she can now access her abilities, but also that she can be detected as a Lunar.
  • First Name Basis: Due to shyness and protocol, Cinder and Kai have some trouble adjusting from "Linh-mei" and "Your Highness" to their given names.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Cinder. She's recognized as being the best mechanic in New Beijing in spite of the prevalent cyborg prejudices. Even without her cyborg abilities, Cinder is shown to have a knack for figuring out how machines function.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: Queen Levana can pacify an angry mob just by looking at them.
  • I Am Who?: Cinder's reaction to Dr. Erland telling her that she is really a Lunar. Later, it's also her reaction to his reveal that she's not just any Lunar - she's Princess Selene.
  • If We Survive This: When Peony falls ill, Cinder promises her that if she gets well she'll introduce her to the Prince at the annual ball. She gets Kai to agree, but Peony dies before that can happen.
  • Internalized Categorism: Cinder in regards to her cyborg status. And later, her Lunar status.
  • Kick the Dog: After having Cinder arrested and brought home, and making it clear she’s going to be keeping her on a very tight leash from now on, and taking Cinder's new (and necessary) foot, Adri reveals that she finally went through with her threats to tear up Iko and sell her useful parts. Thankfully, she left Iko's personality chip...
  • Living Lie Detector: Cinder's cyborg implants will display an orange light in her vision when they detect a lie. It even works on Lunar glamours.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Dimitri Erland, who is researching a cure for letumosis using drafted cyborg test subjects. He's a Lunar keeping his mind control powers in check, which has the side effect of making him a little unhinged.
  • Non-human Lover Reveal: Two-fold for Cinder and Kai's relationship. At the ball, in front of Levana and thousands of onlookers, Kai finds out Cinder's a cyborg and Lunar.
  • No Sell: A dramatic example: Cinder resists Levana's attempt to force her to shoot herself in the head when her cyborg programming overrode Levana's biochemical manipulation.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Cinder and Kai's conversation while dancing at the ball. Cinder thinks he's talking about her being a cyborg, but he's actually referring to her stepsister's recent death.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Levana attempts to force Cinder to shoot herself in the head. While Cinder is forced to pull the trigger, her cyborg programming kicks in and allows her to force the gun away from her head, shooting the ceiling instead.
  • Sadistic Choice: Levana forces Kai to choose between handing Cinder over for execution (as a Lunar fugitive) and starting a war with Luna. He chooses to give up Cinder for the sake of the entire planet.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Averted. Cinder dons Peony's beautiful old dress to go to the ball, but due to it raining and her car crashing on the way there, she walks in soaking wet and oil-stained. Not that she particularly cares, as the only reason she's going to the ball is to tell Kai about Queen Levana's plan. Kai doesn't really mind either.
  • Swiss Army Appendage: Dr. Erland gives Cinder one he made of titanium at the end of the book, in order to help her escape prison.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Kai asks Cinder this after discovering she's a Lunar. Cinder's answer is painfully unclear to anyone but the reader.
  • Withholding the Cure: Levana presents Kai with a sample of a cure for Letumosis only days after his father died of it, measured in the exact does that would have cured him. She refuses to provide any more until Kai agrees to marry her.
  • You Are in Command Now: Emperor Rikan dies early on in the book, leaving eighteen-year-old Kai in charge.
  • You Are What You Hate: Like most people, Cinder is prejudiced against the Lunars. Turns out she is one, and the princess at that!

Scarlet provides examples of:

  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Cinder and Thorne at the climax, very briefly. A thaumaturge manipulates Thorne into pointing his gun at Cinder, and she has to shoot him in the leg with a tranquilizer before anything can happen.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Scarlet and Wolf.
    Wolf: "When you greeted me with a gun at your doorstep, it was nice to know you meant it."
  • Cain and Abel: Wolf and his spiteful, ambitious brother Ran.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Jael, a Lunar thaumaturge who controls Wolf and Ran's pack.
  • Fiery Red Head: Scarlet is introduced getting so mad she throws produce at the building she's supposed to be selling it to.
  • Forceful Kiss: Wolf forces an unwanted kiss onto Scarlet, but he has a good reason. It's the only way to give her the ID chip she needs to escape the cell without the guards seeing.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Thorne headbutts Cinder to snap her out of a panic attack after she indirectly kills someone with her Lunar powers.
  • Great Escape: When Cinder accidentally breaks into Thorne's prison cell, he persuades her to help him escape in return for the use of his spaceship.
  • Human Shield: Cinder accidentally brainwashes someone into taking a bullet for her, just like Levana did, and feels terrible about it.
  • In Love with the Mark: Wolf falls for Scarlet.
  • Little Red Fighting Hood: Scarlet. She starts a tavern brawl, shoots her love interest, and is willing to face potential capture and torture by a gang of bizarre thugs if it means she can get her grandmother back.
  • Lured Into a Trap: Scarlet willingly walks into the pack's lair, knowing full well they're expecting her and she'll probably be captured and tortured. What she didn't know is that Wolf approached her by order of the pack, not on his own after he supposedly ran away. His job was to convince her to tell him what she knew about Princess Selene of her own free will, and afterwards to deliver her to the pack.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough: Scarlet does find her grandmother, but she's been tortured to the point she can barely move, making escape impossible. She only manages a few moments with Scarlet before goading Ran into killing her, since Scarlet wouldn't leave without her.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The Lunar Special Operatives are genetically altered soldiers fighting for the Lunar queen. They were spliced with wolves, given canine implants, and even had their jaw strength augmented so they could bite people's throats out. Back on the moon, the later generations of soldiers are even more wolfish looking, complete with fur and altered limb structure.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Ran impersonates Michelle in order to get information out of Scarlet. It works right up until "Michelle" refers to Scarlet as "weak". Knowing that the real Michelle always saw her granddaughter as strong, Scarlet sees through the deception and recoils in horror, leading to the "Grandmother, what big eyes you have!" moment that reflects the original fairytale.
  • Parental Issues: Scarlet's mother left when she was small, and her father, Luc, is a drunk who barely cares about her.
  • People Jars: Cinder learns that she spent eight years inside of one in Michelle's basement.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Scarlet, since she was seven.
  • Retired Badass: Michelle Benoit, a decorated air force pilot who risked her life for years protecting Selene, and even after weeks of torture, still has the strength left to defy her captors.
  • The Reveal: Scarlet's grandmother had a fling with a Lunar while visiting the moon as part of a diplomatic mission. This resulted in the birth of her son, Luc, Scarlet's dad, making Scarlet 1/4 Lunar. She doesn't seem especially traumatized by being part Lunar, but that may be because her grandmother raised her to be open minded about such things. The thing that really gets to her is that her grandmother was keeping such a huge secret from her, and that she never intended to tell her.
    • Wolf is a Lunar spy whose purpose was to gain Scarlet's trust, coax information out of her, and then deliver her to a Lunar thaumaturge so she can be tortured in front of her grandmother to get the woman to talk.
  • Suicide by Cop: A dying Michelle provokes Ran into shooting her.
  • Understanding Boyfriend: We learn that Kai doesn't care that Cinder's a cyborg. Her being Lunar though, is another deal entirely. In Cress, he does admit that he probably would have stopped speaking to Cinder if she had told him she was a cyborg. But with everything going on, he winds up getting over it long before he sees her again.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Cinder and “Captain” Thorne.

Cress provides examples of:

  • Abduction Is Love: Subverted. There's a lot more at stake in Cinder and her crew's abduction of Kai than just their feelings.
  • Beautiful Slave Girl: Cress.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Scarlet is glamoured by Sybil to cut off part of her own pinky finger.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Thorne literally shakes some sense into Cress after their dangerous escape.
  • Girl in the Tower: Well, a satellite.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Cress takes a while to warm up to Iko after her personality chip is installed into her new escort droid body, because the last time she saw it, it was practically sitting in Thorne's lap as he played cards.
  • Heroic BSOD: Wolf, after Scarlet is kidnapped.
  • I Will Protect Her: Jacin is loyal to his princess alone. He means Princess Winter.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Dr. Erland confesses to Cress that he is her father just before dying of letumosis.
  • Now or Never Kiss: Thorne promises to give Cress one if they ever get into a life-threatening situation. He does.
  • Overprotective Dad: Dr. Erland warning Thorne about Cress.
    • Konn Torin as a Parental Substitute towards Kai: "If anything happens to him, Linh-mei, I will hunt you down and kill you myself."
  • Rapunzel Hair: Cress, probably not as drastic as the original version, but still pretty damn long. And somewhat realistic: it’s apparently knotted and matted.
    • It was so long because Sybil both didn't care enough to get it cut and wouldn't allow sharp objects on the satellite, probably to make sure her pet hacker didn't kill herself.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Jacin, a Lunar royal guard. He isn't loyal to Levana, but he is a bit of an asshole.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Cress suffers from one after her satellite crashes on Earth. To be fair, the haircut itself isn't really traumatic, it's the crashing.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Cress is convinced she's the Damsel in Distress in a classic fairytale and destined for a Rescue Romance with Thorne. She's not entirely wrong, but his blindness and a confluence of other unlucky circumstances means she does quite a bit of the rescuing on her own.

Winter provides examples of:

  • Race Lift: Princess Winter, the Snow White of the story, is black.

Fairest provides examples of:

  • Big Sister Bully: Channary to Levana
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Subverted. Levana brainwashed Evret Hayle into starting a relationship with her, two weeks after his wife Solsitce died giving birth to their daughter. She glamoured herself to look like Sol and brainwashed him into having an affair with her, which culminated into forcing him to take her virginity. Levana then coerced him into marrying her, and continued to brainwash and rape him for ten years. Despite hating what she's doing to him and begging her to stop, Evret still tries to show Levana kindness, in the hopes that she'll be kind to others in turn. He even sacrifices his life to save hers. He gives her every chance to become not evil and she refuses, displaying what a monster she really is.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Subverted with Channary and Levana, who are both monsters as princesses. Arguably, Selene and Winter play this straight.
  • Evil Counterpart: We get another reason to view Queen Levana as this to Cinder, as she is secretly a childhood burn victim.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Averted. Channary toys with the idea of marrying Selene to Prince Kaito of Earth who, hilariously, falls in love with her as Cinder in the first book, but she quickly drops the idea in favor of murdering the Empress and marry the Emperor himself. Channary dies before she can do more than consider it, though. Later, the Empress dies of letumosis without any additional interference.

Alternative Title(s):

Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, The Lunar Chronicles