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.

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 and have since made huge technological advancements and gained the ability to manipulate bioelectric energy.

Their ruthless Queen Levana is determined to take control of Earth, by right or by force. But there are rumors...that Levana’s niece Princess Selene, who 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 Lunar’s tyrant and saving Earth.

There are also 3 short prequel stories available to purchase online: Glitches, The Queen’s Army and The Little Android.

A prequel "Fairest" has also been released, explaining the backstory of Queen Levana.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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's just 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.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: As you would expect from a series that's apparently inspired by Sailor Moon. A large chunk of the series' plot revolves around people trying to locate the mysterious Princess Selene, who is obviously 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 sister and niece in order to ascend the throne.
  • Fantastic Racism: Three different forms so far. Cyborg discrimination, Earthen hatred of Lunars, and Lunars extermination policy for shells.
  • Fantastic Slur: A "Shell" is a Lunar with no mind control powers.
  • The Future: The series takes place after World War IV.
  • Glamour: Lunars have the ability to project images, including on themselves. 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 kills the woman, just to see what Prince Kai would do.
    • And interestingly enough for this type of story, Levana's dead sister, and the mother of Princess Selene/Cinder, wasn't any better. Apparently she had her handmaiden's legs chopped off so that she would have more time to make her dresses. Evil seems to be a Lunar Monarchy trait.
    • Ironically, this is somewhat inverted in that Cinder is the rightful queen of Luna and Levana is truly just a minor princess
  • Human Alien: The Lunars. Justified in that they are completely descended from humans, although the atmosphere gave them some psychic power.
  • 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. This means high-ranking Lunars, who use their powers to make the population docile and alter their appearance, don't want them around. Lunars are supposed to report a person to the goverment the moment it's discovered they're a Shell, to be taken away and killed, even if they're their own children.
  • 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 turns out it was brought to Earth by Lunar Shells trying to evade execution. It affected the planet in a manner similar to Native Americans dying of European diseases.
    • Synthetic Plague: The Lunar monarchy has been developing this disease long before Levana's rule for biological warfare, she was just the one to unleash it by exposing Lunars to it and then turning a blind-eye when they fled to Earth. Though this 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.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Most androids seen act quite realistically, having limited responses and being incapable of understanding things that don't fit their programming. However, Adri's housekeeping android Iko acts like a ditzy teenage girl with a love of fashion and boys, 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.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Emperor Kai rules over the Eastern Commonwealth and most of the other countries have consolidated into large empires.
  • Theme Naming: Most Lunars have names that relate in some way to the moon: Levana, Selene, Cress (short for "Crescent"), etc.
  • Twice Told Tale: Each book is a retelling of a classic fairytale, and follows the basic outline of the story, but usually with twists.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Multiple characters throughout the series, as you'd expect for fairytale retellings.
    • Adri. Technically, she's an adoptive mother, but she still fits the trope completely. 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 allowed to do, as Cinder is essentially her property due to the cyborg laws.
    • Though we have yet to see how Levana interacts with her stepdaughter Winter, considering her fairytale counterpart is the Evil Queen from Snow White, and Levana's character in general, we can safely say she fufills the trope. It is heavily rumored that she forced Winter to scar herself and murdered Winter's father, though whether or not this is true is unconfirmed.
    • Sybil, one of Levana's minions, who keeps Cress locked away in a satalite that orbits Earth.
    • And if Channary had her way, she would have ended up this to Prince Kaito.
  • Wicked Witch: Queen Levana and Mistress Sybil. And, presumably, many other Lunars.
  • 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 eighteen year 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. Levana is beautiful, but it’s a Lunar glamour she projects.
  • Cain and Abel: Levana and Channary, though both were evil. To a lesser extent, Cinder and Pearl.
    • Channary, despite being very evil, is still the "Abel".
  • Celeb Crush: Cinder's stepsisters have it bad for Prince Kai. So does Cinder herself, for all her denial.
  • 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, leaing 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 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's cyborg programming makes her the best mechanic in New Beijing.
  • 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. Peony dies before that can happen.
  • Internalized Categorism: Cinder in regards to her cyborg 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, Adri reveals 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; not by being a Shell, as Levana had assumed, but because 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 to execution (as a Lunar fugitive) and marrying Levana. He chooses to give up Cinder in order to keep his country free.
  • 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.
  • Swiss Army Appendage: Dr. Erland gives Cinder one he made from Lunar material 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: A Letumosis cure is developed on Lunar, but Levena keeps it a secret from the Earthens, despite knowing the emperor of the Commonwealth is dying of the virus, because he no longer has any political value to her. Immeditely after his death, she gives a small sample to Prince Kai, hoping that in his grief and desperation for a cure he'll finally agree to a marriage with her in return for the cure.
  • You Are in Command Now: The Emperor dies early on in the book, leaving 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!
  • Youngest Child Wins: Averted; Cinder is the middle daughter.

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. What she didn't know is that Wolf would betray her. He only pretended he'd left the pack so that she would trust him.
  • 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 being killed by Ran.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The Wolves are genetically enhanced soldiers fighting for the Lunar queen. Canine implants included. Back on the moon, the later generations of wolfish Spec Ops soldiers are even more wolfish looking, so much so that they can't hide among humans like the previous generations can.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Ran impersonates Michelle in order to get information out of Scarlet. It works right up until "Michelle" refers to Scarlet's genetic inheritance 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 teeth 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Cress has this attitude towards Thorne, smitten by his Loveable Rogue antics she read up on while still in the satellite.
  • Beautiful Slave Girl: Cress.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Scarlet is glamored 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: If Cress hadn't gotten so jealous at the sight of Thorne flirting with another woman, she wouldn't have been kidnapped by the traders - never mind that the woman was actually an escort-droid Thorne planned to purchase as Iko's new body.
  • Heroic BSOD: Wolf, after Scarlet is kidnapped.
  • I Will Protect Her: Jacin is "loyal to his princess alone". Meaning 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.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Jacin, a Lunar royal guard.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Cress suffers from one after her satellite crashes on Earth.
  • 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:

Fairest provides examples of:

  • Big Sister Bully: Channary to Levana
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Subverted. Levana manipulated Winter's father into marriage. This is meant to make clear she is an utter villain rather than played for sympathy.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Subverted with Channary and Levana, who at different points serve as God Save Us from the Queen!....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 burn victim.
  • Female Misogynist: Channary originally wanted a little boy...due to the court having enough princesses.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Averted. Channary toys with the idea of marrying Selene to Prince Kaito of Earth who falls in love with her as Cinder in the first book, and many fans believed they would have been arranged to marry if not for Levana's machinations, but she quickly drops it in favor of a plan to murder the Empress and marry the Emperor himself.

Alternative Title(s):

Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, The Lunar Chronicles