Summaries are cantankerous little imps. Authors pour their heart and their soul and the entirety of their coffee budget into honing a story into the best 50,000-ish words they could possibly produce. And then it comes time to produce a book jacket, and suddenly they (or their agent or some poor harried, overworked assistant editor at the publishing house) has to sell that 50,000-word work of beauty in a mere 200-word shaving. Needless to say, quite a lot of salient detail gets left out.
So, when I read the summary for the first book in Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, Cinder, I wasn't expecting much. But hey, cross-breeding traditional Cinderella fairy tale with the newly-hip steampunk genre? Sure, I could drop three bucks on the kindle book for an afternoon of enjoyment.
Holy cheesewhizzles, guys. Cinder turned out to be SO MUCH BETTER than I was expecting.
It's not even just that the book was better, it's that it was more. Sure, "Cinderella fairy tale meets steampunk" is technically a correct descriptor, but then again "a dude(tte) who sits in a white building" is also a correct descriptor for the U.S. president. Both are sooo much more than that mere phrase.
Meyer uses the Cinderella backstory as a kind of skeleton for the entirely unique creature she builds from there. Yes, there is a girl named Cinder. Yes, she has a stepmother and stepsisters. Yes, she goes to a ball and loses a shoe-type-thing. But all those things are just mere instances, mere plot devices within a much larger, much more complex story. There's of course the technology elements interwoven from the steampunk bit, but there's also political intrigue, ridiculously well-fleshed-out characters, and major plot points that are entirely independent of the traditional Cinderella story. Sure, sometimes those plot points, the bare "what" of eventual backstory reveals and climactic necessities are pretty obvious and easy to predict early on, but the how that gets the characters there, that's the exciting thing. It's not the outline that makes Cinder great, it's the detailed filler. Meyer lets you know just enough of the answer to keep you hooked on finding the whole thing out.
But, alas, readers do not find out the whole thing by the end of Cinder. Why? Because Meyer throws even more well-thought-out, beautifully intricate plot and characters at readers in another two books, Scarlet and Cress.
Sequels are dangerous beasts to work with. Too often, an author provides a certain level of quality in a first book but fails to keep it up in following works. Meyer, however, slays the sequel beast gloriously. She introduces new characters (Seriously, Meyer, how many goddamn characters are you going to make me care about? My heart can only handle so many feels at once.) that are as completely developed (except in Cress, where the main character is slightly-less-developed - but for the very good reason that she essentially grew up in a closet) and as fully unique as the previous MC's. Unlike the Veronica Roth's failure to distinguish Tris and Four as separate narrative voices in her trilogy finalizer Allegiant, Meyer's inclusion of multiple narrators keeps the book fresh and changing with their individual tones and quirks.
All in all, Meyer's writing is the most impressive I've come across in a while. With three books and two short stories out and a fourth member of the Lunar Chronicles on its way in 2015 (yes, I am compulsively checking when I can finally pre-order the thing), Meyer has somehow managed to make it this far without falling into any boring old literary tropes or running into story exhaustion. My rating? I wish I had more than five stars to give. Seriously. The Lunar Chronicles are an obsession entirely worth falling into.
To begin your Lunar Chronicles collection, visit Meyer's page on Amazon or visit her personal site directly: