Supernova by Marissa Meyer

Supernova, by Marissa Meyer, was published in 2018 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the sequel to Archenemies.

Rating: 3/5

*minor spoilers*

Though Supernova has the best cover art of the trilogy, I found it the weakest in terms of plot and resolution. It’s not that the climax and characterization aren’t satisfying or well-developed—they are, though I thought the book could have been 100 pages shorter—but everything revolved too much around underdeveloped concepts and too-quick reveals. The whole concept of the “star,” which Adrian plucked out of Nova’s brain (????), was not very well explained, and there were so many plot reveals that they started getting tiresome after a while. One of the biggest plot reveals I called from five miles away; Meyer never did anything with the reveal, either, so it felt pointless.

The most irritating thing was the ending, though, which is the sort of ending where everything is forgotten and everyone gets along (though this is maybe indicated not to be true with the epilogue). It just seemed extremely unrealistic to me, and absolutely none of Nova’s problems with society were answered or even addressed adequately (also, Meyer isn’t very consistent with what she has a problem with—in the first two books, it was making nonprodigies rely more on themselves, whereas in this book Nova is just angry at prodigies abusing their power). Instead, everything is disguised by a “the villain is dead and now we can all live together in harmony, conveniently forgetting what we were at odds about before said villain appeared” ending.

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. I actually had a hard time putting it down. But I did think there were more problems with this book than the first two books. Some of the things Meyer does in this book should have been a little bit more clear in the first two books, or better explained in this book (I really did not understand the whole star thing). The reveal about Phobia was interesting, though, as was the Magpie reveal (which is the one I called from five miles away and wish was better explored in the earlier books rather than entirely out of left field). Overall, though, I did enjoy this trilogy a lot.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: LGBTQ+ themes

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

Archenemies, by Marissa Meyer, was published in 2018 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the sequel to Renegades.

Rating: 4/5

*minor spoilers*

I keep expecting to know how Meyer will do things, but the first book surprised me and this book, though it didn’t surprise me in the same way, still didn’t end the way I expected. The plot is a little more basic in this one: for the entire book, Nova’s goal is to steal Ace Anarchy’s helmet (which somehow amplifies his powers, but we’re never told how or why). There’s some side plots that crop up along the way—Agent N, which was introduced in the first book, and the Vitality Charm—but the main action at the end is focused around the helmet. This is a long book to have such a simple plot, and it definitely shows in areas.

Once again, I expected Nova’s identity as Nightmare to be revealed, and once again, it was not, except now it’s gotten to the point where I have no idea how Meyer can possibly pull any sort of happy ending out of this. Adrian is angry at Nightmare, Nova is angry at Sentinel—how can there be anything large enough to get past that? Will there be a mysterious big villain coming out of nowhere that requires them to team up? Or is Meyer going to use the number of times Nightmare and Sentinel get associated with things that they didn’t actually do be the thing that brings them back together?

Of course, I’m assuming the series will end with their identities being revealed, but now that I think about it, that doesn’t have to be the case. It may, in fact, be more interesting if they were never revealed.

The most interesting thing about these books is that Meyer has stuck strictly to Nova’s ideas of the Renegades throughout, never once showing another side. Not even Adrian’s point of view chapters have much to do with countering Nova’s ideas, and any opposite viewpoint is interspersed with Nova’s curt questions. It’s clear, especially at the end of the book, that Meyer wants us to agree with Nova.

I hope the plot for the third book is a bit more tricky and complex than this one, but otherwise I’m surprised by how much I’ve been enjoying this series. Hopefully Meyer doesn’t pull anything outrageous or annoying in the last book.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: LGBTQ+ themes

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades, by Marissa Meyer, was published in 2017 by Feiwel and Friends.

Rating: 4/5

*minor spoilers*

Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners series gave me a taste for superhero novels, so I decided to give Meyer’s (the author of Cinder) YA trilogy a shot. I liked her Lunar Chronicles well enough, except for Winter, so I figured I might enjoy this though it’s a different genre.

At first, I thought Renegades would be predictable. I mean, there’s only so many ways you can take a “girl infiltrates her enemy’s headquarters and seeks to overthrow them from the inside” plot. So, I figured that Nova would, in the course of her Renegade disguise, fall in love with Sketch/Adrian, but then discover that what she thought about the Renegades wasn’t true and/or get unmasked before she can do anything. The book would end with her true identity as a villain/Anarchist revealed.

Things looked good to be heading in that direction, until the very end when Meyer proved that she wasn’t just following a predictable, overused trope.

For one, Nova isn’t unmasked. For another, she still really and truly sticks to her Anarchist roots throughout, and while she learns a lot about the Renegades, she’s still dissatisfied with the way they run things (this whole book seems to be about Big Government Ruining Things because Nova is very into individual responsibility and not letting beaurocrats make all the decisions and solve all the problems). For a third, Meyer pulls a plot twist out of thin air at the very end of the book, a twist I didn’t see coming—and the great thing is, it didn’t come out of left field at all, AND it wasn’t particularly obvious.

So, in terms of plot, I can’t really fault Meyer. She did a much better job than I thought she would do, though the length of the book seems too long. There’s a stretch in the middle where everyone runs around a library that goes on forever. However, I can fault her for worldbuilding because it made very little sense. She’s simply too vague about the way things happened and nothing really is clear as to how things got the way they are. There’s no sense of place or time to the novel. Meyer seems to be being deliberately vague about many things like technology and other familiar things that would ground the novel, but then casually throws out words from modern day that fly in the face of a world-completely-changed narrative.

In addition, while several of the superpowers are clever (especially Sketch’s power) and most are standard ones you can think of, some are mindboggling strange. Like Ruby/Red Assassin, who swallowed some rubies and then suddenly has blood that turns into crystals??? What? And then there’s continuous mention of “bloodstone” with no reference as to what, exactly, that is…a drop of her blood that she uses as a jewel on her weapons? Or does she make weapons with her blood and then adorns each of them with this drop of blood (if so, why?)?

However, despite those things, as you can tell I still rated this a 4 out of 5, so my issues with the novel weren’t big enough to take away from my overall enjoyment of it, especially when Meyer changed things up and surprised me in a good way. The last (third) book just came out (though the end of this book seems to imply that it was originally only supposed to be 2 books), so I’m glad to read a series that’s actually finished already so I don’t have to wait too long.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Minor LGBTQ+ themes

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter, by Marissa Meyer, was published in 2015 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the sequel to Cress.

Spoilers for the Lunar Chronicles.

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana. Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend, the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

I loved the first three Lunar Chronicle books and I could hardly wait to start reading Winter. Unfortunately, though, Winter was a huge disappointment. The thing I enjoyed most about the first three Lunar Chronicle books was the devotion to and adaptation of the respective fairy tale without neglecting or skimping on original plot. Yet in Winter, the fairy tale was almost non-existent and hardly imaginative. Winter felt like a side character in her own novel due to the amount of time devoted to Cinder & Friends and their takeover of Luna. A better idea, in my opinion, would have been, if not to leave Winter out entirely, at least not make her Snow White and try to dedicate an entire book to her.

There were far too many viewpoint characters and far too much jumping around, and poor Winter’s plot really suffered because of it. Jacin had no personality and I could not have cared less about his romance with Winter. Again, it would have been far better not to have tied Winter with Snow White—a lot could have been cut out of the book that would have given it a needed trim and then there wouldn’t have been such a sad little Snow White retelling.

Other problems I had with Winter: I loved Cress and Thorne in Cress, but it bothered me to no end that he basically admitted he was just the type of guy who flirted with other girls and that Cress would have to deal with it. He didn’t say that, exactly, but it was very much implied. I’m sorry, but no.

Another problem I had was the tediousness of the plot as a whole. Winter is a whopping 800+ pages long, and boy, does the plot drag in places—especially the parts where one of the team gets caught again and then escapes again and then someone else gets manipulated by a Lunar again and then Cinder has to try to snatch them back/kill the thaumaturge again. After about the third iteration I was sick and tired of the characters committing the same mistakes and repeating the same process over and over.

The last problem I’ll talk about here is the whole Levana reveal as a whole. I didn’t actually read Fairest, the prequel that reveals some of Levana’s backstory, and maybe I missed out on something, but it really bothered me that at the end of it all, the thing that was revealed to be the crowning piece of evil on top of her evil head was that Levana had been using her glamour to hide her burn scars. The whole “she’s not just evil, she’s also UGLY AND SCARRED” vibe is just wrong on so many levels. Then Cinder has a “aw, poor thing” moment and out of everything that she could have felt pity about—such as Levana’s terrible childhood or the fact that the reason Levana is so sociopathic is because she’s never had a healthy relationship in her life and doesn’t understand how to do anything except manipulate people—it’s because Levana is burned. And it wasn’t a “what a traumatic thing that happened to you that was caused by your own family, I’m so sorry” pity thought, it was a “aw, poor thing, you’re so ugly” pity thought, which made Cinder seem more like the 30% machine she is and not the 70% human.

Also, I really don’t like the “machines are just like humans!” plot lines of science fiction.

There’s much more I could say about what disappointed me about Winter—sloppy plot reveals, dangling plot threads, and the deflated tension of Wolf’s transformation when you realize it didn’t even affect him at all and was used mainly as some sort of “I don’t care what you look like, Wolf, I still love you” plot—but I think my disappointment in the book is already clear. There were some things I enjoyed about it, but overall, Winter was a too-long, tedious, all-over-the-place finale and my enjoyment of the series as a whole has decreased because of it.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence, death.

Genre: Science Fiction, Fairy Tale, Young Adult

Winter gasped delightedly and laced her fingers beneath her chin. Everyone spun to her, startled at her presence, which was not uncommon. “Do you think the Earthens brought us gifts, Stepmother?”

Without waiting for a response, she lifted her skirts and trotted toward the cargo, climbing over the uneven stacks of crates and bins until she reached the lower level.

“Winter,” Levana snapped. “What are you doing?”

“Looking for presents!” she called back, giggling.

You can buy this here: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles)

Fairy Tale Friday: Cress

Cress is written by Marissa Meyer. It was published in 2013 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the sequel to Scarlet.

Summary/Blurb:

Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

What I Liked:

I absolutely loved Meyer’s adaptation of Rapunzel, especially the changing of Rapunzel’s tears to eyedrops. Speaking of Rapunzel, Cress is exactly the sort of character I love and she’s paired with exactly the sort of character I love characters like Cress being paired with, the loveable, capable rogue. So cute. I loved Cress’s timidity and overall shyness, yet deep inner ferocity that allows her to be incredibly collected when she does things she knows how to do, such as hacking. And I love it, did I mention that?

I mentioned in my review of Scarlet that Cinder did a few things that annoyed me. She does a few annoying things, here, too, and then Dr. Erland basically says, “Wow, that’s the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard” and then Cinder suddenly gets awesome and accomplishes things. Also, Dr. Erland + Cinder = a wonderful, wonderful snarkfest.

I loved the glimpse of the fairytale character (Snow White, but not named that) that we’ll be meeting in the final book and will presumably be joining forces with Cinder & Co. We also met her love interest, whose Plot Reveal actually surprised me, but made so much sense after the fact. I’m just sad that I have to wait almost a year until the final book comes out…

I found it hard to put the book down towards the end, when all the different plot points were about to converge and Cinder & Co. were planning, Mission: Impossible-style, their infiltration of the palace.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence, death.

Genre: Science Fiction, Fairy Tale, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

This time, she took in an extra deep breath and shut her eyes and grappled for a daydream, any daydream…

“I am an explorer,” she whispered, “setting courageously off into the wild unknown.” It was not a daydream she’d ever had before, but she felt the familiar comfort of her imagination wrapping around her. She was an archaeologist, a scientist, a treasure hunter. She was a master of land and sea. “My life is an adventure,” she said, growing confident as she opened her eyes again. “I will not be shackled to this satellite anymore.”

Thorne tilted his head to one side. He waited for three heartbeats before sliding one hand down into hers. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said. “But we’ll go with it.”

~Meyer 140

Overall Review:

Cress is my favorite book in the Lunar Chronicles so far, since it has my favorite character type, my favorite romantic pairing being adorably cute, Cinder accomplishing things while snarking about it, and actual progress being made by the heroes. I am continuing to love Meyer’s science-fiction and fairy-tale mash-up, and am super excited for Winter next year (and I guess the side story about Levana, Fairest, coming in January).

You can buy this here: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles)

Fairy Tale Friday: Scarlet

Scarlet is written by Marissa Meyer. It was published in 2013 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the sequel to Cinder.

Summary/Blurb:

“Cinder, the cyborg mechanic…is trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information about her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

What I Liked:

Once again, Meyer melds science fiction and fairytale wonderfully together. I loved the little nods to the original fairytale, like the fact that Scarlet wears a red hoodie. I especially loved the “My, what big teeth you have” moment and the fact that Wolf, despite being called Wolf, is actually the Woodsman of the fairytale (although, yeah, he’s also the wolf).

I said about Cinder that I thought it would have been better as a stand-alone, but I don’t see that about Scarlet. It needed that larger plot that was started in Cinder to make sense as a whole. I did enjoy how Meyer tied the two stories (or the two characters, really) together. Having fairytale characters join forces is always fun.

Part of this book was in Cinder’s POV, and I must say, I was a little irritated with her choices. I thought Scarlet was spot-on when she blamed Cinder. The moment Cinder decided to go off and do her own thing rather than focus on doing her duty and try to stop Levana was aggravating, but at least she comes around in the end. Too bad that it took mass murder for her to realize it, though.

While I think Wolf and Scarlet as a couple are cute, I didn’t particularly like their romance plot in the book. It was too generic. I did, however, love the twist with Wolf and his “gang” and the fact that he wasn’t such a perfect guy at first, after all. I also liked how Scarlet is actually a bit of a weak character. Everything that should scare her, does. Everything that should make her weak, does. She’s not helpless, by any means, but she’s also not particularly awesome. And that’s fine with me.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence, death.

Genre: Science Fiction, Fairy Tale, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

“L…S…” He shook his head. “I can’t remember. There was more.”

Her mouth ran dry, hatred overtaking the dizziness. She knew that tattoo.

He’d pretended to be kind. Pretended he only needed honest work.

When—days? hours?—before, he’d tortured her father. Kept her grandmother prisoner.

And she’d almost trusted him. The tomato, the carrots…she’d thought she was helping him. Stars above, she’d flirted with him, and all the while, he knew. She recalled those moments of peculiar amusement, the glint in his eyes, and her stomach twisted. He’d been laughing at her.

~Meyer 48

Thorne dismissed the news channel. “Did you know that Michelle Benoit has a teenage granddaughter?”

“No,” said Cinder, bored.

“Well, she does. Miss Scarlet Benoit. Supposedly she just turned eighteen, but—brace yourself—she doesn’t have any hospital records. Get it? Holy spades, I’m a genius.”

Cinder scowled. “I don’t get it.”

Tilting back, Thorne peered at her upside down. “She doesn’t have any hospital records.”

~Meyer 256

Overall Review:

Scarlet continues that wonderful science fiction/fairytale mash-up that I loved in Cinder, with some more clever adaptations to fit the setting done by Meyer. I did like Cinder a little bit more, but only because Cinder was annoying in this one, and Scarlet and Wolf’s romance was a bit too cliché to be enjoyable. But coming up next is Rapunzel and I am excited.

You can buy this here: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, Book 2)

Fairy Tale Friday: Cinder

Cinder is written by Marissa Meyer. It was published in 2012 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles. Meyer’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. Because there is something unusual about Cinder, something that others would kill for.”

Thoughts:

This book is the perfect blend of science fiction and fairytale. The recognizable elements of the Cinderella fairy tale made me enjoy the science fiction elements even more as I looked forward to how Meyer would adapt the former to the latter. The science fiction element is also just plain good for YA, and it also reads slightly dystopian.

While the mystery behind Cinder is glaringly obvious, it doesn’t take away too much from the plot as a whole. In fact, it probably adds a little to the overall tension and anticipation of the novel as a whole. A lot of the thrill comes from wondering when, and where, Cinder will find out what the reader already knows, and what her reaction will be.

I also enjoyed the small bits of political shenanigans that went on, especially Kai’s decision at the end to give up Cinder in return for the peace of his empire. Granted, that peace won’t last very long, but Kai at least is thinking like a ruler and not a love-struck teenager.

This is definitely not a strict adaptation of Cinderella, but it doesn’t need to be. Meyer is simply using the fairy tale as a framework for her science fiction world, and she does it admirably.

However, I honestly think this book would have been better as a stand-alone novel. The threat of the plague itself is enough of a tension-builder to sustain the plot without the added arc of the Lunars, and Cinderella’s cyborg status would have allowed for the much-used YA theme of “accept yourself as you are” to be front and center. I suppose, though, that a stand-alone would have been more generic since I can picture what it would be like.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Science Fiction, Fairy Tale, Young Adult

Passages/Quotes:

Cinder’s eye caught on something—a dark spot below Peony’s collarbone, visible just above the collar of her shirt. “Hold still,” she said, reaching forward.

Peony did the opposite, panicking and swiping at phantoms on her chest. “What? What is it? A bug? A spider?”

“I said, hold still!” Cinder grabbed Peony by the wrist, swiped at the spot—and froze.

Dropping Peony’s arm, she stumbled back.

“What? What is it?” Peony tugged on her shirt, trying to see, but then spotted another spot on the back of her hand.

She looked up at Cinder, blood draining from her face. “A…a rash?” she said. “From the car?”

Cinder gulped and neared her with hesitant footsteps, holding her breath. She reached again for Peony’s collarbone and pulled the fabric of her shirt down, revealing the entire spot in the moonlight. A splotch of red, rimmed with bruise purple.

Her fingers trembled. She pulled way, meeting Peony’s gaze.

Peony screamed.

~Meyer 48-49

“You were eleven when you had your operation, correct?”

The question was not what she’d been expecting. “Yes…”

“And before that, you don’t remember anything?”

“Nothing. What does this have to do with—”

“But your adoptive parents? Surely they must have told you something about your childhood? Your background?”

Her right palm began to sweat. “My stepfather died not long after the accident, and Adri doesn’t like to talk about it, if she even knows anything. Adopting me wasn’t exactly her idea.”

“Do you know anything about your biological parents?”

~Meyer 175

Overall Review:

Cinder is a very good start to a quartet of science fiction-adapted fairy tales. The fairy tale elements mesh well with Meyer’s world, and are tweaked just enough so that they are both plausible for the world and recognizable to the reader. I think a stand-alone Cinder would have been fantastic, but series Cinder is quite good as is.

You can buy this here: Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles