Note: There are necessarily spoilers for the first volume in this series, but not for this installment, Book Two.
I loved Cinder (see my review, here) and am delighted to say I was not disappointed at all with this second in the planned fairy tale tetralogy known collectively as “The Lunar Chronicles” and set in the future. The first story was inspired by “Cinderella,” and this second is a reworking of “Little Red Riding Hood.”
Cinder is a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing, over one hundred years after World War IV. (Cyborgs are humans who are part metal, having received artificial parts to compensate for damaged flesh. Cinder is only 64% human because of a near-fatal accident when she was a child. There is a great deal of prejudice against cyborgs, who are considered second-class citizens.) While most of Cinder’s story in Book One resembles an updated version of “Cinderella,” the ending is a bit more disastrous than the traditional. More of that below.
In Book Two, we continue Cinder’s tale but it is now intermixed with what is happening to Little Red Riding Hood (a.k.a. Scarlet Benoit).
As the story begins, Scarlet, just 18, is living on a farm in Rieux, France, and is frantically searching for her grandmother, who has been missing for over two weeks. The police dismissed the case: after all, Michelle Benoit is a grown woman, and there was no evidence of foul play. But Scarlet knows her Grand-mere would never have left just before Scarlet’s eighteenth birthday, nor would she have pulled her ID chip out of her wrist. Scarlet found it, bloody, on the kitchen counter.
Meanwhile, the netscreens even in France are full of broadcasts about sixteen-year-old Linh Cinder, the cyborg girl from New Beijing who crashed Emperor Kai’s coronation ball and then was revealed to be a Lunar. She was immediately imprisoned. (The Lunars are a race of people on the moon who seek control of earth. They have a number of genetic enhancements and powers that have unfortunately been bent to nefarious use. Mind control is only the beginning of what they can do. Their evil Queen Levana has threatened Kai that unless he marries her so that they can combine their kingdoms, she will send her forces to destroy the Earth.)
Kai, as you might imagine from the “Cinderella” parallels of Book One, fell for the lowly cyborg Cinder, but felt betrayed when he found out she was Lunar. Now, to add to his pain, he must swallow his revulsion for Levana and agree to marry her in order to save the planet. (And you thought it was asking a lot of you just to recycle your bottles!)
Meanwhile, back in Rieux, Scarlet has met a new guy in town, a street fighter named Wolf, to whom she reluctantly feels attracted. Wolf claims to have information about her grandmother and agrees to help Scarlet in her search.
But Grand-mere isn’t the only one who goes missing. Cinder, with the help of a fellow prisoner, Carswell Thorne, escapes the jail in New Beijing and is now on the run from both Lunar and Earthly pursuers.
Evaluation: Meyer figures out how to make these two updated fairy tales intersect in a creative and non-contrived way, so that the cast of utterly charming characters is doubled with remarkable ease. I loved both Scarlet and Wolf. Cinder’s new partner-in-crime, Carswell, is also quite endearing. This is a very entertaining story: full of suspense, romance, humor, and courage. Yes, it’s also replete with stock roles and doesn’t have a huge amount of world building, but it’s a fairy tale, after all, and I think it uses the customary tropes quite nicely.
I look forward to the next installments!
Published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, 2013