Wrapping up the Lunar Chronicles series, “Winter” is a strong finish to a surprising tale. Twice I passed the first book, “Cinder,” in favor of something else I thought I would enjoy more. My loss. The Lunar Chronicles is the first series I’ve been unable to put down, start to finish, since I first read the Lord of the Rings, 47 years ago.
Don’t mistake the inference. Tolkien’s work is a classic that has not only stood the test of time, but virtually ignited the modern fantasy genre. If there’s a contemporary book or series that might reach such lofty status, I don’t know what it would be. What Meyers brings to the table is a twist on well-known fairy tales with delightful originality. Inside the world(s) she has built, all the strangeness of speculative yet credible unreality mixes with historic tales and tropes to deliver a surprisingly familiar unfamiliarity.
Like Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Broadway hit, “Into the Woods,” the lunar Chronicles weaves four tales together into a fresh retelling. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White no longer live in pastoral settings of the Brothers Grimm or Greek folk tales, but reside in a distant, post-apocalyptic future, decades after humans colonized the moon. Advanced technology combines with a touch of magic to give a rich background for a jealous, power-hungry queen and the oddly compatible mix of heroes fighting for the underdogs.
Don’t be misled by the sexy red and black cover art on each volume. Romantic elements abound, but eroticism is tastefully absent. Fall in love with the characters and you’ll see why they love – and hate – each other. Even the minor roles are well-developed individuals with unique problems and challenges. Skilled at description, Meyers occasionally stretched my patience as she detailed a picture, but when the action resumed, I found the wait to be well-worth my persistence.
Spoiler alert: I would not want my sole disappointment to deter anyone from this adventure, so please read no further if you have yet to savor all the surprises The Lunar Chronicles have to offer.
In “Winter,” several chapters tested my endurance the way TV and Movies often drag out suspense. Think of a scene in which a hero must solve a puzzle or overcome an obstacle as the final seconds count down. Never does the clock stop with more than one second left. Only in professional sports should two minutes be allowed to drag on for half an hour, yet James T. Kirk can make a 60 second countdown last as long as the third quarter of an NFL contest. Chapter by chapter, Meyers takes us from one hero’s obstacle to the next, painfully stretching out small victories. Overall, the climax succeeds and fulfills, but I credit my amazing wife, DeeAnn, for identifying a missed opportunity that explains my angst on a deeper level.
In the final book, Cinder wins an early battle over a merciless lunar lieutenant. The scene delivers the kind of satisfying ‘hurrah!’ one typically feels in the resurrection of a hero or the unexpected arrival of the Millennium Falcon. Yet the ultimate victory comes from a nearly random bullet that hits its mark against terrific odds. Would the Lunar Chronicles be a step closer to classic status if Meyers had reserved the more graphic end for the Queen? I can’t say for sure, but if she were to revise “Winter” with an alternate ending, I would be at the front of the line to read it.