tl;dr: imaginative futuristic retelling that makes Cinderella better
Fairy-tale retellings and remixes are fairly [heh, pun intended] popular these days. My 5 year old is devouring Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories, which involves a myriad of fairy-tales and nursery rhymes in a delightful romp, all interconnected by immense world-building and an imaginative story. Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles may be the YA version of this, incorporating other extremely popular themes for YA lit. It’s got a love story (although it’s not really the focus), an awkward teenage girl, and futuristic/sci-fi elements. I wouldn’t really call this a dystopia, although it borrows pretty heavily from a lot of other dystopian trends. There’s abject poverty, close living arrangements among the poor, a vaulted upper-class, copious technology, androids, and a plague that’s systematically killing off citizens.
And the whole thing is an interesting twist on a Cinderella story. Cinder Linh isn’t your ordinary awkward teen girl, she’s also cyborg. When she was 11, she was in a horrific accident, and over a third of her body is replaced with technology. In New Beijing, cyborg are considered a lesser class, not able to claim the same rights as non-cyborg. She was adopted by her late stepfather, and her now stepmother considers her a lowly ward. And then, she is entangled in politics by the prince, by the head researcher for the plague epidemic, and also by her own tenaciousness.
It’s not really my jam, but the whole “I’m a freak weirdo” theme is played to the hilt here. I know this is a catnip for a lot of teen girls, but it’s really not mine as I am no longer a teen girl. It’s a very strong theme here, so if that annoys you, be aware.
World-building is excellent, prose is clear. I suggest having a dictionary handy, because thaumaturge was not a term I knew, and I mistakenly assumed it was some sort of lady-in-waiting. There are also a lot of Chinese honorifics and if you aren’t familiar with them, as I am not, it does jolt you slightly out of the story, although I appreciate their inclusion.
This book ends on a raging cliffhanger, so be warned. I highly recommend having book 2 at the ready because I’m dying here.