Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles, book 1/6
Genre: Dystopian, Fairytale, Romance, Sci-Fi, YA
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: January 3rd, 2012 


This is not a retelling of Cinderella that I was expecting. Because I love fairy tale retellings as much as the next person (probably more), I was drawn into this futuristic dystopian version just as much as any other version set in a distant past. Set in New Beijing, over a hundred years after World War IV, this story has all the elements of any other Cinderella retelling, complete with wicked stepmother and stepsister (only one of the two sisters is nasty), pumpkin carriage (which is a broken-down car brought back to life), and a handsome prince.

The biggest difference? Our heroine is a cyborg this time around.

Cinder is the best mechanic in New Beijing – which is why Prince Kai seeks her out to fix his busted android, jokingly saying it was a “matter of national security.” As she works on the android more and more, she realizes that it was not far from the truth. He needs her help to uncover a mystery that has been covered up for many years. Kai and Cinder instantly hit it off, beginning a friendship that leads to a romance.

That’s not all Cinder has on her mind. The plague, letumosis, has been spreading on earth for the past decade, claiming the lives of millions. When it affects Cinder’s family, her stepmother volunteers her to be used for research to find a cure. The scientists who begin working on Cinder learn things about her that nobody else knows – including herself.

As Cinder struggles with the new knowledge of who and what she is, Kai has struggles of his own. Levana, the usurper queen of the lunars, has been waiting to wage her war on earth for many years. Only a marriage alliance with Prince Kai will secure a peace treaty with the lunars, the people who dwell on the moon, and the earthens. But everyone knows Levana is not trustworthy, and only wants power on earth. Kai is desperate to find a way of protecting his people, without having to marry a monster.

I enjoyed this high-tech retelling of Cinderella, and I am excited to read Scarlet, the next book in The Lunar Chronicles, where we will see what becomes of our cyborg Cinderella.

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Cruel Crown

Title: Cruel Crown
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, a companion
Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance, YA 
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: January 5th, 2016 

Note: This post reviews a companion book in the Red Queen series. You may like to read at least the first book in the series, Red Queen, before reading this review so that you have a good understanding of the world Aveyard has created and the characters in it. 

Queen Song tells the story of the Singer Queen, Coriane, the queen who came before Elara. She was introduced in Red Queen only through memories of some who knew her, one of those being her son, Cal. She died when Cal was a young boy, and Elara became queen after her. Now, we get to go back and see her sad story for ourselves. It is the story of a young, Silver girl, noble but poor, who meets Prince Tiberias and develops a friendship and eventually a romance with him. Coriane does not consider herself wise or powerful or beautiful, but Tiberias sees something in her that he loves and needs. When he chooses her as his bride, the people believe that she must have “sung” to him, using her persuasive powers to manipulate the Prince into loving her. But Coriane is not the manipulative kind, and rarely uses her powers on anyone, let alone the Prince. After they are married and expecting a baby, the King passes away, making Tiberias the new king, and Coriane his queen. Elara, who is at court, uses her own mind powers to get into Coriane’s head, driving her mad. We watch the deterioration happen in her mind as Elara controls her to the point of death. This short story is such a tragedy, but it gives us insight into the King’s heart, and even more compassion for Cal (as if we needed more reason to love him.)

Steel Scars is parallel to the time frame of Red Queen, but instead of following Mare’s story, we follow Farley’s. We already know Farley as the young captain of the Scarlet Guard, the group of Reds that resists the tyranny of the Silvers. What we don’t know is her back story, or at least very much of it. This short story shows Farley as she tries to be a strong leader and prove herself to the Scarlet Guard. While she displays confidence and leadership throughout this series, we now see a more vulnerable side to her. Everything is seen through her eyes, and told from her perspective. It made me like her character in a deeper way. Another thing I really enjoyed was her relationship with Shade, Mare’s brother. Even though we knew that they were a couple, we only get a glimpse of their relationship in the Red Queen series, since it is really about Mare. In Steel Scars, Farley and Shade meet, become friends, and fall in love. Aveyard don’t give us a ton, but it’s a little more than we get from the other books.

I have been a fan of the Red Queen series from the start, and I’m happy that Aveyard expanded on this world a bit more by giving us these two short stories. I hope that she continues to satisfy her readers with her lovable characters and their exciting trajectories.

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King’s Cage

Title: King’s Cage
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, book 3/4
Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: February 7th, 2017

Note: This post reviews the third book of the Red Queen series. You may like to read the first two books in the series, Red Queen and Glass Sword, before reading this review. 

After willingly offering herself in exchange for the safety of her friends, Mare is a prisoner of the boy king, Maven. She suffers inside his palace, this king’s cage, though not by his own hand. Maven, messed up as he is, has an obsession with Mare. In his own broken way, he wants her, and even needs her with him. But that does not keep her from suffering. Forced to live with her powers stripped from her, Mare lives in isolation, used as a mouthpiece to deliver false information to the kingdom of Norta concerning the Scarlet Guard. She also has to face the torment of whispers, Silvers who are able to see your memories and make you relive them and experience them in a tormenting way. 

Meanwhile, Cal, the exiled prince still stuck within the Scarlet Guard, is trying desperately to find a way to rescue Mare. Finally, after months and months (and hundreds of pages into the book), the Scarlet Guard succeeds, and Mare does not have to suffer Maven any longer. But the damage he has inflicted on her is not easily forgotten, and Mare knows that she still has a part to play in Maven’s downfall. 

The great Silver houses are now in opposition. Some still stand with King Maven, others are ready to see an end to his reign. The Scarlet Guard, having won a few victories already, are stronger than ever. These Reds and newbloods will see the boy king destroyed. 

This book is not all hardship and suffering. We do get to enjoy a few happy moments with Mare and Cal, both desperately in love with each other. But honestly, in a book with over 500 pages, it didn’t seem like there was quite enough love and happiness to make up for the said hardship and suffering. On top of that, the book leaves us with Cal, forced to make an incredibly difficult decision that will impact Mare most of all, in much the same way that the last book, Glass Sword, ended with Mare making a decision that deeply affected Cal. Maybe the author did this kind of paralleling on purpose, but I as the reader did not appreciate having to deal with the same kind of heaviness more than once. It almost seems like a cruel joke to play on your characters and your readers alike. 

All I have to say now is this: after investing two years in this series, thinking all along that it was a trilogy only to reach the end and find out that there is at least one more installment to wait anxiously for, Victoria Aveyard had better be ready to deliver a finale that will wrap up these devastatingly loose ends in a masterful and satisfying way; or else these books may unfortunately become part of the subtitle, All Will Burn

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Glass Sword

Title: Glass Sword
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, book 2/4
Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance, YA 
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: February 9th, 2016

Note: This post reviews the second book of the Red Queen series. You may like to read the first book in the series, Red Queen, before reading this review.

Mare Barrow has narrowly escaped the clutches of the newly crowned King Maven. His treason has been carefully masked, portraying his brother, Cal, as the true traitor who murdered their father, with the help of Mare. Both Mare and Cal are on the run with the Scarlet Guard, the resistance group of Reds that defies the Silvers; Mare is a member of the group, Cal is now their prisoner.

Cal gradually finds himself working with the resistance group he had sought to take down, for now they have a common interest: to kill Maven. Cal proves himself useful, not only as a skilled soldier, but also as a pilot. But there is still division between them, particularly with Mare. Their attraction throughout the book is almost tangible, but their blood continues to separate them. Mare, a Red, is striving to bring down the Silvers, but Cal does not wish to turn on his own kind.

Mare’s specific mission now is to find “newbloods,” as she calls them. They are the Reds like herself, with powers like the Silvers. With the help of Farley (captain of the Scarlet Guard), Shade (one of her brothers), Kilorn (her childhood friend), and Cal, Mare tracks down these newbloods and tries to recruit them before Maven finds and kills them.

As they gain and train more and more newbloods, Mare becomes more aggressive. After the abuse she suffered at the hands of Maven, she finds it almost impossible to trust anyone, even those closest to her. She is at war, not only with the Silvers, but with herself – how can she hate all Silvers, yet still love Prince Cal? Mare sees that she is in danger of becoming like the monsters she seeks to destroy and she knows that she cannot continue with a heart so consumed by mistrust and betrayal. By the end of the book, she faces an ultimatum that will affect Cal most of all, and she makes her decision out of selfless love. We will see just how much this decision cost her in the next installment of the series, King’s Cage, due to hit the shelves this month!

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Red Queen

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, book 1/4 
Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: February 10th, 2015 

I first picked up Red Queen as my Spring Break read in 2015. I wanted a good sized book with a solid plot and an intriguing romance in a fairytale setting that I could immerse myself in during my vacation. Yay for me, Red Queen was this book! 

Mare Barrow is a Red; that is, her blood is red, and that makes her a commoner. All Reds are considered inferior to the Silvers, the nobility who are close to gods with their different powers. They are cruel, ruling over the Reds with unquestionable authority. 
After a chance meeting with a man from the palace, Mare is summoned there the next day. She is to work as a servant, miraculously escaping her inevitable upcoming conscription in the war. Her palace duties begin immediately, throwing her into a crowd gathered for the competition of the crown prince’s hand in marriage. Mare cannot believe her eyes when she sees that Cal, the man she met on the streets the night before, is none other than the crown prince himself. He is part of the royal family who tyrannizes the Reds and keeps them in their lowly station.

In an effort to protect herself during the fierce competition, Mare unintentionally produces a surge of lightening, astonishing every Silver in the room.  After all, no Reds have powers. Mare, just as surprised as the Silvers, is smart enough to know that whatever just happened was not good. She tries to flee for her life, but is captured instead. The King and Queen, afraid of what they saw in Mare, cannot let people know what she truly is; thus, they build her up as one of their own, announcing that she is really the daughter of a deceased Silver general, found and raised by Reds. As a part of this massive lie she is forced into, Mare is betrothed to Cal’s younger brother, Maven, as a way to secure her secret. Meanwhile, Cal is betrothed to another. Mare and Cal, both are betrothed to other people, have an obvious attraction to one another. Though Mare wants nothing to do with the royal family, Cal has shown her kindness on many different occasions, complicating their relationship.

Unfortunately for every character in this book, the main theme of this story is betrayal. There are layers upon layers of betrayal: the developing romance of Mare and Cal, behind their betrotheds’ backs; Mare’s secret involvement in the Scarlet Guard, a resistance group trying to overthrow the royal family; Maven’s own participation in the Scarlet Guard; and the betrayal of family against family that unravels at the end. This book contained some great plot twists and strong characters, and the series as a whole has become an instant favorite. Well done, Victoria Aveyard, for writing such a captivating debut! For more, read the next book in the series, Glass Sword.

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Title: Reached
Author: Ally Condie
Series: Matched Series, book 3/3
Genre: Dystopian, Romance, Sci-Fi, YA
Publisher: the Penguin Group
Release Date: November 13th, 2012

Note: This post reviews the third book of the Matched trilogy. You may like to read the first two books in the series, Matchedand Crossed, before reading this review.  
Cassia and Ky (and their friend Indie) are now a part of the Rising, but are assigned to vastly different roles. Ky and Indie are pilots, and Cassia is back in the Society, working undercover. This time, she lives in Central. Xander, too, is with the Rising, and even though Cassia suspects this, she doesn’t know for sure. Cassia finds herself separated from the two people she cares about most.
The Rising, the resistance group that has been moving in secret for many years, emerges at the outbreak of the Plague. One of the strengths of the Society has always been their ability to protect its citizens from any sickness or disease. But now, with the Plague threatening the masses, the Rising is the group to come forward with the cure, not the Society. Because of the cure, the Rising takes over the Society and is seen as the savior. But when an unforeseen mutation caused by the cure begins to develop in many, neither the Society nor the Rising has a solution. It is up to Cassia and Ky and Xander to search for a final cure themselves. Some are immune to this mutation – but not all.
This conclusion to the Matched trilogy was the most exciting of the three books. Building on the last book, we now get to experience the story being told not only from Cassia’s and Ky’s points of view, but Xander’s as well. In this way, we see what is going on in each of their different worlds during the same time frame. This keeps things constantly moving to help keep the reader engaged at any point in the story.

I found a couple of things annoying, however. The writer seemed to think that Ky needed a second love interest, since Cassia always had Xander as an option, too. So there is this build up of emotions between Ky and Indie, the girl who escaped in book two with Cassia. Even though Ky needs Cassia more than anything in the world, he and Indie develop a relationship that is all their own. (BOO) It escalates to Indie kissing him, and not being too bothered by it. Not only that, but Ky and Cassia both act like it’s ok to love two people at the same time – Ky loves Cassia and Indie, Cassia loves Ky andXander, though admittedly in different ways. I don’t enjoy watching these kinds of relationships, fictional or not.

Other than that, I really did enjoy not only this book, but the series as whole. Dystopian fiction has obviously taken off in a dramatic way, and I liked seeing this take on what our world is going to become if we continue down the paths we are on. These stories should make us think a bit more about how our choices now really will affect the future of this world.

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Title: Crossed
Author: Ally Condie
Series: Matched Series, book 2/3
Genre: Dystopian, Romance, Sci-Fi, YA
Publisher: the Penguin Group
Release Date: November 1st, 2011

This post reviews the second book of the Matched trilogy. You may like to read the first book in the series, Matched, before reading this review. 

Cassia has been relocated to the Tana Province on a 3-month work assignment in the fields. When she sees her chance to escape from her own assignment, she takes it. She flees with one of the girls from her work group, Indie, in hopes of reaching the Outer Provinces to find Ky. Meanwhile, in the Outer Provinces, people are not lasting long. The Society is using its lowest members, which are the Aberrations and Anomalies, to fight in the war against the Enemy. Ky is among the Aberrations, not a citizen of Society like Cassia. He too sees a chance to escape, and leaves in the middle of the night with two companions.

Both groups of runaways escape into the Carving, a great maze-like canyon in the middle of the desert. Ky is desperate to find a way to get back to Cassia, but little does he know that she too has managed to make it into the Carving. Only a few days pass before their paths cross, and Ky and Cassia are reunited. They continue into the Carving together, their two groups merging into one. Now, their focus becomes finding the Rising, the resistance against the Society, and joining with them. Cassia and Indie are eager, but Ky does not trust the resistance group.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the change in points of view. Cassia and Ky take turns telling their sides of the story. Not only does this make things more interesting, but we also get to see into the heart of Ky in a way that we couldn’t in book one. Crossed kept me interested, but the first half of the book was rather slow until Cassia and Ky finally met up. There is a lot that is beginning to be set up so that we can get to the climax in the final book, Reached. And just like other love triangles, Cassia realizes in this middle book just how much she loves both Ky and Xander, for vastly different reasons. We are led to believe it will be Ky (especially since Xander was only in this book for a brief amount of time), but I think Condie will not make this decision an easy one for Cassia.

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