If you haven't read Marissa Meyer's "Lunar Chronicles" yet, you are in for a binge-reading treat because this space-tastic take on your favorite fairy tale princesses is kinda where it's at. And the final installment, "Winter," hits shelves today (Nov. 10) and closes out the four (and a half) part series with 800+ pages of a moon revolution that'll have you cyborg arm-pumping for this rad team of damsels in distress who buck up and vie to rescue themselves, thank you very much.
Of course, they do have some help from dashing fellas along the way -- handsome princes, if you will -- but these girls are tough and fun and ultra page-turners.
"Cinder," the first installment to the series, introduced us to our first heroine -- a cyborg mechanic from New Beijing who lives under the wicked thumb of her stepmother but one day begins to strike the fancy of Emperor Kaito. "Scarlet," the second book, brought forth a modern, sharp-tongued version of Red Riding Hood who discovers, in so many words, what big secrets her grandmother has. Then comes "Cress," a Rapunzel-ish stowaway who's whip-smart with computer systems, lives on a lonely satellite and wants nothing more than to enjoy all that the Earthen life has to offer. Following that was "Fairest," a novella that shined untoward light upon the evil queen and the source of all her hideous behaviors.
And, finally, we come to "Winter," the story of a Lunar step-princess who has everything her power-hungry step-mother has always wanted: beauty, honest likability, and the actual un-forced affection of her late father.
Winter is not your traditional princess, you see. She's stark mad, thanks to her life-long refusal to use her mental gift for deception, and she wasn't born with any royal blood. But she's got a place in the palace -- until the queen decides otherwise, that is -- and she's got the love of her people and the good sense to keep it that way.
When she links up with Cinder and the rest of the space squad on a mission to de-throne Queen Levana once and for all, her influence and self-control will be tested to the max.
"Winter" nimbly carries its bevy of princesses onto the final leg of their mission in a way that will satisfy the Meyer faithful and usher in a new rapt-reading audience for the "Chronicles." MTV News chatted with the author about her futuristic take on these "once upon a time"-esque characters and, yes, what other goodies might still be to come from this series (hint: a stylish android spin-off story, anyone?).
MTV News: What first brought you to modernize these fairy tale princesses into this epic sci-fi platform?
Marissa Meyer: Years ago I decided to enter a writing contest in which the host had made a list of ten things, and you had to choose two things from the list to include in your short story. I chose to set my story in the future and to include a fairy tale character, and I ended up writing a science-fiction retelling of the story “Puss in Boots,” in which Puss was a robotic talking cat searching for a lost princess from the moon.
I didn’t win the contest, but I had so much fun writing the story, and I thought there was a ton of potential in combining these two very different genres. It inspired me to start brainstorming what else I could do, and soon I knew that I wanted to write an entire series of sci-fi fairy tale adaptations.
MTV: If you had to pick a *favorite* Disney Princess, who would it be and why?
Meyer: For Disney specific, I have to go with Rapunzel. I loved "Tangled" so much, and I adored how her character was smart, honest, and adorable. She had moments of bravery, and also moments of weakness. I think Disney really nailed her character. (On that note, I’m rather partial to Flynn Rider, too.)
MTV: What is it about being raised on Luna that makes certain people so hostile?
Meyer: It’s a pretty flawed society. A lot of the social hierarchy is determined by how good you are at manipulating and brainwashing the people around you, and a lot of people treat mental manipulation like a game.
On top of that, you’re surrounded by people who hide behind glamours, so it’s very difficult to know when someone is being authentic, and there’s more importance placed on glamours and physical beauty than on forming true connections with people. So it’s very difficult to navigate, and for a lot of people, hostility is the only way they can keep from becoming a victim of the people around them.
MTV: If Cinder had grown up on Luna, would she have inherited her mother's heinousness? Or do you think her goodness is inherent, like Winter?
Meyer: Oh, the age-old nature v. nurture question! It’s impossible to say, but if I had to guess, I think she would have turned out fairly heinous, because she would have been stuck with her mother and aunt as her only role models. Winter was lucky in some regards, in that she had a father with a lot of kindness and integrity, and she grew up admiring the way he was able to defy societal expectations. That went a long way in building her character.
MTV: In the one-off novella "Fairest," we learn that Levana's obsession with image comes from a dark place. If she had found someone to love her even with her scars, do you think she would have been a more just ruler? Or is she evil through and through, just like her sister?
Meyer: I think that so much of Levana’s cruelty is a direct result of her yearning for love and compassion, and so to find someone who really loved her would have made a huge difference in some of the decisions that she made and the person she became. Which isn’t to say that she’s at all blameless or that one good relationship could have changed everything—the abuse and torment she suffered as a child had lasting mental impact that may still have manifested in some ways, and by the time Levana was a teenager, her idea of love was already pretty flawed. So it would be an up-hill battle for just about anyone to love her. But, if they got to her in time, I think her life could have been much different.
MTV: Lately, there have been a surge of villain-centric spin-off musicals, movies and TV shows, like "Maleficent" and "Wicked." Do you feel that "Fairest" redeems Levana the same way that these stories have? To me, it just solidified her complete detachment from reality and compassion.
Meyer: You’re absolutely right—Levana’s story is not one about redemption. Rather, I wanted to show the events of her life that led to her being such a ruthless tyrant, and to show her own justifications, even though the reader can very clearly see how faulty her reasoning is. She’s a very damaged person, and there’s a history to that damage, but my intention was never to make her a sympathetic character, as much as to add depth to her and her story.
MTV: Winter seems to be a Heinz 57 of some of the other princesses we know -- Snow White, Elsa, maybe even a little "Alice in Wonderland"-ish. How is it that she is such a good person in the face of more strife than some of the other royals before her?
Meyer: As I mentioned before, her goodness stems a lot from her father, who was a good man who tried hard to hold onto his morals and to instill those same morals in his daughter. Also, as you mentioned love before, Winter has been lucky to have one close friendship through her whole life—and I think that friend, Jacin, being of a lower social standing than her has probably helped to keep her grounded amidst the rest of the Lunar aristocracy. (I’ll also mention that there will be a short story published in next February’s "Stars Above" collection that will go more in-depth into Winter’s backstory and her and Jacin’s relationship.)
MTV: There are two wicked stepmothers in this series -- what is it about the wicked stepmother complex that makes it such a constant haunt of these fairy tale characters, do you think?
Meyer: Like a lot of fairy tale archetypes, I think it has to do with the inherent fears that most children experience. Children are small and weak—they are at the mercy of their parents and guardians—and it’s a terrifying idea to them that they could be placed in the care of someone who is cruel and unloving. (Similar to the fear of abandonment that we see in tales like “Hansel & Gretel,” it’s something that can haunt even children who come from happy, loving homes.)
At the same time, these fairy tales offer a ray of hope. They suggest that even the meek and downtrodden can overcome their circumstances and rise above the unfairness and cruelty of the world around us. It’s very psychological, but I think it’s an element of the story that impacts all of us on a very deep, human level.
MTV: There's only one "Prince" via Emperor Kai but the series offers up a lot of pseudo-princes throughout like Thorne and Jacin and Wolf. How fun was it to write these characters, knowing that they were kind of a tabula rasa since their origin stories, if any, were pretty thin on princely character development?
Meyer: This was one of my main motivations for retelling fairy tales in the first place. The original stories place a lot of emphasis on the romantic aspect and how finding the right guy can lead to happily ever after, but it’s hard to imagine that happy life when you know so little about the guy in question!
I wanted the chance to expand on these male characters and make them more heroic, charming, and loveable . . . and to give balance to our talented and resilient heroines. It was particularly fun for me to take the Big Bad Wolf, a well-known villain, and turn him into a male lead that walks the line between good and bad, and can rival even the most beloved prince charmings.
MTV: Why is Iko so human?
Meyer: Ha, good question! It has to do with Linh Garan (Adri’s husband), who worked with android systems, and may have done a bit of tampering with her personality chip... I hope to one day have the opportunity to tell more of Iko’s story and give readers more insight into her unique personality. (Which is my not-so-vague way of saying, I fully intend to tell her story someday!)