Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Book Review: Stars Above

Title: Stars Above
Series: The Lunar Chronicles
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
The enchantment continues....

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s upcoming novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.
Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….
The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.
Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.
The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.
After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.
The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a game called The Princess
The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.
Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century...

My Review


Stars Above is a must need book for any fan of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series because it's full of so many of the answers that we've been craving for years! While some of the stories in the book had been previously released in ebook format, she includes five new stories, including an epilogue to Winter, that will definitely get fans talking and renewing their love of the series. 

When I thought about how to go about reviewing this book, I figured the best way would be to review each story individually.

"The Keeper"


As a fan of The Lunar Chronicles, I always wondered about Cinder's past and her connection to Scarlet and Michelle Benoit. I knew the basics, but I wanted to know more. So many of my questions were answered in this thrilling short story and prequel to Cinder

Meyer introduces readers to a younger Michelle Benoit (and Scarlet) in "The Keeper." She even delves further back by including a flashback of Michelle in her twenties when she travelled to Luna and met a man who would change her life not once, but twice. 

I enjoyed reading about Michelle's younger days. It's a little different for readers because Michelle isn't one of the main characters that we've learned to love, but it's a cool experience to be able to read about her life and see the impact that she had on the four main characters in the series. Readers will also be able to see just how much this woman cared for people - Scarlet, Princess Selene, and so many more. 

This story is definitely worth reading if you are curious about how Cinder grew up and eventually found her way to New Beijing.



"Glitches"


The second story in the collection, "Glitches," follows Cinder after she leaves Michelle Benoit's farm as a cyborg with her new stepfather Garan. She's lost and confused, having no memory of anything that's happened to her in the past. She's been told that an accident claimed the lives of her parents and some of her limbs, but she can't recall anything. No faces. No memories. Nothing at all.

This short story really introduces readers to the family unit that they originally met in Cinder. Things for Cinder weren't exactly easy for Cinder when she arrived in New Beijing. Her new stepfather barely talked to her, and her new stepmother and stepsister, Pearl, seemed to think of her as nothing more than a disgusting liability. The only silver lining for Cinder is the fact that Peony seems to take to her right away. Other than that, things seem pretty grim for the cyborg girl.

Meyer also shows how the plague changes Cinder's new family. I don't know about other readers, but I really thought that this would be a bigger part of the story than it was, and I was a little saddened that we only got a brief glimpse of how it changed this family.

Other than the fact that I wanted more about Garan and how he came down with the plague, the story an enjoyable prequel to Cinder. It gives readers a better understanding of Cinder's stepfamily, and I was able to see that Cinder pretty much had it bad since the day she left Michelle's farm.





"The Queen's Army"


"The Queen's Army," a prequel to Scarlet, introduces Lunartics to a very young Wolf Kesley as he is chosen to become a member of the royal guard. They will see him taken away from his parents and brother, and undergoe the genetic modification surgeries that will change his body and turn him from boy to wolf-boy.

This short story was way more emotional than I anticipated. Even though I already knew that Wolf was ripped away from his family, it was hard to see it actually happen. Meyer captured the family emotions perfectly, and I really felt like I was there, witnessing a mother and father lose their son forever.

Readers are also able to see how the soldiers in Wolf's unit are trained. It was almost like getting a behind-the-scenes look at a play or a movie because readers are actually taken to the training barracks and get to see Wolf's unit in their den. These scenes are a little violent, but I wasn't shocked by that. It just shows readers just how cruel Levana could be.

While I wasn't expecting so much from "The Queen's Army," I'm very happy that Ms. Meyer wrote it. It gives readers more clues about Wolf's life before he came to Earth, and they can really see why he's always so guarded and afraid of what could happen to him.




"Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky"


"Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky" is about everyone's favorite bad boy from The Lunar Chronicles - Carswell Thorne. In this prequel to Cress, fans get to see what Thorne was like as an adolescent. Instead of stealing space ships, he dreams of being a captain of his own ship one day, like his father, even though he doesn't exactly want to be just like his father.

I guess I was expecting a how-to guide for this story because of the title, so I was a bit thrown when I actually started reading something with an actual plot. It was interesting to see young Thorne, especially in a middle school environment (you all know I dream of teacher middle school, right?)!

Readers will see that Thorne hasn't changed much since his school days. He was just as charming, cunning, devilish, and conniving back then. He had a way with words as a kid, just like he does as an adult, and he was still able charm and break hearts. Overall, it was cute, but I feel like it was just a regurgitation of the Thorne we already knew.




"After Sunshine Passes By"


In the short story, "After Sunshine Passes By," readers are introduced to Cress as a child and they get to see what her life was like before she was taken away by Sybil and placed in the satellite to spy on Earthens. 

Because she's a shell, Cress and the rest of the shells are hidden away so that their blood can be taken and used by Lunar society. Their living quarters aren't the greatest, and they don't have access to any of the things that normal Lunar children would have. This means no port screens and no entertainment. Heck, most of them can't even read! I actually found myself tearing up a bit because I felt bad for all of these children.

Readers also get to see just how smart Cress is. Because she's smart, Sybil has her moved to a satellite so that she can spy on Earth's most important people. It was heart-wrenching to see her taken away and just left there. It was emotion that I wasn't expecting to feel.

Marissa Meyer does something sweet in this short story, though. She includes a lullaby, one that Sybil calls unpatriotic because it was written during a time when Earth and Luna were allies. Of course Cress is ignorant to this and likes the lullaby because she thinks she's named after it. I really liked seeing her naivety come out, and because of this one scene, I was able to really imagine what she was like as a child.

Even though this story is short, it's sweet. I think anyone who claims that Cress is their favorite novel in the series (like I do) would really like reading this and better understanding Cress.




"The Princess and the Guard"


"The Princess and the Guard" is another prequel story, but this time, it's a prequel to the final book in the series, Winter. This short story is one of the longer ones in the book, and readers will see that there is so much more to Winter and Jacin than we got in Winter.

What I really enjoyed about this story is that it followed Winter and Jacin from childhood into adolescence. It was cute to see how they played together as kiddos and then to see things change between them as they grew older. This short story is the answer that a lot of us were waiting for because Winter was more about Cinder's claim to the throne. Readers will be able to see how Winter fell in love with Jacin and come to understand them so much better.

Readers will also find out just why Winter decided not to use her Lunar gift, and let me tell you, it's very emotional. I wanted to comfort her, but luckily Jacin is there for her. It's definitely something that will make readers look at Winter in a new way and respect her so much more.

All in all, I really enjoyed "The Princess and the Guard." It's a much needed story, but it's also adorable and emotional. I think readers of The Lunar Chronicles series would appreciate all the small details that went into this story that they could read either before or after Winter.




"The Little Android"


"The Little Android" is a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” This short story had been previously released as an ebook, but I hadn't read it. I'm kind of sad that I hadn't read it until now because it's one of the most fascinating short stories in the collection. 

What makes "The Little Android" stick out is it's lack of the main characters that we know and love. Initially I thought it would be about Iko, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that the Android was just another one of the many in New Beijing. I also liked the inclusion of other characters and the tiny cameo from Cinder. 

What sets this apart from other Little Mermaid retelling is the fact that it pretty much follows the plot of Andersen's original tale, just in a fictional future. Meyer even ends the short story in a bittersweet manner, and I almost cried. 

"The Little Android" can be read before any of the books in The Lunar Chronicles or after any of them. It doesn't contain any spoilers for the rest of the series so it could even be a good starting point for the skeptical reader.


"The Mechanic"


Don't you just love it when you get to read something you've already read but from another perspective? I know I do, and that's what Marissa Meyer does in "The Mechanic." Readers are still reading in third person, but this time around, they get to see what Kai thought of Cinder when he first met her in the market.

I wouldn't say that this is the best short story in the collection, but I'm glad that Ms. Meyer wrote it. It's more than a little cute to see the inner thoughts of Kai, especially when he first meets Cinder, but readers will realize that he is so much more than just a prince/soon-to-be-emperor. She gives readers insight into his thoughts about his country, his country's history, and what could happen to Earth and her people if he doesn't get Nainsi fixed. It's also worth reading it just for the dramatic irony!

If you're aren't a loyal Lunartic, you could probably skip this story, but if you are obsessed with all things Lunar Chronicles, read this story. However, I would recommend that you should read it after Cinder just because there are some spoilers.


"Something Old, Something New"



And finally, we get to the most anticipated short story in Stars Above, "Something Old, Something New." I'm sure that by now, you know that this is an epilogue to Winter, and that we finally get to see our favorite characters again, even though Winter only came out a few months ago!

"Something Old, Something New" takes place two years after the events in Winter. It was nice to see the gang - Cinder, Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, Cress, Thorne, Winter, and Jacin - plus Scarlet's friend Émilie back together again to celebrate one heck of a wedding.

Now I won't spoil you, but I will say that my prediction was correct, well... make that both of my predictions. So would I call this story predictable? Yes... However, it's cute, corny, and charming, and everyone who has read all the books in The Lunar Chronicles owes it to himself or herself to read this story.




All in all, I very much enjoyed all of the stories in Stars Above. It's a wonderful addition to the series, and every story in this collection shines like the stars.


Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles --- Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, and Winter --- are a New York Times bestselling series. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and their three cats.

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