Where many young adult series are told in one character’s first person perspective, Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles wasn’t. With each novel additional characters were added to the mix and the perspective shifted regularly between them. This meant that where many young adult authors release complementary/supplementary short stories that offer a different character’s take on scenes the audience is already familiar with, her collection of stories, Stars Above, provided a different kind of depth—backstory. Most of the stories in Stars Above are greater explorations of the circumstances surrounding key moments in the series’ central characters’ lives that took place before the readers met them but that were hinted at or referenced briefly within the main books.
Most of the stories function as prequels to the books of the main series: how Scarlet’s grandmother became involved in hiding and healing Cinder as well as how Scarlet came to live with her grandmother in the first place; Cinder’s first days with her adoptive family in New Beijing; how Cress came to find herself in the satellite orbiting Earth; some of Thorne’s earliest schemes; Wolf’s early days as a soldier in Levana’s army; Winter’s perspective of growing up in her step-mother’s palace; Kai’s first impressions of Cinder. There are two stories that break from that pattern, however. The Little Android, while featuring an appearance by Cinder prior to the events of the first novel of the series, stands on its own as a reimagining of The Little Mermaid (the Hans Christian Anderson original more than the Disney version). Finally, the last story in the collection is a happy epilogue/sequel which finds the series’ four couples gathering on Earth for a long-awaited reunion and wedding.
While I’ve seen quite a few complaints out there that the collection of stories is a disappointment for rehashing events that readers of the series already know happened, that’s actually part of what I enjoyed about it. It’s what so many supplemental stories to series like this do but probably doesn’t feel as drastic because neither the original series nor the stories lock the reader into a single first person narration. The details revealed don’t feel as profoundly revelatory without having a distinctive shift in narrative voice. But for me, that is part of their appeal. I don’t care for first person narration because of those limits and when supplementary stories simply retell events from someone else’s limited perspective, I find it just as frustrating as the original. What’s more, the differences between the characters’ voices don’t tend to be distinctive enough to really feel like a different person is actually speaking/narrating. I much prefer Meyer’s approach as a matter of principle and enjoyed seeing events unfold firsthand that I only had brief accounts of in the main books.
As for the two stories that weren’t referenced in the original series, it wasn’t until part way through The Little Android that I realized it wasn’t connected the way the others had been, and thus, it took me longer to realize it was meant to emulate The Little Mermaid—one of my favorite fairy tales when I was growing up. I was thrilled to see how much more it cleaved to the original tale than to the Disney version (which I also love). It’s that level of subtly referencing the fairy tale sources that I first fell in love with in Cinder. The epilogue with the characters’ reunion on Earth was precisely the happy fairy tale ending that the characters—and the series’ readers—deserve.
(I have my fingers crossed that I can maybe get a galley copy of Meyer’s upcoming standalone novel Heartless to preview.)