Marissa Meyer sets her fairy tales in the future, turns the victims of the classics into agents of change, and provides a lens through which to view the present. Cress, her third in the Lunar Chronicles, reimagines Rapunzel, trapped in her tower, as a brilliant hacker and programmer drone sequestered in a satellite. Cress made a cameo appearance in Cinder, as the one who revealed Queen Levana's diabolical plans to Cinder.
In Cinder, the heroine retains the classic fairy tale position of least valued in her household, but she nonetheless supports her stepmother and stepsisters as the most gifted mechanic in the Commonwealth. She's also a cyborg--considered second-class citizens in their society. Prince Kai seeks out Cinder to repair his android, and that is how they meet--at her workplace. The heroine of Scarlet, in the second book, is a talented pilot searching for her missing grandmother, and a hybrid named Wolf helps her solve the mystery.
Meyer deepens her characters well beyond fairy tale archetypes and also develops plot twists that keep readers guessing. Dr. Erland, for instance, turns out to have a history that adds another layer of complexity to his motives for assisting in and encouraging the Emperor's cyborg draft to "aid" in finding an antidote to the letumosis plague raging across Earth. Captain Thorne reveals a sense of morality when tended by Cress's affection. And Wolf proves his fierce loyalty when Scarlet is taken prisoner by Queen Levana's chief counsel.
All the while, Meyer weaves in themes relevant to modern teens sorting out their views on immigration policy (Cinder's society wishes to ban or segregate cyborgs), security and privacy (Queen Levana has hidden cameras on Earth that deliver information to her on Luna). The framework of these stories owes a debt to fairy tales, but as readers delve more deeply, they discover subtle commentary on the structure of society and may use the questions raised in the stories to examine its core assumptions and values.