on February 4, 2014
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Also in this series: Cinder, Scarlet
In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.
Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.
When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.
(Warning: Some spoilers for the first two books.)
This series just keeps getting better and better! There’s so much I love about it, from the clever ways in which Meyer integrates fairy tales (in this case, ‘Rapunzel’) into a larger, over-arching science-fiction tale to the way she handles relationships. Over the course of three books, she has studiously avoided resorting to love triangles to add tension (for which she earns my eternal thanks.) Not only that, the relationships she does show are realistic and above all, slow and respectful. Sure, couples experience physical and emotional attraction, and in Cress’s case even a major infatuation, but three books in, there have been only a handful of kisses and no “you’re my fate/destiny/soulmate and I swear undying love forever” scenes. Wolf comes closest, perhaps, in acknowledging that Scarlet is his alpha, but Wolf isn’t entirely human, and given his altered biology, his strong feelings for Scarlet make sense. The other couples and Scarlet herself are exploring their feelings more slowly, even tentatively. What’s more, they think as well as feel. Thank you, Marissa Meyer, for giving us believable, healthy young adult relationships that offer a better model than, say, Twilight.*
OK, so let’s talk about Cress itself. I already mentioned the ‘Rapunzel’ connection, and if you’re very up on fairy tales, you’ll know that rapunzel, cress, and rampion (the name of Thorne’s spaceship) are all names for edible plants in the spinach/lettuce family. There are some other wonderful parallels with the Rapunzel story: Cress’s tower is a satellite; her captor is one of Levana’s thaumaturges (a “witch” in all but name.) I won’t go on because spoilers, but again, if you’re familiar with the story, you’ll be able to figure out some of the events ahead of time.
Thorne takes on the role of prince/hero to Cress’s Rapunzel. I love Thorne; he’s a great character. Personality-wise, he reminds me of a young Han Solo or (my daughter’s suggestion) Flynn Rider from Tangled. He’s a charming, cocky rogue (I keep hearing Harrison Ford’s voice in my head: “You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”) But Thorne is also protective toward Cress, even to the extent of trying to prove to her that he’s not the hero she imagines he is. And he’s loyal to his friends, particularly Cinder. He’s also far braver than he lets on, and probably more selfless as well (though he’s still no saint!)
Cress is longer than the other two books, and it needs to be. We’re now following not two major characters or even four, but six, with occasional detours to other characters as needed. Meyer cycles between them all with ease and skill, making me care almost equally about each of the main characters.
While I’m thinking of it, may I also applaud Meyer for giving all three of her main female characters skills that are normally associated with men, and doing so without drawing attention to the fact? Cinder is a talented mechanic, Scarlet an excellent pilot, and Cress one of the most gifted hackers in fiction. I also appreciate that none of them are Superwoman — even Cinder, despite her cyborg advantages and her Lunar mind-control abilities. They’re all strong and skilled in some areas, weaker in others; they feel fear, struggle with indecision, sometimes make bad decisions. The same is true of the sympathetic male characters. It makes them all feel real and believable. . . and more like friends than characters in a book.
Iko has a bigger role this time around, and I appreciate her even more having seen in this book how different she is from other androids. She’s very human and sometimes quite humorous, with her fangirl crush on Kai, her blushes that raise the ship’s temperature, and her gushing enthusiasm. Dr. Erland makes a return appearance; I understand his motivations so much better now — poor man! We get a glimpse of Princess Winter (and perhaps the ‘Huntsman’), too, and I’m beyond intrigued and excited for her book. (Which, unfortunately, has now been put off until November 2015 to make room for a prequel featuring Levana, due out January 27. Not that I don’t want to read Fairest, but I really want to read Winter.)
Honestly, I think Cress is even better in some ways than Cinder and Scarlet. If Meyer can keep this up (and I firmly believe she can), the finale is going to be amazing!
* Apologies to Twilight fans everywhere, but Bella’s infatuation and Edward’s stalker tendencies are not what I’d want my daughter to emulate – or my son, if I had one.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Summer Vacation 2014