Cress, by Marissa Meyer (review)

July 24, 2014 Book Reviews 14 ★★★★½

Cress, by Marissa Meyer (review)Cress Series: Lunar Chronicles #3
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. 


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The Lunar Chronicles: 
1.  Cinder (review)
2.  Scarlet (review)
3.  Cress (review)
4. Winter (review to come)


About Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer’s first book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder, debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband, daughters, and three cats. Her favorite non-bookish things include Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, re-watching episodes of Firefly, and playing all manners of dress-up.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Summer Vacation 2014

14 Responses to “Cress, by Marissa Meyer (review)”

  1. kimbacaffeinate

    Don’t you just love how she is writing this series! Your review is fantastic and just has me all excited for the next book!

  2. Katherine P

    I’m fascinated by this series even though it’s completely out of my comfort zone. I definitely need to read it since you’ve enjoyed it so much! Thorne sounds like my favorite type of hero.
    Yeah the Edward/Bella thing wasn’t healthy. We had long talks about it here!

  3. Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous

    Beautiful analysis of so much wonderfulness in this book! Every paragraph of your review I kept thinking, “yes, exactly, that’s so much better than I’ve managed to articulate it!” 🙂

    Well, until I got to the part about the delayed release date, which is so very SAD! Though a prequel has interesting possibilities too…

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Thank you, Cheryl! I was a bit dismayed about the delay, myself. Prequels are nice and this one should be very interesting, but it doesn’t get us any closer to the end!

  4. Berls

    FANTASTIC review Lark. Seriously, I think I’m having reviewer envy – you were able to put in worlds everything I loved about this book, even things I didn’t realize I loved. Yes! The women do have “male” roles without drawing attention to it. Yes! The relationships are healthy and the teens in them think! Gah, I love this series and I agree with you, this book is the best. I’m super excited to read Winter, what we saw of her in Cress has me very excited. And then Scarlet! That’s going to be exciting! 🙂


    I loved the first two books but I haven’t picked this one up yet because i’m waiting for the released ate of the last book to be closer so I can binge read both books. This series is so different from anything i’ve ever read before but I still love it so much!

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I completely understand, Lily – I’m doing the same thing with Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. It’s driving my daughter nuts, because she wants to talk about the books with me, but I can only take being in the middle of so many series at any given time! (This kind of series, anyway – with an overall story arc. Mystery and romance series are easier because each book is mostly self-contained.)

  6. Angela's Anxious Life

    I really love how you mentioned the similarities with the original Rapunzel novel. I actually missed a lot of those while reading. This book actually made me worry about Iko. She does seem very human in this one. She even seems to have emotions. What will the android do when the humans die? Just keep getting passed on through generations? Honestly I am interested to see how Meyer wraps up Iko’s story. This was a fun review to read through.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      There are some not-quite-buried social issues in this series, and the biggest seems to be: What makes a human being human? Is a cyborg human? (Kai’s empire says no; Kai says yes; our experience of Cinder says yes.) Is an android human? The ones without emotions don’t seem to be, but what about Iko? She’s got a personality; she’s self-aware. Where do we draw the line? It’s something our own world is going to have to determine when (not if) cloning and/or AI really take off.

  7. Lark_Bookwyrm

    Wow – high praise indeed! Thank you, Berls, for the shout-out, the compliments, and most of all your friendship! 🙂 I’m so glad I found you, too!