Author: Marissa Meyer
Publication Date: November 2015
Two Sentence Synopsis: Princess Winter is slowly losing her sanity by not using her Lunar abilities, but that doesn’t make her as weak as Queen Levana believes. The princess teams up with Cinder and helps with the fugitive cyborg’s revolution.
Review: Talk about an amazing finale to a great series! Meyer adds yet another complex character to her massive cast.
Princess Winter poses a difficult challenge for any writer as a POV character with her deteriorating sanity. Meyer manages to bring Winter to life brilliantly. The princess fluctuates between lucidity and hallucinations, sometimes knowing what is real but often not being quite sure. Her slowly declining sanity isn’t the only thing that defines her. Winter is brave, kind, and highly intelligent. She truly cares about the people of Luna and goes out to see them when she can. The princess also knows that her step-mother, Queen Levana, is a highly unpleasant person who cares more about herself than her citizens. Knowing that the revolution is likely to fail without enough support, she uses quick thinking to come up with an idea that none of the other characters would even dream of: appealing to the Queen’s mutant soldiers for help. As for which fairy tale her story is loosely based on? Snow White. Princess Winter is the most beautiful young woman on Luna even without any glamour, much to her evil step-mother’s dismay. After Levana forced a thirteen year old Winter to mutilate her face with a knife, leaving three scars down her lovely cheek, the princess vowed to never use her own Lunar gift ever again, causing her loss of sanity. Meyer even ties in Winter’s love of apple candies as a way to take the spot of the poisoned apple in the classic fairy tale. And the poison is a mutated strain of the plague that ravages the Earth that now affects Lunars and kills the victims much quicker. In an attempt to save the princess, Scarlet convinces the people in an area they managed to bring into their revolution to place Winter in a suspension tank where she will stay unconscious and hopefully the fluids will slow down the disease’s progression. The doctor readily agrees and even suggests to put the princess outside that way everyone can see her.
The other characters continue to grow and develop really well. Cinder learns not to underestimate her foe and eventually comes to really understand Levana and the queen’s motivation for all her actions, even if those motivations are quite twisted. Cinder also learns about her own mother and how she wasn’t a very pleasant person, either. Scarlet continues to be a strong, independent young woman, though she is eventually won over by kind-hearted Winter who saves the French girl from execution by suggesting to Levana that she be kept in the royal menagerie as a pet instead. Perhaps not an ideal situation, but Scarlet comes to realize that the princess really is doing what she can to help her. Eventually, Scarlet becomes fiercely protective of Winter.
Although we see very little of Wolf — he is taken captive along with Cinder in his home area after getting help from his mother and the two are separated once they get to the palace — what we do see of him is true to his character. He fights the beast-like modifications the scientists gave him and you can see him struggle to remain who he is instead of giving into animal instincts.
Cress continues to be able to hide and work things from behind the scenes. She has the advantage of being a shell; immune to the glamours and manipulation of other Lunars. So she’s able to hide from guards and with her impressive hacking skills, she’s able to shut down lights and security systems, get into the broadcast system to play Cinder’s video, and open and close the tunnel gates. As for the chemistry between her and Captain Thorne, it’s still there and fraught with tension. Meyer really wrote their romance well. There’s tension and obvious feelings on both sides, but also a nervousness to both characters as both Cress and Thorne are unsure about the others’ true feelings.
Thorne remains his boastful, over-confident self, but the depth of his character continues to develop. We see his kindness and that he really does care about his allies. He is fully committed to the cause and even is convinced to eventually give up his life of crime.
The world building continues to be incredibly strong. Now that we’re on Luna, there’s so much opportunity to get really creative. And Meyer gets so creative. She uses real science when discussing the length of days and nights on the moon but also allows for the society to have created artificial days and nights based on the Earth’s passage of time. The description of the society with the rich families living in the central, main dome with the working class spread out amongst other, industry-specific domes all connected by trains that use the underground lava tubes paints a vivid picture.
Everything wraps up nicely in the end, but also leaves open the possibilities of something more. Especially between Cinder and Emperor Kai. Normally I don’t really enjoy loose ends, but I think in this series it really works. The plot was about Cinder overthrowing Levana and taking back her birthright of ruling Luna rather than the romance between her and Kai. We still got great romance between Scarlet and Wolf, Cress and Thorne, and Winter and Jacin, and I’m quite happy that Cinder doesn’t set aside her duty to make Luna a better place just to be with Kai. She’s been a strong character from the beginning with a real sense of duty, it would have been a massive shame if she set everything aside just to be with Kai.
My one gripe with this series is the hetero-centric romances and that the characters could be a little more racially diverse.
Now that I’ve completed this series, I absolutely, totally recommend it to everyone, especially those who enjoy futuristic YA dystopia.