Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
Oh my stars! I just finished this about twenty minutes ago and I'm feeling all the epic feels right now! I've been gathering my thoughts since I started reading it, and thought it'd be a good idea to just jump right into a review. Hopefully, something coherent will follow!
This book provides an appropriately grandiose finale to The Lunar Chronicles series. A hybrid of epic fantasy, science fiction and, most predominantly I believe, space opera, Winter, above any of the other books in TLC, feels like a direct successor to the likes of Star Wars, with rogues and princess, daring space fights and flights, and an evil galactic empire to defeat. It's an extremely satisfying climax to one of, if not the most, fun YA series out there. The characters are well represented, and even Kai (who was, for me, the biggest, most thundering bore in the other books, as well as being kinda, well, stupid) grew a personality for this installment (thought he first half of the book felt too weighted with chapters focusing on him--that was a personal preference, though.)
It's not flawless, though. Many other critics have pointed out that the book is bloated, over-long. I felt this most in the first half, the set-up to get the characters where they needed to be for the rest of the book to happen. And it's not even that it's TOO MUCH information, but unnecessary information when there were, for me, other pieces distinctly missing from the story. For instance, I really didn't need to know how they were keeping Scarlet's farm up. I figured they were, I didn't need to be told, and I felt it could just be mentioned quickly at the end. It wasn't a huge plot point but was brought up at least three times I think.
And, on the flip side, huge emotional notes were missed or ignored entirely. I've noticed specifically with authors who have stable, able and living parents, that they tend not to even consider how characters who don't have any of those things might behave, or what it would mean to readers, how false it might ring to them, who also do not. Cinder has absolutely no interest in her mother, or Winter for that matter, and that rang so false for me. Someone who has never experienced familial love in the life she can remember shows absolutely zero concern about the family she could have had. Instead, Channary is only mentioned during a Levana pity-fest. We had a surprising peek at Channary with little Selene in Fairest, and I would have loved it if just one person had told Cinder, "No matter what she was, you should know your mother loved you." It would have felt right for the story, for the character, and it would have meant a lot to me, too, and most likely many other readers. Even Cinder's reaction to Levana's revelations about her mother seem oddly subdued.
Similarly, the shock that Wolf in no way even mentions Ran or his fate to his mother made my jaw drop. These are small but hugely important things, and they lend the characters a bit more humanity, as well as closing emotional stories that I've felt have run through the books.
Speaking of Wolf, he and Scarlet are repeatedly violated and tortured, and just get over it. Because, I suppose, we're supposed to just think they're tough. That seemed a bit sloppy to me. The horrors Scarlet went through were really brushed aside, as if Meyer didn't want to deal with what the actual repercussions of the dark situation she put her in would be. And then she does something almost equally horrid to Wolf. I guess they were designated the tragedy couple. It was something I worried about while reading Cress, and while I loved both the characters in this book, their lives are unnecessarily shitty with no realistic repercussions at all, which makes it feel like suffering for entertainment's sake, and that made me uncomfortable, especially since they are my favorite characters in the series.
I think the fairy tale elements felt the most forced in this book, too, not as naturally interwoven with the narrative as they were in the other books. Even Cress felt innovative in Meyer choosing a lesser known part of the fairy tale to focus and expand on; it felt like a natural part of that book. And with balancing introducing a new fairy tale (even if Winter and Jacin were introduced in the last book) with the conclusion the series, one or both sort of gets lost. Established characters sort of feel like they get a short shrift, and I didn't feel like I got to know Winter as I should have. (Or maybe she's slightly unknowable. At times, I think Meyer confused mental illness with actual personality.)
Which leads me into my last real criticism of the book, and that's the climax. With that balance of science fiction and space opera, I've always felt like it leaned slightly more towards fantasy, and I liked that about it. So the fact that Levana is ultimately killed in a fire fight seemed so disappointing to me. She's shot. That's how they kill her, with a gun. Meh. And here's where I feel Meyer missed some major opportunities to incorporate the fairy tale, because what better way for the Evil Queen to bite it than someone using their Lunar gift to make her dance to her death? Maybe right over the edge of that balcony, so that she might have incorporated both the original tale's ending--the queen dancing to death at Snow White's wedding--with the Disney death of the witch tumbling over the edge of a cliff.
That the only part of the second half that seemed hugely frustrating to me, how much better it could have been handled. Other aspects of the fairy tale were there, even if they felt obligatory and not seamless (I loved Winter in the suspension tank, but there's a throwaway line about how lucky it was for Scarlet that it acted so slowly on her, and it just seemed... I don't know, as if it should have meant to so much more to the story.)
That's the downside. Not that, even though I elaborated quite a bit on those downsides, it didn't even knock half a star off the rating for me. The things I liked about it, I actually adored. Cress and Thorne were adorable and perfect, and they were the couple that shone most. Scarlet was appropriately badass, Wolf was adorable (though there was far too like of either of them for me!) Cinder was awesome, Iko was incredible! I would have loved to read more in depth about Winter and Jacin (though I feel like I don't know much more about them than I did in Cress or Fairest.) Meyer does much better with the world building this time around,even if it is suspiciously derivative of Hunger Games; she establishes Lunar culture, and the Lunar landscape well.
I've seen mixed reactions to the ending. I think it worked for Cinder, for her character, even if I would have liked to have seen her stepping up and doing the adult thing of taking responsibility. Abdicating in order to begin a democracy is a wonderful idea, but it's going to take years, if not decades, to transition (especially as it's established there are no other politicians on Luna), so while I agree that it feels like the right thing for the character, her general idea sort of feels like she's blowing a big fart in a crowded room, and then leaving before apologizing. Though, since it's right at the very end, thankfully I can be left to imagine that it's actually not a hugely bad idea and that the country will collapse the second she says, "Later, losers!"
An extremely, extremely enjoyable read. And a series I plan to revisit many times in the future.
Now enjoy my icon of me meeting Ms. Meyer last year at our local library! She's super smart, and super fun, and if you ever get the chance to see her at a book signing, do it!