Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
Cress is a book with a bit of an identity problem. While I truly enjoyed the parts of the story that were directly related to its fairy tale (Rapunzel), I do also recognize that she needed it to push the over-arcing story along, and those parts were interesting, obviously, but unfulfilling because this was sort of like the Empire Strikes Back of the series, with almost everything left unresolved.
The fairy tale: Meyer made a bold choice in essentially getting two-thirds of the original tale out of the way in the first two hundred pages or so, and then stretching the last third of the story over the next three hundred and fifty. It's not a choice I disapprove of, by a long shot: the desert, the blind prince, the magical tears, these are elements of the fairy tale that are often neglected or downright forgotten. The fact that it runs thin, I think, is due more to that fact that Meyer has to focus so much on so many different stories than the story not being deep enough to mine. Needless to say, the parts with Cress and Thorne (geddit? Thorne?) in the Sahara remain my favorite parts of the book, and I breezed through those chapters.
Characters: I was very unsure about Cress in the beginning. She's sweet and funny, there was never any question about that, but her painful naivety perhaps hit a little too closely to home, and I worried about how well it would actually mesh with Thorne's personality.
But! Thorne grows by leaps and bounds here. I'm going against the grain here, from what I've read in reviews, by thinking he improves considerably in this book. Far from being filled with hot air, when faced with a dire situation, he steps up, composes himself, and takes charge of the situation, despite his new disability (blindness from a bump on the head--I really think Meyer should have started reading up on disability politics by this book, but it doesn't seem that she has, sighs). He leads Cress, gets her going when she absolutely thinks she can't, thinks of all the little practical things for survival, and yet is always achingly honest about himself. Except for his weakness. One of my favorite things about the book are those moments, just small things, that he actually looks defeated, looks like he's about to crumple; he's extremely high functioning and independent, and he's faced with something that calls both into question. The fact that he rejects Cress' help once they reach civilization to prove that he is still self-sufficient hurts, for both him and her, and it turns out badly, which he is the first to call himself on. Just excellent character development here.
Jacin was arrogant with hints at hidden depths, and I look forward to reading more about him in Winter; and Winter herself is batty and delightful, and the release of that book cannot come quickly enough. Cinder and Kai remain Cinder and Kai--I still prefer her, and am happy that the character seems o be coming into her own the more responsibility she takes on, and Kai remains one of the worst political leaders in the history of fiction. We're given a few more hints about Levana, the wedding ring that was previously mentioned she wore--again, can't wait until the next book arrives!
Oh, Wolf and Scarlet. Yeah, here I was always going to be a bit disgruntled. She started the book out by putting emotional distance between them, which felt a bit cheap--before I even knew that she was going to put distance-distance between them. I do understand Scarlet being more than a bit freaked out about what had happened in Paris, though, for me, the crazed Scarlet fangirl, it felt slightly undermining to her determination to bring Wolf back into himself in the last book, to tell and show him that he can be something better. they haven't even kissed since? Really? And then IT HAPPENS. Scarlet is taken by Thaumaturge Sybil. And is tortured, physically and mentally. I've seen many other touch on the subject about how the next book could not possibly fix this damage, not with the depth it deserves, and I agree, which is why I'm simply resigning myself to the idea that we're being told that Scarlet is the one strong enough to "survive" it (I dislike the implication that, if you break, you're weak, but that's a personal thing, from someone who's had to nervous breakdowns in her life) and it will help her "understand" what Wolf went through. Boo! But! Since neither she nor Wolf are given much page-time, it does make me happy that she'll be with the titular character in the next book, giving her more of the spotlight. I don't feel Wolf broods too much; I feel it's just about right, considering he also pulls himself together for the end. I do wish Cinder's training would go both ways, and they could train Wolf to resist control, because that's getting a bit old now.
Dr. Erland. Oh, Dr. Erland. It was nice to see his story come back, and be resolved. But it wasn't perhaps the most interesting story the books have touched on. It crosses with Cress, and that was good, and Kai's removal of the cyborg draft felt mostly satisfying. But I thought Erland was a creep in Cinder and he was still a creep here.
Coincidence? I think not: Or rather, I do. There's simply too much convenience and coincidence about the plot. The only window to Earth at the time the satellite is crashing and the Rampion is trying to land happens to be northern Africa, where Dr. Erland is! Hey, let's pay him a visit! Thorne manages to find Cress at the doctor's hotel just as a confrontation with Wolf and Jacin is happening, which is a small thing, but it was that kind of unbelievable coincidence that started nagging at me. Of course, Cress and her SUPER HACKER abilities seem like a convenience in of themselves, advancing Cinder's cause about a thousand percent with what they're able to do now, and what she knows about the Lunars and their surveillance.
Iko: Has a body now! Proving he truly isn't as selfish as he'd have everyone believe, Thorne gambles for an escort android and wins, just for Iko, awww! And I was about to be completely bummed out when Wolf broke her neck, worried that Meyer would reverse it as soon as it had happened, but thank goodness Cinder is an ace mechanic!
Huge revelations are made about the plague, and they are not... unexpected. Or weren't, for me, at least. And all of the pseudo-science made my head hurt a little, but I asked for it, I said that I'd prefer even a bullshit explanation to nothing at all, so I'll live with it. World building problems remain, but as the story builds on itself, it seems less prominent.
Was it too long? Only because, once more, Meyer feels the need to show us absolutely. Every. Step. Along. The way. The last third, when they infiltrate the palace during the wedding, particularly suffered from this; it wasn't a lack of interest for what they were doing, because they were resolving a good portion of the plot, but a weariness that reading every part of the journey brought on. Not a perfect book, but extremely enjoyable, and satisfying, storywise. These books just make me feel good.