Also by this author: Fairest, Heartless
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 10th 2015
Pages: 823 •Goodreads
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?
I am an outlier. A black sheep. The reader who seemed to have missed the memo that this was an amazing, flawless, work of utter perfection. So I’m going to start with a disclaimer: I love Marissa Meyer. I’ve met her twice. I think her skill at writing fairy tale retellings is magnificent. Her characters have depth and feel like my own friends. I coveted the release of Winter. I dragged myself to Barnes & Noble after an eleven hour work day to buy it in person to ensure that I received a copy that was in pristine condition.
And then all of my hopes and dreams fell victim to something I never thought would impact the quality of this series: hype. I was sure I’d knock this book out in a week or less (which is quick with my work schedule). This book took me almost an entire month to read. It felt unnecessarily and excruciatingly long. At 800 pages, I was expecting an epic story, but I really got a lot of redundant internal worrying, repeated failed attempts to best Levana, and a sadly formulaic YA dystopian-society-rising-against-the-oppressive-aristocarcy novel (*cue the Mockingjay theme*). The (very) long and short of my problems with this book is that I was bored.
I think many of my issues with this book that I have are due to its falling into the stereotypical YA dystopian elements. Such as the “reluctant revolutionary” protagonist. I am personally tired of having YA protagonists who drag their feet about being the “chosen one.” I want to read about a protagonist who take a revolution by the bullhorns and owns it. I understand that there are moral dilemmas and stress and unfathomable responsibilities that come along with leading a revolution, but I wanted to see Cinder really embrace being Selene for herself. Also (DO NOT READ THIS PART IF YOU DON’T WANT ANY SPOILERS) none of the 8 main characters died. ALL of the couples came out relatively unscathed (except for poor, poor Wolf and my favorite love interest, who was genetically modified AGAIN to be the garish, monstrous looking solider more wolf-like then ever, who inexplicably can still be with Scarlet despite his brain now being like 99% animal…don’t even get me started on how MY FAVORITE SHIP IS THE ONE THAT SUFFERED). It’s another trend in YA war/dystopian/rebellion novels that irks me. If you’re going to make your protagonist miserable and reluctant because of how horrific war is, than at least follow through with the consequences. Sure, thousands of people died invading Artemisia from the outer sectors, but I’m not buying that all eight major characters would have realistically survived. This is an issue in many popular series (Harry Potter: Harry, Ron, and Hermione all survive, Hunger Games: Katniss, Peeta, and Gale all live, etc.) and I can’t wonder if it’s because authors fear killing off beloved characters. However, if you are writing a book about war and revolution, I think to really create an impact you have to be realistic about survival odds. (End of spoilery section).
Aside from the long, drawn out scenes leading up to the final battle that had me struggling for interest and the issues I took with the dystopian elements, there were aspects of the story that would cause me to perk up while reading and carry on. While Cinder disappointed me in this book, I loved seeing everyone else’s character growth. Scarlet is truly a warrior, and seeing her take command in situations where everyone else went to pieces was inspiring. The evolution of Cress and Thorne’s relationship was really sweet, and I found myself cheering during their interactions. I love the haunting aspects of Winter’s personality, and the “Snow White” elements Meyer tied into her story, such as her affinity with animals in the menageries, her fondness for apple treats (and how the classic poisoning scene went down) and I think Meyer very cleverly worked Snow White’s glass coffin aspect into Winter’s story. Snow White is my favorite fairy tale princess so I was glad to see the classically identifiable folklore elements were handled well, even if the dystopian elements were not.
At 800 pages, I think I can safely say that most readers were expecting a very climactic ending with a lot of closure. (No? Just me?) Once I hit the last 100 pages or so I was still holding out hope that this slow, slow read would turn around and wow me. No such luck. The final battle scene was really, really anticlimactic. It’s hard to describe without spoilers, but the final, inevitable confrontation between Levana and Cinder ended really vaguely, to the point where I had to reread several times and enlist the help of the internet to be really sure of what happened. View Spoiler »I’m not sure if this was because I was so checked out at this point, or if the ending was ambiguous for everyone. I mean, Cinder basically forced Levana to shoot herself while she was basically almost unconscious, which in a way sort of absolved Cinder of having to murder, since she wasn’t really even aware enough to see it happen. « Hide Spoiler After the big, final showdown, there were many, many loose ends left (What happens with the shells? Are Kai and Cinder going to end up staying together? Are the relations between Earth and Luna reparable? Does Winter get over her Lunar sickness? How do Wolf and Scarlet carry on DESPITE HIS DEFORMITIES? I NEED ANSWERS).
Overall: Winter was first and foremost way too long. That fact aside, the Lunar Chronicles had so much to live up to that Winter just didn’t meet my expectations. After how twisted and intense Fairest was, I as anticipating something epic from the last installment in this series. However, what I read was a novel that while in no means terrible, lost itself in YA dystopian tropes. While the charms of the fairy tales the series takes inspiration from is still there, it really missed the mark with the whole revolutionary aspect. This book could have been half the length and still gotten its point across. Will I still read anything Marissa Meyer writes? Probably. Am I excited for the novella bind-up, Stars Above? Definitely. However, sometimes books that you think you’re going to love just really don’t live up to your expectations, and Winter was one of them for me.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Fairytale Retelling Challenge
- Goodreads Challenge