Cress. Lunar Chronicles Book 3. by Marissa Meyer. Feiwel and Friends, 2014.
In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, we finally meet Cress, short for Crescent Moon, the girl who risked so much to warn Cinder about the Lunar Queen’s threat against Kai in the first book. Now we see her true, dire situation – she’s trapped in a satellite orbiting Earth, her only contact the previously introduced Head Evil Thaumaturge, passing her time singing old Earth operas and dreaming about bad boy Thorne. In a thrilling action sequence, Cinder and company attempt to rescue her – but things go pretty badly. Now Cress and a blinded Thorne are trekking across the African desert, while Cinder tries to… well, never mind. You get the idea. Things aren’t going well, our gang is split into pieces, and Scarlet is missing in action (literally.) The promise of romance between Cress and Thorne is never quite fulfilled, as Thorne seems to have his bad boy spark removed by being blinded, and is uncharacteristically conscious of the impropriety of a relationship with a girl who’s been isolated for so many years. He’s right, of course, but where’s the fun in caution?
I found myself really conflicted about this book. This series as a whole has always given me a little bit of a trashy feeling, though it’s taking me a while to articulate why. Now (helped by reading Angie of Angieville’s review at Dear Author and the comments), I think I’ve figured out the problem with the series as a whole: the world-building doesn’t really make sense – not the new larger countries that have formed, not the Lunar powers, nor the prejudice against cyborgs. Cinder and Kai, while believable teens, don’t really work well as the leaders they’re supposed to be. I really liked Cinder anyway (even if the slowness of the romance was exacerbated by listening to it rather than reading it in print) and Scarlet was even better, with a phenomenal romance between Scarlet and Wolf. I really enjoy the characters and their relationships, and the action is fast enough to keep me turning the pages at a very fast rate, looking for the ways Meyer chooses to reinterpret the original fairy tale in her world rather than the flaws in the world.
In this book, Cress and Thorne are not as compelling characters, so there’s less character interest. The plot is fragmented across a bunch of different story lines, and the most compelling ones are those we spend the least time with. Scaling back two of my three favorite aspects of the book leaves a lot more room to focus on the inadequacies that have always been there. Even though I still read it quickly, even begging my kids for ten minutes of peace to finish the last chapter instead of waiting for them to be in bed, the last couple of chapters were the best part of the book. Scarlet meets Levana’s mad stepdaughter, Winter; and Cinder and Kai finally meet in person again, for the first time since midway through book 1. In retrospect, that’s not much payoff for a very long book, and it’s left a sour taste behind. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that fans of the book skip this entry – but I very much hope that book 4 is more on par with Scarlet than Cress. Your thoughts on this are very welcome!