Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review - Marissa Meyer's Winter

Winter by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: November 10th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 832 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Kidnapping Kai on his wedding day was basically a declaration of war against Queen Levana. But Kai needed to know the whole truth about Levana, and more importantly, about Cinder; that she is Princess Selene, the true ruler of Luna. The rebels, Cinder, Iko, Cress, Thorne, and Wolf, need to get to Luna to broadcast Cinder's identity, foment a rebellion, and rescue Scarlet. After their plan is formed they return Kai to his now decimated palace where he declares his continued allegiance to the alliance with Luna and his desire to still marry Levana. The wedding is rescheduled for ten days later. In Artemesia, the capital of Luna. Just as they had planned. They are going to use Kai's ship as a Trojan Horse and sneak right into the capital. Levana had thought of this outcome and was prepared, but so had Cinder and her friends, enough distractions and they have escaped Levana's grasp once more. Winter has also escaped Levana's grasp, with the help of her guard Jacin and Scarlet, her death was faked and they were able to escape the capital. The two groups meet at Wolf's mother's house in the outer sectors. Maha Kesley offers them shelter, but they know any illusion of safety won't be long lived.

They are now not just outlaws but have an entire moon's worth of soldiers actively hunting them. As rebellion begins to take hold Cinder and Wolf are captured by Levana. But with Winter using her natural charisma to enlist help for Cinder out in the outer sectors there is still hope. What's more, by putting Cinder on trial Levana made a major mistake. Cinder was able to capture Levana's true face. Using her cybernetics Cinder was able to document not just Levana's biggest secret but the travesty of her own trial. Escaping from certain death once again the rebels marshal their forces and plot their final assault. They need to attack the palace head on with their forces from the other sectors, forces that Levana has tried to kill by releasing the letumosis virus. If Levana thinks that victory will be that easy, she is sadly mistaken. Using stealth and forces within the palace as well as those without Levana just might be defeated. But in the end it will come down to just Levana and Cinder in a room. One will be victorious and the other will be dead. Can Cinder get her happily ever after for herself and her friends or was it all just a glamour?

The Lunar Chronicles for me has been a ride of smooth freshly paved concrete and Illinois highways that peter out into dirt roads. There was the perfection that was Cress and the low point of Scarlet. But through it all it has been an overall enjoyable ride. The end of the journey was just a little bumpier than I would have liked. Winter was overlong and many chapters felt like the wheels where just spinning and there was no forward momentum. I'm not saying I wasn't satisfied by the ending, everyone ended up exactly where they should, it was just rough getting there. There was just too much toing and froing. They're in the palace, they're out of the palace, they're captured, they're free, they're in danger, they're safe. Over and over and over again. Exactly how many times do you have to break into a palace only to have to break out again only to have to break in again in one book? Many many times if Winter is the benchmark and with many different subsets of characters. There's literally only so much stalling I can take, which is exactly what every setback felt like. Stalling. It's like Meyer didn't want the end to happen too quickly so she threw in so many obstacles it was almost laughable. This ending was a long time coming. At times it felt like it wasn't going to come at all.

Also, while I admit that everyone ended up where they should, perhaps there should have been some repercussions? Yes, yes, I know this is a retelling of a Fairy Tale so a Fairy Tale HEA is expected, but wouldn't there have been more weight to the story if not everyone got an HEA? In particular I'm thinking about Wolf and his non-transformation transformation. When Wolf and Cinder are captured Wolf is forcibly turned back into one of the Queen's Guards. But more than that he's not just reprogrammed, he's remade into an even more wolfy mutant wolf solider. Snout elongated, mouth widened, my grandmother what big teeth you have, the whole Big Bad Wolf makeover. All that bio-engineering to make him not the Wolf Scarlet and the rest of them knew and loved. It is stressed over and over again that Wolf has been changed so dramatically that he is no longer who he was but just one look at Scarlet and it's all fine!?! It's like all that extensive surgery actually didn't change his appearance much at all. Say what!?! Pages and pages about how he's different and then it's all fixed with a kiss. This is the most Fairy Tale aspect of the entire book and I think that if some reality had been brought to bear just in this one instance the book would have been elevated. Wolf and Scarlet die for the cause? That makes much more sense.

But overall there were a lot of things that just didn't make sense as this series drew to a close. Not just the repetitive nature of the story or the fact that EVERY SINGLE PERSON gets an HEA, but there's The Hunger Games aspect. What I have loved about The Lunar Chronicles is that it took stories that were well known and loved and gave them an entirely new spin. Cinderella is a cyborg but also a space princess! How much more out of the box and original is that? And then when we meet all the wealthy residents of Artemesia they're just extras from The Hunger Games who happened to also be residents of The Capital, in that series and this. Um, what!?! This really just threw me for a loop. I've always touted this series as inventive and original and then in the entire structure of Luna it became a rip-off of another dystopian series. Instead of districts we have sectors, many devoted to the same purposes as those in The Hunger Games. Oh, and the Capital residents, glamours and gaudy clothing and wild looks aplenty. I seriously thought that Caesar Flickerman was going to do a play-by-play of Levana and Kai's wedding. And what baffled me most of all? This wasn't the Luna that we saw in Fairest! This is an entirely new and entirely derivative Luna! WTH people! I just couldn't get beyond this and I still can't. Why, just why!?!

And in the end, the saddest thing of all was that my predictions for the character Winter came true. When Scarlet came out I bemoaned the fact that with all the new characters being added in each volume that by the time we got to Winter's story she would be entirely sidelined. And she was. And this just makes me pissed. Why? Because this book is overly long and filled with all this unnecessary padding and somewhere, deep down in its heart, is this amazing story that is only Winter's. The way Meyer has updated the story of Snow White is exquisite, from the fake death in the menagerie to Levana handing her the apple dosed with the letumosis virus, each and every aspect of this book that is only Winter's story is perfection. There's an elegance and a sadness to her story that captures the bittersweet nature of looking back on Fairy Tales when you think you've outgrown them. The way she doesn't use her power because it's against her core beliefs but is making her insane, the natural charisma that makes the Lunar people drawn to her. I just wanted a book about Winter. No one else. She deserved her own story. She has spent her life in the shadows, tortured by Levana, the least she deserved was not to have the new Queen, Cinder, do the same thing. But such is life. No one, not even fictional characters I have come to love, get what they deserve.


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