by Marissa Meyer, 2014
This is, in my opinion, the best installment in The Lunar Chronicles yet. Things are really starting to move along as Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorne all come together to stop the impending nuptials of Emperor Kai and Queen Levana. In the process, they come across a young girl named Cress, whose blonde hair has remained uncut for as many years as she’s been imprisoned in a satellite. We are, of course, talking about the classic Rapunzel tale here, but although Cress would like to cast herself as the stereotypical damsel in distress, Meyer makes it clear that she is far more than that.
What I liked about Cress above the others is that the romance in this story is less immediate. Sure, Cress has a crush on the hunky Captain Thorne and it would be easy to imagine her locker filled with his image, if a locker were a thing she had, but instead of coming off as cheap, it’s actually quite adorable. Cress has been in, basically, solitary confinement for a good portion of her life and her naivete is a product of that. But, in Meyer’s hands, Cress’s worth is in no way tied to her virginal image. The fact that Thorne has no desire to take that from her, nor does he revere her for it, is refreshing. Her innocence is simply part of who she is – it is not all she is.
Cress, you see, is a pretty badass hacker. Kept under the thumb of the Queen’s head honcho Sybil Mira, Cress surreptitiously seeks out Cinder & Co’s ship, cloaks it from the Lunars, and directs them to her for her own rescue. That’s just the beginning of Cress’s achievements in the book, and although her lack of knowledge about the world sometimes gets her into trouble, it is to Meyer’s credit that she never lets social immaturity detract from Cress’s technological savvy. Now, obviously she and Thorne are going to eventually live Happily Ever After, but I found the beginnings of their relationship far more palatable than the instant and ill-advised romance of Scarlet and Wolf. (Unless there’s some sort of unsuspecting twist of fate waiting for one of them…dare I hope?)
What is also worth a mention is the fact that Meyer attempts to globalize her story. I wasn’t immediately sure how I felt about the fact that Cinder was based in China, as it seemed to run the risk of co-opting another culture for the sake of lending an “exotic” air, but three books in I can better see the intention behind that. With much of the action of Scarlet set in France and Cress in Africa, I can appreciate the fact that this world is not limited to an Anglo-centric Manhattan. (Marvel movies, I’m looking at you.) While I can’t attest to the appropriateness of Meyer’s use of the words and names belonging to other countries and cultures, I appreciate the recognition that the world is made up of more than Smiths and Joneses. (Hooray for President Vargas!)
All this is to say that, in this book, I think Meyer is doing a decent job of diversifying this fantasy world and giving young, tech-inclined girls a hero to look up to. I have my fingers crossed that this all comes together nicely in Winter.