Review of CRESS by MARISSA MEYER
(third in THE LUNAR CHRONICLES, review based on an advance reading copy)
I loved CINDER and adored SCARLET, the first two books in this series, so CRESS had the bar set high, but I’m pleased to say it delivered. Note, though, that you probably won’t want to read this review if you haven’t read CINDER and SCARLET.
Each book in THE LUNAR CHRONICLES twists a familiar fairy tale and this one features a very twisty version of “Rapunzel.” As I mentioned in my review of SCARLET, Meyer uses the original fairy tale for bare bones influence and piles on layers of additional complexities, plot threads, and characters. In this case, the Rapunzel character is a Lunar shell named Cress, saved as a child from death when powerful adults discovered her uncanny knack for computers. Kind of saved. Instead of killing Cress for being a shell, the queen hid her away in a satellite where she did nothing but code and work with computers until she figured out a way to seemingly turn Lunar spaceships invisible by scrambling their signals. Cress knows it’s either do the queen’s bidding or die, but at this point guilt over her contribution to Lunar attacks make her wonder if she should have chosen death. Though long hair is Rapunzel’s trademark in the fairy tale, it’s nothing more than an accessory detail in CRESS. She’s trapped in a satellite and doesn’t get haircuts. She has long hair. Moving on.
Cress proved a refreshing and unusual heroine. Initially, she’s the stereotypical fairy tale damsel who annoys all kinds of people from readers to feminists to parents. Despite her obvious computer intelligence, she’s super girly and prone to happily-ever-after daydreams. She’s also alarmingly naïve, but that’s certainly believable given her sheltered lifestyle. All she has for company is a digital avatar she created using her own voice as a child and the occasional visits from the queen’s advisor, who mostly only demands more effort from Cress and reminds her how lucky she is they haven’t killed her yet. In each book, the heroine has felt unique and Cress even more so. Despite her ignorance, she learns fast once she’s out in the world and refuses to compromise her principles when happily-ever-afters seem farther out of reach than she realized.
For the most part, I find the writing in these books that invisible kind of good writing, the kind that you forget about as you focus only on an extremely engaging story. I noticed a few exceptions in CRESS, of the good variety, when particularly evocative sensory description made me pause to admire how vividly I could picture what Meyer describes.
I’m wildly impressed with how clearly Meyer has provided each book with it’s own plotline while also pulling everything together seamlessly into a greater whole. This is the most addictive series I’ve read in a while and my only complaint is that I’ve now caught up with what’s published and will have to wait for the final book.