Let Down Your Hair: A Review of Cress

So I finally got around to reading Cress, the third and latest installment in Marissa Meyer’s popular YA series The Lunar Chronicles. Overall I thought it was an enjoyable read, basically more of what I expected, but as I’ve progressed in the series, I’m not entirely sure that I like the way that Meyer has approached it.

What I liked.

The world Meyer has created is undeniably fun, and in many ways Cress is more of the same of what we’ve come to expect from Cinder and Scarlet. The characters are mostly likable. I find Wolf a bit mopey and the newest recruit, Cress, was a little annoying sometimes due to her naivety, but all-in-all the characters are certainly well-drawn and consistent. The pacing and plotting, as with the previous novels, is great.

Essentially this novel continues on with all of the things that make this series one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads. If you want a fun, lighthearted and easy to read space fantasy, then I certainly think this series is worth checking out.

What I didn’t like.

I have to admit, while I certainly enjoyed this novel, I’m not so sure that I like the way Meyer has chosen to approach this series. For those of you who don’t know, each novel introduces a new female protagonist (based on a classic fairy tale character) who eventually teams up with Cinder in her bid to overthrow the evil Queen Levana, ruler of the Lunar kingdom that wants to overthrow Earth.

Each of these characters is a “strong female character” between the ages of 16 and 19 who is more capable than any teenager has the right to be and who has her own romance plot line. While none of the things I just mentioned there are bad, it gets tiresome when the author is essentially introducing the same-but-different character at the start of every book. The result, for me at least, is that each one is successively less compelling.

Cinder is still my favorite character in the series, and I enjoyed reading her chapters the most. I often found myself wishing that Meyer had decided to keep the story (at least primarily) in her POV. Her quest to overthrow Levana is really the story that’s being told, and I feel like the focus on other characters often distracts from this largely for the sake of the “fairy tale theme”.

The introduction of Scarlet in the second book did serve a certain amount of functionality, as it allowed us to see a different part of the conflict. In Cress Scarlet continues to serve a similar sort of function in the story. I won’t spoil the exact circumstances of what happens to her, but she does get separated from the group, and again allows us to see things going on in the world that we would not otherwise be privy to.

However, Cress herself is a different story.

While her skill set is important to the motley crew of misfits that Cinder has assembled, I don’t think she really needed to be a POV character, and she doesn’t really add much to the story in that regard. Her big plot line largely involves wandering around in the desert and then reuniting with Cinder. While the escapade is fun to read and lets us learn more about her, it doesn’t progress the story or show us another side of the war that is going on. Ultimately I felt that not a whole lot happened during her chapters other than progressing her romance sub-plot.

In conclusion.

If you’ve been reading The Lunar Chronicles, then I think you can expect more of what you enjoyed. If you haven’t, then I certainly recommend Cinder, which I thought was a fun read and is one of my favorite YA novels. I think both of the sequels, while enjoyable, have been weaker than the initial book, and I’d say Cress is easily the weakest of the series so far (though the last third of it, when the crew actually goes out on a mission all together, is pretty cool). But I am hopeful that Fairest, the next book in the series, will bring things back to the awesome levels of Cinder.

With the final battle between Levana and Cinder looming, Fairest, a prequel, will bring us back in time and get to see the villain’s back story and learn a bit more about her.

On a related note, I’ve heard the opinion (and I can get behind it) that the correct order in which to view the Star Wars films is:

A New Hope
The Empire Strikes Back

The prequel films in chronological order (or skip Episode I if you really want)
Return of the Jedi

It seems Meyer may have heard about this as well, since she’s actually taking that same approach in the order of The Lunar Chronicles, which I think is pretty cool. I certainly haven’t seen any other YA series that have been willing to play with time-line in that sort of way, so this might be another area in which The Lunar Chronicles can separate themselves from the pack.

Also, this will be one of the few times that I ever even acknowledge the existence of the horror-show that is the Star Wars prequel films and certainly it will be the only time I do so in a positive manner. So enjoy it while you can.

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