Winter by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published on: November 10 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
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Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?
I’ve been a champion of THE LUNAR CHRONICLES for years now. I saw CINDER featured for months and months on Fantastic Fiction (b/c before I started using Goodreads), and I was simultaneously intrigued and horrified by the concept of a sci-fi YA retelling of a fairy tale. Honestly, I don’t remember what finally convinced me to pick it up. I was just glad I did.
Now I’m not so sure. The first two books were fantastic, and while I wasn’t quite as fond of the third, it wasn’t awful.
After finishing WINTER, I added two new bookshelves—a record—to my Goodreads collection:
For a multitude of reasons.
And for the second time this year (though for very different reasons), this will be a two-part review—a nonspoilery review first, followed by a spoiler-tagged RANT.
I hate WINTER, Part I:
1. Unexplained plot threads.
Threads. As in plural. I can only talk about one here, but there are many more, and two of them are HUGE.
Meyer got away without having to focus on the romantic evolution of most of her MC couples in WINTER. Cinder and Kai have been around since book 1. Scarlet and Wolf, almost as long, plus Wolf’s animal instincts make it believable. Winter and Jacin, b/c they’ve loved each other FOREVER.
Cress and Thorne? Not so much.
Cress has very real, very legitimate issues with Thorne and his incorrigible need to flirt with any and all present females, and Thorne is a life-long womanizer. But these obstacles never get directly addressed. We’re just supposed to accept that Cress is “different” and Thorne really has changed, without any concrete evidence to support those claims.
Call me cynical, but I’d learned that lesson by the time I was twenty.
2. Winter and Jacin feel like guests in their own story.
I didn’t go back and do the math, but I’d guess that only 5 – 10% of this monster was spent on Winter and Jacin as a couple. I’ll grant you that the time spent on their coupleness was fantastic. I’ll even say that it was as fantastic as the stuff we saw with Scarlet and Wolf (my personal favorite couple).
These moments were so few and far between that they were completely overwhelmed by ALL THE OTHER THINGS.
In the end, I was convinced their love was real. I just didn’t care.
3. ALL THE OTHER THINGS.
There was entirely too much happening in this book. I don’t know if Meyer couldn’t maintain the quality of writing we’ve become accustomed to, or if she was frazzled from trying to fit everything in, but WINTER was choked with clumsily handled side plots.
Parts of the story evolution are so lazy, it’s almost like Meyer expected the leftover adrenaline from all the BAD THINGS—the one area where she continued to excel (unexpectedly dropping truly horrible obstacles on our MCs)—to carry us right over the discrepancies (that I’ll discuss in spoiler-tagged section).
And for a lot of people that probably worked.
Not me. B/c OCD detail-orientedness.
4. EXTREME repetition for added shock factor.
I almost DNF-ed this book. I was 80% into it, but I did not care, I was ready to take all 800+ pages to the shooting range and use it for target practice.
B/c I was so over Lunars taking control of 1/2 of our MC couples and making them try to kill the other half.
YES. I get it. Lunars SUCK. They will steal your free will and make you do really bad stuff. LIKE KILL YOUR FRIENDS or your ONE TRUE LOVE.
ALSO, death was constantly imminent. Someone(s) would get captured, execution would be inevitable, HA HA, just kidding! Escape, wheeeeeeee!
Over and over and OVER again.
5. How the end played out (and this is my NUMERO UNO problem, FYI):
This isn’t really a spoiler, but if you’re one of those readers who wants to go into a book completely blind, I’d skip this part. Actually, if you’re one of those types of readers, I’d avoid reviews entirely.
Anyway, Levana is pure evil. We know this. We’ve known this for a looooooong time. She has done so many horrible, shocking, despicable things, and she is CRAZY.
She has to die. The end.
The question is how to do it? How do we take down this master of bioelectricity manipulation?
The possibilities are endless.
So imagine my surprise and OUTRAGE when a huge part of that plan involves revealing to the world what Levana looks like underneath that veil.
And I’m furious all over again.
I’m furious b/c I HATE Levana, and I’m furious that I have to be outraged on her behalf. I’m furious b/c what in the effing hell is the point of having a cyborg mechanic for a princess, if you’re going to have her go all Mean Girl on the crazy chick?
B/c Levana is a rabid dog.
You don’t kick a rabid dog. You don’t jeer and laugh at it b/c UGLY. You put it out of it’s misery. The-effing-end.
And that’s it for the first portion of of my review. I can’t adequately communicate how disappointing WINTER by Marissa Meyer is without spoilers, but I hope you at least get the gist. This is the worst last book in a previously beloved series I have ever encountered. I did not know it was possible to be this underwhelmed, this unhappily surprised, this ANGRY about a book from an author whose past work had been stellar. I’m undecided about whether or not the early installments warrant an overall recommendation. Your call. Ugh.
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I hate WINTER, Part II:
NOT kidding, there are spoilers EVERYWHERE in there. DO NOT click unless you’ve already read the book, or have no intentions of ever doing so. View Spoiler »
1. Unexplained and DANGLING plot threads (in order of least to greatest importance, according to ME):
The unidentified RAT. Yes, Cress was primarily responsible for all the spyware in Kai’s palace, but no matter how great a hacker you are, you can’t manifest cameras and listening devices in strategic locations.
So how did they get there?
I was convinced Torin had been brainwashed, but even without him being the culprit, someone else had to be. But who?
I guess we’ll never know.
Iko’s personality chip. This is how it went down:
Garan’s unnecessary software updates are mentioned, making it more than obvious that something is hinky.
Cinder unconscious for three days.
Cinder wakes up and IMMEDIATELY calls for meeting of world powers, where she announces Garan’s research is, and has always been, in Iko’s wacky personality chip.
Okay, fine. I’d pretty much guessed as much based the aforementioned OBVIOUS clue. BUT. Cinder never actually confirmed this speculation. And based on Iko’s surprise at the announcement, it’s clear Cinder didn’t check it out off-page either.
That’s a NEAT trick.
Wolf’s (further) genetic modifications. Wolf spent his early years as one of Levana’s super soldiers in constant fear that he’d fail somehow and end up back on the operating table. Everything he did from the time he woke up from his initial mods was in pursuit of avoiding the lot of the majority of his soldier brethren.
B/c more animal than human. B/c slaves to instincts. B/c specifically created to be violent, remorseless killing machines.
And when he woke up, I’ll admit I was concerned. In fact, of ALL the Bad Things, this one upset me most. B/c LOVE Wolf. And his fear of this exact fate was palpable.
But oh, look at that . . . He’s pretty much the same Wolf he’s always been except for a few cosmetic changes. Presumably b/c Scarlet (mate/alpha/blah/whatever), but who can really say, b/c Meyer certainly didn’t.
ALL that buildup, all that fear, all that pressure . . . all for nothing, apparently.
2. ALL THE OTHER THINGS:
I’ve already said waaaaay too much was happening in this book . . . Meyer got lazy. Some of that laziness is evident in the unresolved plot lines, but it’s also a problem with various foreshadowings.
In laying the groundwork for future plot twists, instead of the subtlety, the carefully inserted details that thrilled us in hindsight, we got this:
“Why did I pass out?” Cinder interrupted.
Crouching beside the couch, Jacin felt for the pulse in Cinder’s wrist. After a short silence, he let it drop down again. “Stress, probably, along with your physical reaction to having the portscreen connected to your”—he gestured to her general head area—“ computer thing.”
“And you call me squeamish,” said Thorne.
Cinder squinted. “I passed out from stress? That’s it?”
“I believe the princess term is fainted,” said Thorne.
Riiiiiight. After being completely submerged in water, after a 4+ story swan dive, she passed out b/c STRESS.
Do I even need to address all the problems with this?
How ’bout I limit it to this one: in the past, every, single time Cinder has passed out/come close to passing out, her computer brain exploded into a frenzy of cautions and warnings.
Not this time.
So somehow, I just wasn’t surprised when it was later revealed that Cinder did in fact have something seriously wrong with her.
Shades of Panem.
That’s pretty self-explanatory, but Luna, its outer districts and their function, the inability to communicate between the districts and thus rebel in force . . . It all felt strangely familiar . . .
There were also RIDICULOUSLY overused plot devices. Like this:
“I accept,” Cinder said, dazed. She kept hold of Levana’s trigger finger but allowed Levana to lower the gun. Cinder held out her hand and Levana stared at it for a moment before reaching forward and setting the gun into Cinder’s palm.
In the same movement, she grabbed the forgotten knife and lurched forward, driving the blade into Cinder’s heart.
Are. You. Effing kidding me?
3. EXTREME overuse of Lunar gifts for added shock factor:
This primarily manifests in the utilization of mind control, which I already mentioned.
What I couldn’t say is that in quick succession, a random thaumaturge forces Scarlet to try to kill Wolf, AIMERY (the swine) forces Winter to try to strangle Jacin, and Levana forces Thorne to attack DAMN EVERYBODY, but especially Cress, whom he stabs IN THE GUT.
And that’s not the only time something like this happens, it’s just the most memorable.
SIDE NOTE: I’ve decided to add “No mind control” to my list of rules b/c it makes everything too damn easy.
Winter. She is as CRAY as Levana, but in a far less nefarious way.
Her crazy is self-inflicted, b/c she refuses—I mean absolutely refuses—to use her Lunar gift.
Until she doesn’t. Refuse, that is.
Don’t misunderstand, I didn’t want her to kill Jacin. And if this was the only instance of inconsistency, I probably would’ve let it slide.
But it wasn’t.
Jacin’s parents weren’t executed, as ordered. Again, it’s not like I wanted his parents to die.
But it’s constantly reiterated that Levana does exactly what she says she’s going to do. That’s why Scarlet cut off her own finger. That’s why Winter contemplated the uselessness of Dude-on-trial-for-rescuing/attempting-to-rescue-his-shell-child’s begging for mercy for his family, b/c once Levana says they’re to be killed/enslaved, that is what will happen.
And yet, Jacin’s parents escaped their fate b/c they’d conveniently relocated?
LIKE THAT WOULD STOP HER. Especially when she went there herself to dose Winter with THE PLAGUE.
Levana’s complete and total meltdown b/c true appearance revealed. Let me see if I’ve got this right . . .
Levana, so thoroughly insane and DETERMINED that she both convinces herself that she is the best woman for the job of Queen, then carries out various horrific plots to attain her selfless goal, just gives up when the world sees her real face? Is so distraught that she can barely control the most basic bioelectrical manipulations?
Hmm . . . that’s mighty convenient for Cinder . . . but somehow I’m not convinced.
5. How the end played out:
Seeing Levana on the palace steps was the first time Iko had ever seen the Lunar queen, and her scarred face made Iko wish she wasn’t immune to glamours. After years of hearing about the queen’s famous beauty, the truth had been something of a letdown.
But the truth was out. Thanks to Cinder’s video, now everyone knew what lurked beneath the illusion.
You know what I took away from this book?
Winter is pretty. She’s so, so pretty. She might be the prettiest girl in the world. And, BONUS, she’s naturally pretty.
Levana is ugly. So very ugly. Sickeningly ugly. B/c scarred in childhood trauma involving FIRE.
You: How awful!
Me: YES. It is.
See, I went to school with a girl who had pulled a pot of boiling water on her head when she was a toddler, so I know exactly what that type of injury looks like. The rough, uneven scar tissue. The way that scar tissue pulls down the corner of your eye and mouth . . .
It is permanent, it is (superficially) hideous, and even if she hadn’t been one of the nicest people I’d ever met, I would NEVER have been able to bring myself to use such a tragic accident against her.
Some things are beyond the pale.
But Meyer made the results of a similar accident the main weakness of our sociopathic, megalomaniac villain. Our villain—whom I DESPISED, for a MULTITUDE of excellent reasons—but whose #1 goal in the midst of her madness was to be LOVED.
So let’s run her out of town b/c UGLY.
That’s definitely where our focus should be. Not on the scheming and machinations, not on the infanticide, the sororicide, not on commandeering her people’s children for her army and her experiments, but on her scars. On her physical flaws.
You disgust me.
And I don’t want to hear any, “How else could they have defeated her?” arguments. That’s not my job. That was Meyer’s job. And I think she failed. Miserably. « Hide Spoiler