Cress has been imprisoned her whole life for being a Lunar born without the mind control powers unique to her race. After growing up in a facility with others like herself, she was transferred to a spaceship orbiting Earth seven years ago after showing aptitude for computer hacking. Her latest assignment, given to her by her captor, the evil thaumaturge Mistress Sybil, is to track down Cinder, the rogue Lunar and her criminal accomplice, Captain Carswell Thorne. Cress is not inclined to cooperate. In fact, she’s helping them hide. She supports Cinder’s mission, the de-throning of Lunar Queen Levana, and as for Captain Carswell Thorne… Well, she’s hopelessly in love with him. The photograph she has of him, anyway.
Cress is not usually the sort of protagonist I like. Her description of herself as a ‘damsel in distress’ put me on edge. It set my feminist alarm bells ringing. So, I was pretty surprised when I looked up and realised I was a hundred pages in and totally in love with this girl.
Cress struck me as something of a departure from the other books in Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. Cinder and Scarlet are both pretty overtly strong characters. Cinder is trying to take down the queen of a planet, which is obviously bad-ass, and the descriptions of Michelle Benoit led me to believe that Scarlet grew up around a radical example of a strong, independent woman. Cress, on the other hand is anxious (to be fair, she has lived alone in a small space ship for the past seven years, that would make anyone a little agoraphobic), romantic and a total day dreamer (one of my favourite moments was when she summoned the bravery to sneak into the royal wedding with the affirmation “I am a famous actress.” As someone who constantly has to remind herself of her right to be places, I totally understood this sentiment).
Cress might not be the girl bursting in, guns already drawn, but so much of what has happened in the series has been down to her bravery. Everything Cinder did in the last book was possible because Cress was hiding her ship from Mistress Sybil, at great personal risk. Her world grew ten times bigger throughout the novel and she pretty much took it in her stride. She was also such an open person – to experience, to love, to her own emotions. It was a joy to see her character develop. Watching someone go through the world with so much hope and comparatively little cynicism was inspiring to me.
And then there is Captain Carswell Thorne (insert Cress-style yearning sigh). Thorne’s scenes were my favourite parts of Scarlet. Thorne is the charismatic, funny and (sometimes misguidedly) arrogant romantic lead. I would take The Funny Guy over The Prince or The Brooder any day. When I realised that Thorne was going to play a greater part in Cress, I was thrilled. It probably goes without saying at this point that Cress and Thorne’s is my favourite relationship of the series so far. Obviously it’s enjoyable watching their differences clash, particularly Cress’ perceptions of Thorne’s actions against their actual meaning (letting a tiger out of a zoo because he recognised its need for freedom (Cress) versus having a really awesome pet (Thorne)). But it’s also interesting to look at their similarities, mainly their adaptability. As I’ve already mentioned, Cress deals with a transition from a tiny spaceship to the Sahara desert with minimal panic attacks. Carswell loses his sight but keeps walking as if it’s no big deal. He figures out how to win at cards while blind. They both came to Cinder’s aid out of a desire to escape from prison. I hope we get to spend time with them in Winter. I am not ready to say goodbye to their relationship yet.
My back handed criticism is that I already feel the need to reread the entire series. So much happens in these books. I feel as if I am getting a little lost in all of the narrative threads. Perspective jumps around a lot. I enjoy this about the series, but at the same time, because all the characters have different levels of understanding of the Earth/Luna war situation, I find myself confused. Whenever I think I know what’s happening, Kai’s (Emperor of Earth, has taken something of a backseat to the narrative since book one) confusion confuses me.
My actual criticism of the book is this: Cress and Thorne crash to Earth in a spaceship and just happen to land only a few miles away from Cinder and then just happen to be kidnapped by criminals who take them right to her. I understand why Marissa Meyer did this. The world is big and if Thorne and Cress had landed in Alaska it’s unlikely that they would ever have found Cinder again. All the same, the convenience of it all was a little much, and definitely interrupted my engagement with the story.
Overall though, I loved this book. Cress could not have been such an enjoyable character had Cinder and Scarlet not come before her. I can’t wait to read Winter.