Renegades

Nova is an anarchist, a girl on a mission for revenge after the heroes sworn to protect her family failed her.

Adrian is a renegade, a boy with extraordinary abilities who believes in justice, and in Nova.

They should be sworn enemies, but Nova finds herself torn between Adrian and the Renegades, and a villain that could destroy them both.

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Renegades by Marissa Meyer is a fun and exhilarating adventure through a world filled with super heroes and super villains – the definition of which really depends which side you’re on. The mainstream narrative dictates that the Renegades are the Good Guys – in charge after putting an end to the bloody age of anarchy many years before. They now govern Gatlon City (full of prodigies, AKA powered people and normies, AKA not really in the story cause, boring) with a bureaucracy entangled iron fist and public opinion 100% behind them – supposedly.

The book opens in dark and dramatic – Meyer-ian, you might say – fashion, with the tragic origin story of Nova, one of our two narrators. Baby Nova witnesses her entire family gunned down in front of her (i.e. not rescued by the Renegades who are supposed to save people from such horrifying ends) before being swept away by her Uncle Ace who just happens to be head of the Anarchist movement.

Then we jump forward ten or so years and 17-year-old Nova is PISSED. Shortly after losing her family, Nova’s Uncle Ace was killed in the aforementioned Renegade’s taking back the city battle and our girl has an axe to grind, a gun and a carefully thought out assassination plan. Her target? Captain Chromium, head of the Renegades and de facto leader of Gatlon City – after, I think, stabbing Ace Anarchy through the head? He carries his helmet around on a spear for public holidays while the crowd cheers about the idea of a man having a pike pushed through his skull.

Not that I’m judging. I live in England where every November 5th we burn effigies of a would-be 17th century terrorist.

Hey, it’s tradition.

All this, and we’ve only just hit the second chapter. If you’ve read and loved The Lunar Chronicles then you know that Meyer knows how to build a politically complicated world. Gatlon City is certainly that, with the war between the Renegades and the Anarchists finished but never really over – especially when the Anarchists are still living in the sewers (surprisingly, nicer than it sounds).

As all powerful as the Renegades certainly seem, opposing worldviews still struggle for dominance. For the Renegades, it’s about order at all costs – even if people are disempowered and afraid, at least they are behaving. Coming into power off the back of so much lawlessness there is a sense with the Renegades that they can accept the world isn’t getting any better so long as it isn’t getting any worse. They fight for Good Enough and for the young people of Gatlon City, that isn’t going to cut it for much longer.

The Anarchists, on the other hand, were all about freedom. Before they came along, prodigies were discriminated against and abused. Ace Anarchy changed all that by tearing down the government and its affiliated institutions – he created a world with no order and no consequences. It wasn’t long before crime and violence filled the hole institutions left behind. Gatlon City became a dangerous place, where, as Meyer says “It became the strong against the weak, and, as it turns out, the strong were usually jerks.”

Aint that the truth.

Ace Anarchy dreamed of a world free from tyranny, and he failed to create that for everyone. But the deeper you get into this book the more prominent the question becomes of whether the Renegades are really any better. Nova, as much as she enjoys having super powers (she can put people to sleep when she touches them. So handy. Imagine the boring conversations you could get out of), believes the world would ultimately be better if super heroes didn’t exist, because, she argues, if people didn’t spend all of their time waiting for someone to come save them, they would be forced to think up ways of saving themselves.

In a book about super heroes and super villains, Meyer is really talking about the real threats to the world – complacency, apathy and indifference. Renegades is about fighting the assumption that, because there are powers at be that are greater than you, you are therefore powerless. Nova believes that powerlessness is a choice that we’re all making, and she’ll give her life to fight for a world where people are brave enough to choose something else.

“They saw prodigies themselves as only good or evil, leaving the rest of humanity somewhere in the realm of neutral.

There was potential for evil everywhere, and the only way to combat it was if more people chose goodness. If more people chose heroism.

Not laziness. Not apathy. Not indifference.”

This entertaining book about teenage super heroes (and their delicious, slow burning romances) asks vital questions about activism, personal responsibility and determination to fight for what you believe in. It looks at whether people can ever join hands across political lines or if ideological divides are too greater gap to bridge.

It also has one hell of a twist at the end that I did not see coming. Bring on book 2!

Winter

It turns out Cinder isn’t the only princess despotic Queen Levana wants to keep out of the limelight. She may not have attempted to murder Winter (yet), but she did compel her to scar her own face. Winter is beautiful, and totally beloved by the people of Luna. Levana thought the scars might change people’s minds about her. It didn’t work – Winter is as beloved as ever.

In addition to being beautiful and sweet, the anti-Levana, if you will, Winter is absolutely the-palace-walls-are-bleeding crazy. After years of refusing to use her gift of mind control, she has been enveloped by the madness of the Lunar sickness.

But she copes, with the help of sexy palace guard (the same one who ratted out the team on the Rampion at the end of Cress ), Jacin.

When Cinder’s revolution finally begins to encroach on Levana’s rule, for the first time, Winter can envision a life that is more than just coping. A life free from Levana’s tyranny. She wants to join the fight. With her new allies at her side, she can only hope to keep the fractured pieces of her mind together until the end.

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It is hard to review a book that’s just over 800 pages long.

Suffice to say, it was awesome.

I’ll expand on that a little.

Generally speaking, I am not much for book series. I rarely make it past book 2. Unless it’s Harry Potter, The Princess Diaries or some other precious thing from child/teen-hood, most of the time, I don’t want to know. Even if I’ve read a whole series and kind of liked it, by the time I’ve reached the end, I usually have more bad to say about it than good. I think this is essentially down to 2 series pitfalls, one of which is the love triangle. I’ve mentioned before that I just end up hating everyone involved by the end. When you’re willing two guys to dump a protagonist, then you know you’ve got a problem. The other pitfall is book 2, which almost always sucks. Frequently, I find that character development grinds to a halt, people fall in love for no reason and essentially nothing happens. So I never read the third book. Sometimes I think an okay trilogy would have make a fairly sound duology.

It happens in films too. Think of how much better the Hobbit movies might have been if most of them never happened.

I want you to know that it hurts me to say that, because of my deep and abiding love for Martin Freeman.

What worked for me in The Lunar Chronicles, what caused me to fall in love, I think, was that every book had a different protagonist. Rather than continuing the same story, leaving me to get bored reading recycled romantic scenes and the same self-sabotaging behaviours over and over again, every book Marissa Meyer put out felt fresh. We got to know someone new while watching Cinder gradually build her army. There was no main character in the series whose story I wasn’t completely invested in.

There was a new-ness to each story that drew me in every time. Winter was no different. Winter can be a stressful individual to be around. She can be consumed by horrifying visions any moment, whether or not you’re just about to be maybe eaten by a wolf army. But she’s more than just her unpredictable mental state. She’s brave. She launches into Cinder’s revolution without even considering the consequences. The reason she’s unstable in the first place is self-inflicted. She refuses to use her Lunar gift as she believes it can only result in the pain of others. There are few that would have the strength to face madness to remain true to their beliefs. She’s kind. Despite growing up with Levana and her complete disregard for the lives of her people, Winter cares.

She’s also a massive flirt. See any of her scenes with Jacin for evidence of this. Watching her throw impenetrable Jacin off balance is fun.

Like all the girls that have come before her, she was interesting and complex and someone I wanted to know more.

Winter was a very satisfying ending to a wonderful series. Marissa Meyer did a really good job of giving everyone time to speak throughout (although whenever Cress wasn’t around, I missed her) and I felt like everyone’s various threads were tied up well. The minute I finished I was ready to re-read Cinder and start the process all over again.

Favourite moments

  • Whenever Kai sassed Levana.
  • Winter and Scarlett facing the wolf armies.
  • Cress and Thorne!!! All scenes.

My one issue:

We never got to see Torin relax. Poor guy. He went through a lot.

November Wrap-Up

Another month is drawing to a close and I find myself asking again… Where did it go?

I know where mine went. It was dedicated to NaNoWriMo. I verified my 50,000 words yesterday. I hope everyone else has had a fun writing month. We can sleep now, it’s over.

(Well, almost)

I also turned 23.

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This month I reviewed:

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

Feelings: I haunt Mindy’s Instagram account and make-believe that she’s my best friend.

Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

Feelings: Because of this debut, I will now read everything Nicola Yoon writes. Forever.

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

Feelings: Baz, marry me?

Cress – Marissa Meyer

Feelings: The most adorable iteration of Rapunzel I have ever experienced.

I also read:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman (reread)

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

First and Then – Emma Mills

(review coming soon, but *spoiler alert* I am making similar vows to read everything Emma Mills produces from this point forward).

Playing catch up: Cress

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.jpgCress 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.