You know how books in a series tend to get progressively worse? How even when they're very good, the second book isn't better than the first, and the third isn't as good as the second and so on? Well, forget that when it comes to Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles, because somehow every book in the series just gets better and better.
Cress, the third book in The Lunar Chronicles (following Cinder and Scarlet), was one of the books I was most anticipating this year, and I'm so glad I didn't have to wait too long to get my hands on it.
While Cinder and her gang - Scarlet, Wolf, Thorne and Iko - float on their ship in space hiding from the many, many people chasing them, and while Emperor Kai prepares for his wedding to the evil Queen Levana, Cress sits aboard her spaceship dreaming of freedom.
When an opportunity to be rescued presents itself, Cress imagines being swept off her feet by Thorne and finding a great group of friends. What she gets is days of wondering through the desert, a hero who doesn't love her, and a group of allies who find themselves scattered and injured, all while trying to execute an audacious plan to stop the wedding of Kai and Levana.
I won't give too much away about the plot, but Cress is the most action-packed books of The Lunar Chronicles so far. Much of that action comes in the last quarter of the book, with the rest spent preparing for the battle to come, but it's all worth the wait.
Meyer is deft at bringing together the various storylines we've been following so far - the stories of Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf, Kai, Thorne, Cress and Dr Erland (and Iko, mustn't forget Iko) are all brought closer together even as the characters sometimes move physically far away from each other. Into this mix comes Jacin Clay - a Lunar who works for Queen Levana's right-hand woman Sybil - and Princess Winter, Queen Levana's stepdaughter and the central subject of the next book in The Lunar Chronicles series. Our glimpses of the latter are very brief, but Winter looks like one of the most intriguing characters we've been introduced to so far.
Cress is a dark novel - unsurprising since it deals with mass murder, good and evil, dictators and more - but it's not all doom and gloom. There are some very funny moments, mainly featuring Iko, who despite being a robot continues to be as human as anyone you might encounter in real life. And Thorne brings a sense of humour to the proceedings as well, despite everything that happens to him during the course of the book. He's definitely the hero I'd choose, so I can see why Cress loves him, even though she doesn't need him.
For me, Cress is the most fairytale like of The Lunar Chronicles
books so far, with a princess in her tower waiting for a prince to
rescue her. While Cress is very, very clever and self-sufficient, she
holds on to the image of being liberated from her spaceship by Thorne,
rather than doing the liberating herself.
Meyer twists the fairytale trope pretty deftly. While Cress may not
realise it, and while she spends much of the book falling deeper for
Thorne while he plays the just friends card, she's actually the real
hero of this book. Cress is the one leading the way, fighting for
survival and putting herself in real danger - in short, she takes on the
traditional role of the prince in the fairytale. Thorne, meanwhile, has
to spend much of the book dependent on others, after a fight leaves him
Cress is about a book about heroes and heroines, and its strong female characters are the true stars of the novel, and that make this book worth reading. It's the women who stand head and shoulders above the men in The Lunar Chronicles (though not all of them good), and it's these types of women (the good ones, anyway) who should be at the centre of fairytales being told to children the world over.
How I got this book: From the publicist at Puffin (thanks!)
•Cress is out on February 4