Note: There are necessarily a few spoilers for the first two volumes in this series, but none for this installment.
Cress is the third of four books in the planned fairy tale tetralogy known collectively as “The Lunar Chronicles.” Whereas many continuations of young adult sagas can be painful to experience in light of the promise of the first book in the series, I have not felt that disappointment at all with Marissa Meyer. Each of her books joins a separate fairytale retelling into a connected whole, which takes place in a dystopian future in which the people of Earth are struggling to maintain independence from the mind-controlling, genetically-enhanced people of Luna (i.e., the moon).
The first book, Cinder, focuses on a teenaged girl who is meant to evoke Cinderella. Her status as a hated cyborg is exposed when she loses her bionic foot at the ball marking the inauguration of Prince Kai. (Cyborgs are humans who are part metal, having received artificial parts to compensate for damaged flesh. There is a great deal of prejudice against cyborgs, who are considered second-class citizens.)
The second book, Scarlet, is a reworking of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Scarlet is a red-haired teen who will discover an unexpected connection to Cinder. Both of them are searching for Scarlet’s missing grandmother. In the process, Scarlet meets and falls in love with Wolf, a former Lunar soldier whose genetic material had been spliced with that of a wolf to add to his deadliness. Cinder gets caught and thrown in jail, but escapes with the help of a fellow prisoner, Carswell Thorne. At the end of Book Two, the ragtag band of Cinder, Thorne, Scarlett, Wolf, and Cinder’s Artificial Intelligence BFF Iko, is circling the Earth in Thorne’s spaceship as they plot a way to overcome the evil Lunar Queen Levana.
This third book in the series introduces Cress (short for Crescent Moon), who is our Rapunzel. Cress has spent most of her life isolated on a satellite orbiting the earth, plying her computer hacking skills at the demand of her nasty Lunar mistress in order to help the Lunar government spy on Earth. Cress likes to daydream that she is actually in one of the many soap opera adventures she watches, instead of being trapped and lonely. In addition, she has gotten caught up in the real-life exploits of the dramatic escape of Cinder and her comrades; what if this handsome Carswell Thorne could help her escape as well? She reaches out to Cinder and her companions, but everything goes wrong, and suddenly, the specter of a war between Earth and Luna looms on the horizon.
Discussion: Meyer does an expert job of respecting the integrity of each fairy tale arc while at the same time meshing it with the other fairy tale plot lines, so that it seems as if they unquestionably belong together. The characters are eminently likable, and the books are quite clever, romantic, and entertaining.
Evaluation: This is an excellent series. The aspects of fairy tale retellings keep it from being too dark, and there is enough romance and suspense mixed into the dystopian landscape to please aficionados of a number of genres. I hate to say this is a “happy” series given that the Earth is in peril and large numbers of people die, and yet, the tone is – well, happy. These are feel-good books, with the promise of fairy tale endings.
Note: These books are not really standalones, but should be read in order.
Published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, 2014