Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: young adult science fiction
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Length: 550 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Date Released: February 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.
Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.
When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.
The Lunar Chronicles are marvelous and suspenseful fractured fairy tales; taking the stories that we all know and love and transporting them into a brave new future with considerably altered versions of the heroines (and heroes).
Cinder was, of course, all about Cinderella, complete with wicked stepmother and footwear difficulties. Scarlet’s version of Little Red Riding Hoodie was considerably more kick-ass than the original (see review). But Cress takes Rapunzel to new heights–her tower is a satellite orbiting the Earth! She’s so lonely that she programmed a younger version of herself into her computer systems as a companion.
Cress’ purpose on that satellite is both deadly and heartbreaking. It’s Cress’ programming skills that keep the Earthen governments from detecting Lunar ships in orbit. It’s Cress’ hacking skills that let her read the camera feeds from surveillance on all the Earthen officials.
And it’s Cress who was so desperate for approval from her keeper that she allowed the infiltration of Earth by Lunar special operatives who murdered 16,000 people, all to show that the Lunars were unstoppable.
But Cress has been left alone for much too long with only the entertainment and news feeds from Earth to keep her amused, or perhaps that to help her keep her hold on her sanity. She has come to identify with the Earthens, and to see Linh Cinder and her crew of misfits as the only hope for preventing Lunar Queen Levana’s terrifying reign.
And she’s fallen in love with the daring Captain involved in Cinder’s rescue, even though Cress and Carswell Thorne have never met. So Cress uses her programming skills to contact Cinder, to aid and abet Cinder’s continued evasion of the security forces, and to arrange for her own, much needed, rescue.
The rescue turns into a SNAFU of epic proportions. Cress’ evil keeper swoops in at the last moment, and everything goes to hell in a handcart. When the dust settles, Thorne and Cress are left on Cress’ satellite in a dying orbit, Wolf is seriously wounded, and Scarlet is captured. Only Cinder remains relatively unscathed, but it becomes her energy-sapping task to keep Wolf from going on a killing rampage at the loss of his alpha Scarlet.
Cinder still has to stop the wedding of Queen Levana to the unwilling Emperor Kai before she is crowned Empress, while the security forces of every Earthen military and all of Luna are out to find her.
First she rescues Thorne and Cress, then she musters all her available allies for one last chance to save the Emperor, knowing that she will start a war. Leaving Scarlet in the clutches of the Lunars to face a fate that might be much, much worse than death.
As the clock ticks down to doomsday, Cinder takes up the mantle of leadership that she was born to wear.
Escape Rating B+: While this is Cress’ story, the arc of The Lunar Chronicles series means that it is always Cinder’s story, no matter what else is going on. Cinder has grown a lot from the young, scared, insecure cyborg mechanic we met in Cinder (reviewed here).
It feels important that Cinder is planning to rescue her prince, and not the other way around. This is a story where the females don’t just have agency, but are generally stronger than the males. Cinder rescues Kai, Scarlet is Wolf’s alpha, and Cress, in spite of her awkwardness, is a gutsier person than Thorne.
Not many people would have kept any semblance of sanity under the conditions that were forced on Cress. She managed to keep herself together, and shake off the Stockholm Syndrome of bonding with her jailor and only contact. Her social awkwardness can be overcome, but integrity is forever.
As the story is told, the perspective frequently jumps from one part of the scattered crew to another, from Cinder to Cress to Scarlet and back again. The narrative switches can feel a bit disruptive during the sections where they are all far apart. As the action coalesces into the final plan, the fast changes add to the breathlessness of anticipation.
Poor Scarlet’s fate is still up in the air (or on Luna) but we know where the rest of the crew of leading, even if we have no idea how they’ll make it. We’re left on pins and needles waiting for the final installment, Winter.