REVIEW: Cress by Marissa Meyer
I love science fiction and I love fairy tales. Both loves go back a long way. All the way, really. Put them together and, if it’s done well, I am the happiest of happy campers. The Lunar Chronicles have such a brilliant concept. Four (yay for quartets) books, each set in Meyer’s fictional and futuristic Earth, each focusing on a heroine from a well-known fairy tale. From Cinder and Scarlet to Cress and the upcoming Winter, I’ve loved the covers, I’ve loved the titles, and I’ve loved the smart and inventive ways in which these stories have had new life breathed into them. I did wish for a little more emotional payoff in the first book, but Cinder herself was such a highlight that there were no questions about whether or not I would be reading the second. Then Ms. Meyer went and wrote Scarlet and launched me into full-fledged fangirl status. I wouldn’t change a single thing about that book, people. Not one. So my anticipation for Cress was just a wee bit on the high side. We get the tiniest of snatches of Cress herself in the first two books, and given how much I loved the first two heroines, I felt pretty sure my love for this orbiting computer hacker would be something of a foregone conclusion.
Cress has spent the last seven years shut up tight in an orbiting satellite. Her solitude is broken only by the occasional terrifying visit from Miss Sybil, the Lunar Queen’s henchwoman sent to monitor Cress. With years and years of nothing but her netscreens to keep her company, Cress not only becomes a considerably talented computer hacker, but she develops a pretty substantial romanticized view of Earth, its inhabitants, and especially the noted rascal Captain Carswell Thorne. Most recently, Cress has been tasked with putting her hacking skills to use tracking down the most wanted Earthen criminal: the cyborg rebel Linh Cinder. Having had her own secret contact with Cinder and her band of motley rebels, Cress is instantly dismayed and sets about working as hard as she can to deflect Queen Levana’s sights from Cinder’s actual location. For their part, Cinder, Wolf, Scarlet, and Iko are careening about space trying to avoid capture and work out a plan to save the world from the encroaching Lunar threat. But Cress can only do so much, trapped as she is. And when Cinder’s ship, the Rampion, is spotted, the two groups are set on a literal collision course. In the aftermath, the dashing and derelict Thorne and Cress herself wind up crashing to Earth in the smoking remains of the only home Cress has ever known. And so it is up to them to trek through the wilderness and try to find their way back to Cinder and Co. in time to stop the unholy wedding of the century before Levana weds Emperor Kaito and closes her wicked fist over Earth for good.
It’s difficult to say I wasn’t enchanted with this one, but that is the bare truth of the matter. It was all set up to be a knockout installment in the series, but nothing. ever. happens. Until the end when the inevitable Rescue Poor Kai mission is finally set in motion and events begin trundling along nicely. But Cress is one thick book (a trait I usually love in novel), and it takes far too long to get to the meat. Most of that time is spent trudging with the hapless Cress and Thorne through the Sahara Desert, an expanse of time and space that could have been put to good use developing their relationship, which naturally had a lot of potential. Instead, it was a numbing eternity of the naïve and incapable Cress mooning over Thorne and wailing at each bump in the road. And Thorne. Wherefore art thou, dude? You were the perfect scoundrel in Scarlet, a delightful combination of Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds. But the Thorne of Cress was a watered down buffoon at best. He was given a couple of truly winsome and hilarious lines, a far cry from the leading man I felt justified in looking forward to. Together they lacked all of the spark, paling in comparison to the serious sweetness of Cinder & Kai and the deep swoon of Scarlet & Wolf. It was honestly a relief to be pulled away from their uninspiring exploits to find out what was happening with Cinder and the gang, although I couldn’t help but sigh more than once at how little page time Scarlet and Wolf were given. In that instance, I understand the game is afoot and we must work our way through some plot twists in order to achieve the necessary series climax in the next book. But still. Their relative absence was harsh for this Scarlet-loving girl’s heart.
Romantic subplot(s) aside, I just never engaged with Cress, the book or the character. The creeptastic Levana was all but absent. The exciting and long-awaited knock-down brawl and (hopefully) makeup fest that has been brewing between Cinder and Kai since the end of Cinder was wedged too tightly into the literal last couple of pages. The timing and pacing felt decidedly off in general, uncharacteristically so. I don’t know if the onus of that rests on the fact that Cress herself wasn’t up to the challenge of carrying off a whole book on her own or if it was a dose of third-book syndrome or what. But it was a struggle to finish. I did finish, hoping all the way that meat would grow on the bones before my very eyes. I still like each of the main characters (Cinder’s irrepressible android sidekick Iko made me laugh on more than one occasion), and the glimpse of the certifiably crazy Winter near the end gives me hope for the final installment. But it’s going to have to be one hell of a strong finish to wash the disappointment out of my mouth after Cress. C-
I hate to be That Person, but I recently picked up this series and I was sooo meh. If I hadn’t been reading it with my best friend, who wanted to discuss it, I would have stopped. I don’t get the Cinder love–she has literally has no personality. She’s whatever the plot wants to be at any given moment. If someone really likes her, I’d love to hear…why? Here are the personality traits I can come up with. She’s a really bad leader. ….That’s it. Like, what else is there to her? Sometimes she’s spunky, sometimes she’s not. Sometimes she’s determined, sometimes she’s not. She has zero consistency. Also, she never figures out or does anything by herself–others always have to tell her what to do.
Kai is the worst prince in the history of the world. He’s rude, he’s petty, he’s a bad diplomat, and he whines like a child.
I enjoyed Scarlet and Wolf a lot more as characters, but literally nothing happened in THAT book. They got on a train and went to Paris. That’s it. Scarlet’s clever plan was, “SHOW UP AT EVIL HEADQUARTERS, DEMAND GRANDMOTHER BACK.” That is literally the worst plan in the history of the world, I wonder why it didn’t work.
Meyer is generally a smooth, competent writer, but every now and then she comes up with a clunker that just makes me go, huh??? Also, I can’t even with her horrible worldbuilding of future Asia as a monolith. Empires don’t arise peacefully in the aftermath of war, empires are the result of bloody conquest. If you think even the rubbled remains of China and Japan would peacefully consent to be governed together, I need a better explanation than, “lol WWIV happened?”
I really liked the beginning of Cress, the rescue scene. That was nicely done, with lots of tension. But as you say, NOTHING happens in this book, and Thorn, the only character I consistently liked, lost everything that made him awesome.
I hope Levana wins, in spite of her incompetent henchmen, girlfriend is the only one that gets shit done. I mean, she had terrible evil plans, of course–why use werewolfmen when you can nuke a city as a warning to others and be done? But if Cinder and Kai go on to win, they’ll be the worst (and most boring) pair of rulers ever.
(I apologize for ranting about a series I know you love, I know it’s an obnoxious habit when others talk about how much they love something, but I have a lot of VERY strong feels about this one.)
I really enjoyed the first two books in this series as well – but this one….Good lord, could something HAPPEN already?! The entire first 85% of the story was meandering nonsense. It was a bridge book in the worst possible way for me.
The good news is that it picked up at the end, and hopefully that means that we’ll be going into Winter with a bang. *crossing fingers* I really want it to end on a high note.
I liked this book more than you did, but it felt like a “middle book” something terrible. I almost wish I had waited to read these books until the series was complete because of all the jumping around between characters. But I am looking foward to seeing how the end gets pulled off. And I’m hoping for some more page time for Scarlet and Wolf together.
My thoughts on this book align with yours, Angie, to the word.
I’m listening to CRESS in audio right now and am almost finished. I agree the first 3/4 are very slow and the characters splitting up didn’t help the pacing. I still find it entertaining, but not as action-packed as the CINDER or SCARLET, and the romance isn’t really working with Cress stuck in crush mode and Thorne coming off as pretty stupid sometimes.
The audiobooks of this series are excellent, by the way. The narrator is fantastic at doing different voices and giving them all personality.
Oh dang. I LOVED the first two books, like you. So, I am quite disappointed then to see you did not care for Cress. Ugh. What to do now? Read it or not read it? A dilemma. Well anyway, I am glad to know it didn’t meet up to expectations by a long shot; maybe that will help me like it better…if I read it.
@Julia: Lol. No need to apologize! I love a good rant. And I’ve been there. There are some authors/series I just don’t get despite a seemingly general fervor. Ah, well. And I so agree re: Thorne. What happened to him?! He was the most reliable source of awesome, as you said, and poof! Gone with his sight.
So I enjoyed Cinder herself in the first book. I did. I liked that she was a mechanic and just wanted to get out of Dodge but had a soft spot for her stepsister and got dragged into the whole nightmare as a result of trying to save her. But Meyer does seem to know how to set a scene, a potential climax, and then leave you hanging. The end of the first book drove me up the wall. Scarlet I loved for how quiet it was and for the tension and sweetness between Scarlet and Wolf. I admit to not paying as much attention to the history behind her worldbuilding and I can see how it could easily wear too thin for some readers. The introduction of Thorne definitely carried the Cinder chapters in that book for me. But Cress. Cress was a hot mess. Do you think you’ll read Winter to see how it all pans out?
@Angela: Meandering nonsense is a perfect way to put it. I kept pausing and thinking to myself, Is this the way it’s going to be? Just . . . this? I do have my fingers crossed for Winter, though. Cautiously crossed.
@Misti: Can we pass some sort of decree that there will be adequate Scarlet/Wolf time in the last book? Because seriously. I was not okay with their “appearances” in this one.
@Chelle: Oh, Chelle. I am relieved to hear that. It seems like the response has been almost entirely thrilled. And I finished just flabbergasted at that.
@AmyL: The “romance” fell flat on its face. And it could have been SO GREAT. Ugh. There was zero chemistry. Nothing to Cress and all the prior vibrancy sucked out of Thorne. WHY?
I have heard that about the audiobooks. I’m happy to have another holler out for them. :)
@ibeeeg: I know. I was really shocked at how uninvested I was. Sigh. But I think my opinion is still in the minority, so you never know . . .