I read Winter, by Marissa Meyer, a few weeks ago and it’s about time you were treated to my SQUALLING AND FANGIRLING review. Suffice it to say I loved it. If you haven’t read the fantastic series yet, go do that (there will be spoilers for the first books sorry) I think I’ve convinced at least 5 people to get into this series and it is SO GOOD! So now… Winter
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?
Winter has a heck of a lot going on. Yet Marissa Meyer uses themes really, really well to tie everything together. These themes include:
+Friendship: With everyone running around Luna
like headless chickens different people spend time together, so some particularly prominent relationships develop beyond the romance ones. Scarlet and Winter are particularly friends ( but Winter has history with Cinder as well) Jacin and Thorne become close, Cinder and Thorne’s relationship is as sassy as usual, Iko is good friends with Cress, Wolf and Cinder are close (and poor Kai is alone in the palace, though his connection with Konn Torin as a father figure is pretty interesting too) Anyway, with all these friendships, lots of questions of loyalty and trust and belief are explored, which I adored. (that is to say, I got FEELS)
+Romance. Romance is obviously a big one here, as all the romantic subplots are (somewhat) resolved. The idea of trust and intimacy also come up here (though it’s still pretty PG, nothing to worry about) –> highlight for spoilers one scene that I found particularly powerful was when Winter kissed Jacin as he readied to *fake* kill her– with the whole issue of dead Ryu as well.
+Beauty. This is a retelling of Snow White, so obviously the idea of beauty (especially Beauty vs. Perfection) comes up a lot (also, did you notice that Cinder and co. are Winter’s seven dwarves?)
Winter is the most beautiful girl, and she knows that, and she sort of enjoys it, but she also knows that there are things more important than beauty, which Levana does not. The entire thing with Winter’s scars compared to Levana’s hidden scars is really interesting, especially as Levana’s face is revealed along with her true intentions Winter has scars, but is still beautiful. Levana’s glamour is perfect, but her intentions are not. Selene’s use of the glamour also raises interesting questions about what it’s okay to hide and note, and develops good parallels to the gloves of the first book.
+Justice. One of the big things that Selene is offering is justice, and the injustice and inequality of Luna is shown very well. But the characters are also reflecting on what in their own kingdoms is injust,(*cough* Kai*cough*) which makes it all the more powerful.
+Privileges. The wonderful thing about assemble an ensemble of central characters, as exists in this book, is that you can make it diverse. There are three royals (but one is not of royal blood). There is Cress, a traditionally disadvantaged citizen of Luna, and Jacin, who is more ordinary and has always known it, and Scarlet, who thought she was an ordinary girl and kind of is, Thorne who likes to think he’s important, and Wolf, who is humble. They all have different ideas about power and who deserves to rule and what is fair and what rights and equality should be available to people, which makes some of their discussions, particularly at the end, really important.
Then there’s the plot. There is a heck of a lot going on, and the thing is that there could be even more. Personally, I felt like the ending was abrupt. It was like THRONE ROOM AAGH and then scarlet and wolf, but seriously, this was a massive tome already Anyway, lots of truly excellent detail is used to sustain the plot, and it ties in very well with the others. The non spoilery things I can say about the plot are: everyone is involved, and that’s awesome, and everyone (pretty much) nearly dies, which isn’t so awesome, and there are injuries and deaths and soul searching and fear. It was all excellently executed, and the perspective third person allowed for enough emotion without anything getting too overwhelming. I loved the way that the times worked, and I really cared about what happened to the characters. The rebellion was done so well and was so scary and everyone was at risk and it was terrible, but fabulous too, because I cared and goodness gracious I HATE Aimery and that moment when he asked for Winter’s hand meant so much and why did Maha Kelsey die and it was sad and I hate the guards and Iko is bae and Diner just jumped and everyone nearly died and aaaagh the end I hated artemisia nobles but they’re really cool to read about and why am I being hurt this way and I care and Kai you poor old person who married her and let Cress into the right area and did anyone notice how fabulous Konn Torinn is and the clinic and Iko sacrificed herself then at the end Winter was mad and she knew it but there was hope and Iko and Cinder are a great team and Thorne Cress feels *breathes*
And then there’s the characters. I have a lot to talk about- I could go on about the excellent writing and the imagery and the way it adapted the story fabulously for a loooooong time. But I really adored the character development, so let’s talk about that.
+Cress: Cress is sort of seeing the life she never had on Luna. She’s less challenged about seeking love form people at this point, and Thornes eventual affirmation helps with that She’s also has faith in her ability–I found the scene where she was telling herself to be heroic really powerful, and she’s less naive which is nice.
+Scarlet: She’s had a rough time of it. She was already confident and sure of herself, so that’s not what she’s struggling with. I really like how she had to reconcile the Lunars dismissal of her as a brute human with her own tendency for violence, and also passionate love. The Alpha image was interesting, as she wasn’t exactly a leader- but her care of Winter showed a more vulnerable side even when terrible things like Letumosis happened to her.
+Winter. She’s sort of the wild card. She’s incredibly endearing, but also mad. Her awareness of this is really vital to her character. and I also loved hearing about her relationship with Jacin. I think the turning point in her character was her choice to control Aimery. It was a really interesting turnaround of her ideals, and that added to how I saw her as well, as someone with choices, and the power not to take a choice Her interactions with Levana the apple! and flashbacks also showed how she became who she was, which I loved.
+Kai: Sadly, we see a little less of him in Winter, though he’s still very important. He’s a fabulous emperor, and want’s to do what’ right, and his struggle with choosing what that is and how to be the best ruler is very interesting, added to the entire factor of his isolation from everyone else.
+Wolf: He also, must once again deal with the way people see him as a brute outside of the Rampion especially after his surgery was really interesting. In addition to that, the has to be violent, which goes against his character. I also loved the fact that he met up with part of his family again- that was really important, along with his choices to use his violence for protecting others not attack, after everything. Wolf broke my heart the most in this book, actually, because of STUFF that happened.
+Thorne: He’s also trying to be a hero, not a thief, which is interesting. He still has comic relief, but he’s found something worth fighting for, and that gives him serious moments. He’s also very vulnerable on Luna which changes how he behaves as well.
+Jacin. Jacin is a little bit enigmatic, but he’s very protective- his scenes where he wanted to be Winter’s guard were amazing to read. I liked seeing how he changed into believing certain things and wanting to protect people outside his traditional circle of Winter and Winter only *cough* Cress *cough*
Questions that I had (that made me want to purchase Stars Above, dangit)
– I did feel that Selene’s motivations for takeover of Luna weren’t really delved into until the end, which was a little disappointing. Why did she want to takeover Luna and how did she feel about accepting that power? Did she just think it was right?
– What is going to happen to the soldiers after everything?
– Winters madness kind of concealed her feelings. How did she feel about being declared dead?
– I don’t think the quick fix letumosis plotline sufficiently resolved all the letumosis stuff from the rest of the novels.
So, if you read that loooong review you deserve ginger bread *gives gingerbread* How do you feel about mad characters? Do you think that series conclusions can suffer because of expectations? What’s the best ensemble book you’ve read? And if you’ve read Winter– what did you think?