Thursday, December 24, 2015

REVIEW | Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter by Marissa Meyer
Publication Year: 2015 (November 10th)
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Fairy Tales
Series:  Lunar Chronicles #4
Awards: None
Format: Audio (from
Narrator: Rebecca Soler

Why?: Because this is the concluding volume in the Lunar Chronicles which has been more fun to read than playing with a barrel full of monkeys.

It seemed appropriate to publish my review of Winter during the week of the Winter Solstice.  If you've seen my list of the favorite books I read in 2015, then this review will have very little suspense.  I enjoyed Winter very, very much.   One of my favorite things about this series has always been that Marissa Meyer obviously had a well laid plan for the whole series from the very beginning.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in Winter where she has to pull together and tie up all the strands from the first three books as well as weave in a new pair of characters and their fairy tale.

At the start of Winter, Scarlet is in prison on Luna, and the rest of the gang (Cinder, Thorne Cress, and Wolf, Kai) are on the Rampion making a plan to rescue her and overthrow Levana.  In Cress, we met Jacin, one of Luna's elite guards, and very briefly Levana's step daughter Winter but they are really introduced and developed in this book.  Winter is the most beautiful girl on Luna but she is also a bit mad, having refrained from using her lunar gift since she was a child.  She and Jacin have been friends since childhood and though their feelings for each other at this point are much more than friendly, Jacin keeps a distance between them.  When Cinder and her crew arrive, smuggled aboard Kai's ship which is arriving on Luna to resume wedding preparations between Kai and Levana, Winter and Jacin are pulled into a revolution to place Cinder on the Lunar throne.

I do want to pause and point out that I did not make it through Fairest which would have provided more detail about Winter's childhood and origins.  However,  reading only the first 20% or so of Fairest did not keep me from being able to follow Winter's story or figure out the relationships. 

Now, with the plot synopsis out of the way lets get down to it.  I want to revisit my comment above that Meyer is a master at balancing and planning out her narrative.  In Winter, she has the unenviable task of managing four - count 'em - FOUR romances.  Two are pretty settled at the start - no more will-they-won't-they - and two still have obstacles, including the "star" of this particular book, Winter.  Meyer has to develop Winter, her story and her romance with Jacin all while concluding the series.  She does a hell of a job with it though it is sometimes easy to see the mechanics of how she is managing things.  For example, she is careful not to have too many of the couples together all at the same place at the same time.  It helps to ensure that the romances stay the B stories and don't completely overtake the plot.  It's kind of crazy how she manages it all and I am totally in awe.  It's a lot of romance balls to keep in the air; keeping up the tension and evolving the relationships and characters while also propelling a semi-complicated plot forward.

Another way she manages to keep the plot moving is by not bogging it down with too many complications.  For example, the revolution on Luna is unrealistically easy to get started. When refuge is needed, Wolf's mother is still living in the same childhood home and takes the gang in without any issues.  These things do niggle a bit but I think streamlining those elements of the plot, keeps the story moving and focused on the more interesting developments.  I was completely sucked into the story and was wanting to read this more than a Harry Potter book I was re-reading at the same time!  So, yeah.  I was into it.  I also thought the pacing was perfect.  I never got bored with one story line before she switched to another and all the story lines had me pretty equally enthralled. An impressive feat indeed!

Once again I love how Meyer has adapted the fairy tale, in this case Snow White. She adds in little details that echo the original story sometimes obviously, sometimes not. Winter is known for her incredible beauty of which her stepmother Levana is very jealous.  Royal Lunar guard Jacin is the fierce hunstman who fakes Snow White's death. Winter has a menagerie which echoes the Disney version of the tale with Snow White and all her woodland friends.  Then she joins the rebels and if you include Kai, they number 7 - Kai, Cinder, Iko, Cress, Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorn.  It's not heavy handed but also not so obscure that you can't have fun picking at all the little details. 

I wasn't sure at first how I was going to like Winter but as she is developed, I liked her more and more.  She is perhaps a little reminiscent of Cress in her innocence and sweetness but she is even less functional and self-sufficient.  She's incredibly kind-hearted, and also mentally unstable because she refuses to use her Lunar gift and totally hilarious. She and the stern Jacin make a nice pairing.  She develops a lovely friendship with Scarlett as well which is pretty perfect.

Also, I love how all the romances are brought to conclusion. They are not the picture perfect endings, happily ever afters of the Disney versions of these fairy tales and they are better for it.

The audio version of the book was absolutely fantastic.  The narrator has the perfect voice for all the characters without it being too voice-y.  She also has a number of accents to do and she does them with flair.  I loved especially how she reads Iko, Winter and Scarlet.

I feel like I have a lot of other rather incoherent things to say, like how much I love Iko and hope we get another novella that tells the hate-to-love romance of she and the too pretty guard Kinney.  How pleased I am by the diversity in the books and that it's not really a thing, it just is.  How I wish Marissa Meyer (along with J.K. Rowling) would give some lessons in series planning to George R.R. Martin and Chris Carter (creator of The X-Files).  Lots of love for this book!

FINAL VERDICT:  Meyer has really been so incredibly thoughtful in her creation and it truly is a lovely masterpiece of storytelling. It hasn't changed my life and isn't particularly profound but it has been such an enjoyable series to dive into and Winter is a great ending. 4 out of 5 Stars.
Random(ish) Sampling of Other Reviews: Vilma's Book Blog | Curiouser and Curiouser | Publisher's Weekly

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