March 27, 2014

Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #3
Published: 2014, Feiwel and Friends
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction, Retelling
Source: Library 
Contains spoilers for Cinder (my review), Scarlet (my review)
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"Do you think it was destiny that brought us together?"
He squinted and, after a thoughtful moment, shook his head. "No. I'm pretty sure it was Cinder.”

Thank goodness. I suppose I can count myself among the legions Marissa Meyer’s fans once again. I loved Cinder but had a bit of a rockier relationship with Scarlet. In retrospect, I think that my dissatisfaction of Scarlet stemmed primarily from the fact that Cinder was no longer the primary protagonist, just as her journey was no longer the centerpiece of the story; she fully shared the story with Scarlet. I get a little attached to my protagonists and their personal stories, so it was a rough adjustment for me to accept Scarlet’s story in Scarlet. Because I better anticipated the narrative format of Cress (and was willing to embrace the dual storylines), I ended up quite enjoying this one.

(As a sidenote, please tell me that there are others out there who, like me, don’t like stories with multiple points of view and protagonists as much as a story documenting one person’s tale. I can’t be alone in this.)

As Cress begins, Scarlet and Wolf have teamed up with Cinder and Thorne abroad Thorne’s Rampion spaceship. After the heavy casualties sustained from a Lunar attack on major Earthen cities, Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth has agreed to marry Queen Levana of the Lunars. Bloodshed has stopped for now, but Cinder knows that the peace is temporary, that Levana won’t be content to be Kai’s equal, but will be planning to destroy him and subjugate all people of Earth under her rule.

As Cinder and her friends plot a way to disrupt the upcoming nuptials, they’re being safely hidden from Earthen or Lunar detection thanks to hacker and coder extraordinaire, Cress. Cress is a Lunar, but a shell (meaning that she never developed Lunar bioelectric abilities and is thus treated as a pariah by her own people). For seven years she’s been locked away in a satellite, told to spy on all Earthen networks. But when it comes to Cinder, Thorne, and their friends, Cress finds that she cannot sell them out to the Lunar government, perhaps primarily due to her crush on Thorne, whom she has decided is a hero in the flesh.

When she and Thorne’s Rampion finally do make contact, Cress thinks this is her chance to get out of her satellite once and for all. To make friends and possibly form a relationship. To be useful to the good side for once. But neither she nor Cinder and company could anticipate the fallout arising from a mission to rescue the damsel locked away in her satellite.
There are many, many reasons why this story works and has received positive praise (as anyone can see who bothers to look up reviews of Cress). Rather than rehashing the story’s various elements that work so well, I want to focus my review on two aspects in particular: the characterization of the three heroines, and how Cress works as a “Rapunzel” retelling.

As the series continues, The Lunar Chronicles has gradually gotten darker and more serious. Characters like Thorne and Iko add comic relief, but the main plot is a heavy one: Cinder has to come forward, accept her destiny as the missing Princess Selene of the Lunars, and find a way to avert the crisis poised to destroy Earth and the emperor she loves. With Cinder’s responsibility weighing her down and Scarlet’s grief over the recent loss of her grandmother, it is Cress who brings a new perspective and extra hope to the story.

I loved the addition of Cress to the story. Small and literally child-like in appearance, Cress is in many ways the polar opposite of Cinder and Scarlet. She lacks Scarlet’s familial loyalty and Cinder’s desire for justice. The fact of the matter is, Cress doesn’t really know who she is or what she wants. Up until she started tracking Cinder’s movements, Cress has never been given the opportunity to decide who she is or what she stands for; all she knows is that in a society told that shells are worthless, her technological prowess has given her an extra opportunity for life.

Cress is simultaneously appreciative of the new experiences she now has and very much aware of how easily the Queen Levana could destroy them all. She’s naive and second-guesses herself and is overly sentimental at times, but she’s also a lost girl trying to find her place in this unfamiliar world. I can see where aspects of Cress’ character would bother others, but I quite enjoyed the added perspective she brings to the series.

Cinder, however, is likely to remain my overall favorite protagonist of the series. It is her struggles that I care about the most, and the hard truths she must deal with that elicit my sympathy. She’s not overly tough or overly skilled, but she has a strong sense of morality and an unflagging determination that I can’t help but admire. And there’s no denying that Cinder is the heart of this series. Everything that has happened in Scarlet and Cress appears to be building up to Cinder’s ultimate reclamation of her past, present, and future.

Scarlet does not have much of a role in Cress, unfortunately, but the little perspective she does have is terrifyingly fascinating. Scarlet is physically separated from the rest of the cast early on, and subjected to intense emotional and physical trauma. It is through Scarlet’s narration, however, that the conflict is enriched. And it is through Scarlet’s narration that readers are introduced to Princess Winter, whose story I am very excited to read.

In some ways, Cress is an ambitious retelling of “Rapunzel.” As with Cinder (a “Cinderella” retelling) and Scarlet (a “Little Red Riding Hood” retelling), it’s clear that Meyer is not only very familiar with the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, but that she has a healthy respect for the sources of her inspiration.

Aspects of the tale have been adapted to better incorporate the story within the world of The Lunar Chronicles. Instead of Cress being taken by a witch after her parents stole vegetables from the witch’s garden, Cress is born a pariah in her society. Her tower may be a satellite, but it effectively prevents her from human or Lunar interaction outside of Mistress Sybil (the “witch” and one of Queen Levana’s chief advisors). The hints of blossoming sexuality may have been disregarded in this retelling, but Cress loses her innocence nonetheless once she’s taken away from her satellite. And Thorne...actually is a surprisingly effective prince.

Much of the Grimms’ version of “Rapunzel” focuses on the time Rapunzel spends locked away in her tower, but the opposite is the case in Cress. And, really, the story is all the better because of that. What matters more is what happens after the damsel is rescued and realizes that the outside world is even more complicated than she could have imagined.

I am definitely a fan of Cress and applaud Meyer’s creative fairy-tale retellings. This can technically be categorized as (light) science fiction, although that’s not really the draw of this series at all. Instead, this is a book for those seeking a different sort of retelling that is incredibly character-oriented. Winter may be coming, but right now it’s not fast enough for me.

Rating: 4 stars
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series of all-time! Like you said, the characterization is just superb and the way Meyer is able to so wonderfully balance the action, the romance, and the plot is just pheonominal! I'm so glad you liked this one though Amanda!

    Gah...I can't believe we all have to wait another year before Winter releases! It's going to be pure torture!

    Thanks for sharing and brilliant review! :D

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

    1. Thanks, Zoe! I'm very glad I enjoyed this one so much. And, yes, the wait is long. Fortunately I have tons of other books to distract myself with in the meantime! :)

  2. Amanda, I just skimmed through your review since I'm reading scarlet now. I'll get back to it when I'm done with Cress. Glad you enjoyed it (:

    1. Me too, Ini! :) You'll have to let me know what you think of Scarlet/Cress when you finish them.

  3. It's strange because I don't USUALLY love stories with multiple perspectives as there's just way too much going on to focus on, but somehow Marissa Meyer makes it WORK for me. I am beyond impressed at her skills as a storyteller and how she adapts the fairy tales and I'm glad that you are, as well. Winter definitely cannot get here fast enough because how enticing was that tease of her at the end of Cress?? Really nicely reviewed, Amanda.

    1. I know exactly what you mean, because I feel the exact same way about multiple perspectives. I think it's partially due to the fact that Meyer is still managing a rather tightly constructed plot overall. And each character is actually essential to that overall plot somehow. I'm also willing to admit that Meyer is just a really talented writer, too, lol. And I know! I cannot wait to see what happens next! Thank you, Aylee!


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