Saturday, February 8, 2014

Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer


Title: Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3) 

Author: Marissa Meyer

Rating: 2.5 Stars

I can't say I enjoyed reading this; I counted down till the end. For those of you who aren't aware, Marissa Meyer and I have a love-hate relationship, leaning towards the latter, unfortunately. I found Cinder to be less-than-stellar, devoid of world-building and overtaken by a plot that was far too predictable. When the synopsis of Scarlet released, all it took was one mention of Wolf to have me scrambling for a copy. Admittedly, Scarlet had its flaws too, but I loved it. Unabashedly. For a few blissful months I felt like a white sheep; just like everyone else. And then I cracked open the spine of Cress.

Cress is a loose re-telling of Rapunzel, a tale which was once unknown but has now been popularly marketed thanks to the brilliance of Disney's "Tangled." In comparison to "Tangled," Cress leaves a lot to be desired. In comparison to Scarlet, it leaves even more. Where Meyer excels as a writer is in the fact that her plotting is impeccable, tight and focused without wandering astray even once. We begin this novel with a plan to stop Prince Kai's impending wedding with Queen Levana and, despite the hurdles thrown at these characters, that remains the goal throughout. In order to achieve this, however, Cinder & the Gang need the help of Cress, a Lunar born as a shell, lacking powers, who is trapped aboard a satellite where she spends her time hacking into computer systems, infiltrating into top secret facilities, and reporting information back to Sybil, a.k.a. Mother Gothel. And, as you can guess, of course Sybil works for Queen Levana.

When Cress first makes contact with Cinder & Co., she is eager to help them escape scrutiny from the Lunar Queen and find a way to escape herself. Needless to say, their plans fall through - rather catastrophically - forcing an unexpected visit to the Sahara Desert. With so much going on, Cress is a fast-paced, action-packed novel. Flitting from one perspective to the next, Meyer continues to build upon our understanding of this world. While the history behind the nascence of Lunars and their magic remains nonexistent, I've learned to survive without these vital tidbits of information. Instead, I appreciate the fact that Meyer has created a complicated political system at hand, one that Prince Kai  is constantly attempting to work through.

While Prince Kai may not have been my favorite character in Cinder, over the course of the past two novels he has truly grown. In fact, it is Kai and Cinder, the main leads of the first installment in this series, who continue to surprise me as this series wears on. Both of them play important roles in society, but their inner musings and the manner in which they navigate through their fears while still attempting to do what is right for the citizens of the world they live in is admirable. Meyer has, slowly but steadily, won me over to this couple which failed to spark my interest two installments ago. But, then again, Kai and Cinder have very little competition in Cress. Not only are my two darlings - Scarlet and Wolf - conveniently captive or unconscious for much of the novel, but Cress and Thorne are pathetically disappointing.

I will be the first to admit that I loved Thorne in Scarlet. Loved. Him. In Cress, however, I found that his character lacked the same dynamic, presumably because of the presence of Cress. Individually, I really enjoy the characters of both Cress and Thorne. As a couple, however, they leave much to be desired. The bulk of Cress follows this pair as they trek across the Sahara and my eyes glazed over the page far too many times. Quite simply put, Cress is no match for Thorne. Not only is she naive and shy, but she lacks the inner anger and fury that Rapunzel of "Tangled" possessed. Cress's rebellious streak starts and ends with her desire to escape. Once outside the confines of her satellite, she has little interest in much else. Except Thorne. Cress has had a crush on Thorne ever since the handsome rascal first made it across her news feed and while the universe may believe Thorne is a criminal, Cress already believes he hides a kind heart within.

While this could have been an incredible spring board to launch an epic romance, it sizzles and dies out quickly. Though Thorne tells Cress, immediately, that her infatuation with him is tainted by bias and lies, she holds onto those beliefs throughout the book. Even when she doubts Thorne, a small action of his - a kind, normal, human gesture - is seen as heroic. Cress places Thorne on a pedestal and though she experiences a unique growth arc, I feel as if she never falls in love with the real Thorne. Moreover, there is next to no development of Thorne's attraction to Cress until the last few chapters, which honestly sprang out of nowhere. I was blindsided and, honestly, a little upset over the direction this romance took. I believe that Thorne and Cress have the potential to become a worthwhile couple, but the way they were written never made me believe in their romance, let alone the equality and stability of their bond.

And yet, perhaps nothing takes the award for Disappointment with a capital D the way Scarlet and Wolf do. In Scarlet, this couple was sizzling, full of unacknowledged sexual tension, betrayal, and a complex scope of emotions. Both Scarlet and Wolf still have a long way to progress in their relationship, so the fact that they are separated early in the novel is a little jarring. (Especially as their separation occurs after the majority of the "Rapunzel" fairy-tale is told, so the re-telling in Cress is compressed to the first fifth of the narrative. Not a fan of that plot choice either.) If it weren't bad enough that Scarlet and Wolf are separated, they have just about two scenes each afterwards. Um...WHAT? With Scarlet, Meyer won me over with her ability to delve into the minds of two complex characters, all while sustaining a convoluted story scheme. With Cress, she fails to give Scarlet and Wolf the depth we know they contain. Instead, their intriguing story arc is pushed aside in favor of other characters. While it is difficult for me to continue on my angry rant about this decision without giving away spoilers, I'll leave you with this last thought: I don't think Winter can repair the damage of Scarlet and Wolf's relationship from Cress. Both these characters go through traumatic events in this novel and the effects of those experiences will, most likely, not be explored to their full capacity in the sequel, which disappoints me even further.

Speaking of Winter, though, we are awarded a taste of the mad Winter and her lover in Cress and I am rather intrigued to meet them in more detail. After coming this far, reading every novella and novel within this series, I plan to see it through to the end. Frankly, though, Cress has little to offer besides an enticing plot line. While this would, ordinarily, be alright, I read for characters, not for plot twists. I didn't wholly dislike everything about this novel, but I disliked enough to know that I won't be recommending this to many readers. In fact, I may just re-read Scarlet and rationalize it into a stand-alone in my mind. Still, take my words with a grain of salt: after all, I am the only reader to dislike this novel. (So far.)

16 comments:

  1. Hmmmmm...I do like Cinder so far, but will see with the next 2

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  2. I love retellings, so it's kind of weird that I have not gotten into this series yet, shoot I am reading a retelling as I type this!
    Sorry thought that this one fell flat, that is really unfortunate to hear :( especially since I know a lot of people had been waiting a long time for it.

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  3. Aww...that rating made me a little sad. A shame that Thorne wasn't as enjoyable like in Scarlet! I am interested about this Cress, everyone has mixed opinions on her, it seems.

    Lovely review! <33

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  4. So sad to see that you didn't like this one! I was in love with the first two books, and I'm pretty sure I'll love Cress as well. Maybe Winter will be like Scarlet for you, and you'll end up hating two but loving the other two :)

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  5. Everyone raves about this series and yet I can never manage to make myself pick it up. The plot has never called to me. I think the fact that there are so many characters in the mix would somehow diminish their stories. I don't think I'll ever pick this up with so many other books calling out to me. Wonderful honest review, Keertana. :)

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  6. Oh Keertana, I am sorry to hear this! It seems as though we've had varying opinions of this series thus far (with me loving Cinder and not being as fond of Scarlet), so maybe that means I'll love Cress again? I hope so, because it is so disappointing being what feels like the sole person not in love with this series. And I'm sorry you are fulfilling that role right now. :( I hope Winter proves to be another winner for you.

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  7. Wonderful review, Keertana! Thank you for your honest thoughts. I've been wanting to pick up this series since forever, but it's great to know what's to anticipate. Hehe, I also read for the characters - there's nothing more enjoyable than a great set of characters and hopefully, decent storyline. :) Anyways, hope Marissa Meyer's future books will be able to form a love-love relationship with you! ;)

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  8. Darn! Sorry to hear you didn't love this book. I actually didn't love Cinder and haven't read Scarlet. I have heard raves form those that didn't like Cinder, so I know I must, at least, read that one. Hm... I have a feeling I may feel close to the same about this one.

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  9. I have Cinder, Scarlet and Cress yet haven't read them. I just kind of took it as a given that I would like them as they are retellings. But I am finding my tastes are getting a tad more refined the longer I blog and that just because I like one book in the series doesn't mean I will like the others. It does surprise me that it happens. Hopefully I'll like the series or I'll be having a massive giveaway!

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  10. When I saw your low rating I got scared but when I saw you didn't love Cinder I felt better. I loved Cinder and well, so far both books. Hopefully I enjoy Cress more then you did!

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  11. I'm sorry Cress didn't work as well as Scarlet did for you! I think I warmed to Cress and Thorne a bit more, but I COMPLETELY agree about there being a shameful lack of Wolf/Scarlet time in this book. YES -> "Both Scarlet and Wolf still have a long way to progress in their relationship, so the fact that they are separated early in the novel is a little jarring." I do hope Meyer finds a way to address their relationship in a more satisfying way in Winter, but I think you're right, too much has happened in this book, and I doubt they'll be given the page time to deal with it. Lovely, thoughtful review Keertana, thank you for sharing!

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  12. I'm sorry that this book didn't work out for you! I agree that Cinder and Kai are the heart of the series and both shine in this story in particular. I agree that Cress and Thorne's relationship made me uncomfortable. And I don't think Thorne was so charming when she was around. That is something that I questions a lot in this book, though it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment. Two elements of the fairytale Rapunzel that I really liked being added in CRESS were Throne's blindness and the desert wandering. I really enjoy how Meyer incorporates original elements in ways that blend well into her story.

    I thought it was really interesting that Scarlet and Wolf, who are in many ways the strongest characters, were very weak here, especially fighting Lunars. I think you make good points about realistic character growth and the way Scarlet and Wolf's relationship doesn't progress much. They are still my favorite ship and I'm excited to see them reconnect. But with so much going on in this ensemble cast, I've been able to overlook some of the elements that have bothered you.

    I can't wait for Winter! I love that she's crazy. Hope the final installment is a stronger book for you.

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  13. I liked this book more than you did--but I do admit that I am not a fan of the Cress/ Throne pairing like I am the Scarlet/ Wolf pairing. And yes I did miss the latter two in this book--though we are treated to some wonderful, heartbreaking scenes of Wolf missing his Scarlet:)

    Like you I have also grown to like Kai more with each book--and after this one I am firmly behind he and Cinder's romance. Honestly I never felt that he was worthy of her, but he's come around in my estimation.

    I like Cress well enough--but yes, I do think her and Thorne's romance lacks that spark (especially coming of the heels of Scarlet and Wolf's amazing chemistry.)

    In fact, I am starting a grass roots campaign to see Thorne paired with someone else--a certain little android who I ADORE and who has her biggest wish come true in Cress (thank to Thorne incidentally: Iko! Wouldn't Iko ad Thorne be fabulous together?? I know this is wishful thinking on my part but a girl can dream....

    I LOVE the sneak peek at Winter in this book--it might just be my favorite part because I have always like the slightly crazy heroine. I can't wait to see how Meyers wraps everything up. And perhaps we will finally get some answers to those nagging questions you brought up regarding the Lunar people and their gifts--because I would like to know those things as well! Thoughtful review, K!

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  14. Hmmmm.

    I didn't particularly care for Cinder, and I thought Scarlet was a lot of fun. So we're on the same page there. But I actually liked the way Scarlet (the character) pulls back from Wolf early in Cress. It kind of made sense to me, after the way they came together so intensely in the previous book.

    And I like Cress. I like her a lot. But Thorne's disability was SUPER important in the bonding of those characters. It just never would have happened otherwise. And that makes me wonder what will happen to them in the next book, which I'm excited for, because I love Winter and what's-his-name.

    The main complaint I have about these books is that there is just absolutely no reason for them to be SO FREAKING LONG.

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  15. Cress is an absolutely fantastic addition to an already outstanding series. I've given each book thus far five stars, but I think this one is my favorite so far. With so much going on and so many characters narrating and doing so many things, you'd think it'd get confusing or overwhelming, but that never happens. Each character is fully imagined and so easy to root for. The writing is lovely. And y'all, THE ENDING. I absolutely cannot wait to read Winter, though seeing this series end will be difficult.

    Marlene
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