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.)