This review is spoiler-free (as long as you’ve read the previous books) and can also be found on goodreads.
What an immensely satisfying, amazing conclusion to this series.
“Winter” is everything it needed to be: action-packed, suspenseful, brimming with plot twists and emotional highs & lows. All the build-up of the previous books pays off here.
I read about 200 pages per day until I was done with this brick of a YA novel, so my memory of everything that happened might be a bit fuzzy. I’ll just go over some of the things that really stood out.
First of all, Meyer had a daunting task: juggling nine protagonists and a host of supporting characters, tying off four different romantic relationships, and weaving together multiple subplots. Overall, she achieved a good balance. Each character got the amount of screentime they needed, and I was satisfied with how they were handled. The romance did not overtake the plot, and it felt natural — no rushed weddings, despite the fairy tale theme.
Some of the subplots seemed to get resolved a little too quickly, like the letumosis issue, which I thought was going to be a bigger thing than it ended up being. Then again, I did speed through this thing in four days, so maybe my perception of what was/wasn’t rushed is skewed.
The best thing for me is that no one was let off the hook. Villains who did not deserve redemption were not offered redemption. The protagonists suffered real consequences, had real losses, as a result of their participation in this revolution. (Wolf’s fate in particular was a shock). I loved that — the stakes were high and as a reader I never forgot it.
On the subject of letting no one off the hook, I was relieved when Cinder encountered Adri and Pearl, her abusive step-family, and this happened:
She attempted to come up with a gracious response — something Kai would have said. Things a good queen would have done to ease the tension. To offer forgiveness.
Instead, she turned away.
That’s so real and so important to see in YA fiction. You can’t always forgive your abusers; you shouldn’t always forgive them, and that’s okay.
Other things I loved: Everything about Iko. The strength of the friendships within the group: Scarlet looking out for Winter, Iko’s steadfast support of Cinder, Cress and Iko flinging themselves into Kai’s arms, Cinder and Thorne’s sibling-like dynamic. The world-building, which was good enough that I felt immersed in the setting even though we only spent one book on Luna.
I have mixed feelings about Winter (the character). I like seeing a compassionate portrayal of mental illness in fiction, where it’s also not treated as something cute or romantic. However, for being the titular character of the series finale, Winter fell flat. She rarely gets to make her own choices, and when she does, she loses control of the situation and has to be saved.
Also, the constant emphasis on her beauty made it hard to imagine her as a real person. What does “the most beautiful person on the moon” even look like? It seemed her defining character traits were “beautiful” and “mentally ill,” and I couldn’t connect with or feel invested in her at all. Last, it didn’t feel right to pair off a character who’s so unstable. Jacin felt like her father or caretaker, and to put them together — it just didn’t work for me.
Anyway. Above all I want to emphasize that this series is the most fun of anything I’ve read this year. It’s exciting and well-written and never disappointed me. Meyer is a great storyteller. The Lunar Chronicles is almost everything I could have wanted from a cyberpunk/fairytale/dystopia epic, and I would recommend it with no reservations.