I didn’t think it was possible, because the first two books were already very good, but this is my favourite book in the series so far. Marissa Meyer has done it again, taking a fairytale as a starting point and adding science and magic and awesome characters to it. This time Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite orbiting Earth and the girl, Cress, is a programmer who’s imprisoned there by the Lunar Queen’s thaumaturge.
Talking about the plot would give away what happened in the previous books, so I’ll just say that it was gripping and had me glued to the pages from start to finish. My biggest complaint about books in a series is that sometimes you can see that the author had a good idea for one book, and the rest of the series just uses the same plot over and over again, or worse nothing at all happens for a whole book. Well, this book is the complete opposite. The story started off comparatively slow in Cinder, but it’s been picking up steam (and gaining more POV characters) and the inclusion of the elements from the Rapunzel fairytale was really excellent. The book follows the fairytale rather closely, but never in an obvious way. More often than not it was only afterwards that I could say “ah, sure, this happened in the book because the fairytale went like that” and I loved all the brilliant references than Meyer snuck in. I’m sure there’s several I missed, but even if you have no idea who Rapunzel is, Cress is still excellent.
About the characters, a couple more were introduced aside from Cress, and I loved that because it gave the story more breathing room instead of being stuck with Cinder’s thoughts all the time. Scarlet had both Cinder and Scarlet as points of view, but their stories were separated until the end. This time around I already knew what each character’s relationship to each other was, and how they all played a role in the overall plot about the Lunars. And, also, the characters. Out of the three title characters I think Cress is my favourite so far, she’s just so… tiny and dreamy and determined. Carswell, too, is pretty high on my favourite characters list. His character boils down to “rogue with a heart of gold” and if done wrong he’d be cheesy at best and insufferable at worst, but somehow Carswell just works as a character. I had a smile on my face every time he opened his stupid mouth. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t take himself seriously. Maybe because he’s not a “nice guy” in words only but he actually does little acts of kindness for no other reason than because he wants to.
Speaking of, the friendship between Thorne, Cinder and Iko was one of my favourite parts of the book. I love how this book has friendships between male and female characters, and it’s no big deal, people are fully capable of forming platonic friendships, and sometimes bantering is just bantering and not a way to express some repressed sexual attraction. So yeah, I could have read a whole book just of Thorne and Cinder bickering while Iko was, well, being Iko. What else did I love? The romance was there, but it was always in the background and never overpowered the story. The setting — Northern Africa for a good while, and also New Beijing and Luna — was again different from typical YA fare. As always, I enjoyed all the little worldbuilding details that we got.
If you’ve had a look at my reviews you’ll have seen that I hardly ever give a book five stars because I always have something to nitpick, but in this case I’m hard-pressed to find anything that I’d change! I can’t recommend this book enough, if you have a Lunar Chronicles-shaped hole in your life then you could improve that tragic situation by reading The Lunar Chronicles. (Side effects might include excessive fondness for several characters and emotional involvment in the politics of a fictional planet. Also the last book isn’t out yet. Curses.)