As I did last week, today I’m recommending a book I’ll be discussing here with Allison and Alyssa soon. A while back Alyssa recommended The Lunar Chronicles, and last week Winter, the final installment in the series, was released. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading here and go read Alyssa’s recommendation. If you’ve already read the rest of the series but haven’t picked up Winter yet, then I hope that by the end of this post you’ll be running to your local library (or bookstore!) to grab a copy.
The most immediately apparent thing about Winter is that it’s big. Clocking in at over 800 pages, it’s substantially longer than any of the other books in the series, and longer than most YA books, even in speculative fiction. I tend to have mixed feelings going into books these long; while excited about getting to spend so much time with the characters and the world, I tend to worry that the book will drag and feel bloated. Winter, however, is tightly-plotted and fast-paced. Its length derives from the sheer number of plot threads that have cropped up over the preceding books; with a new major character and romance arc introduced in each book, there are a lot of intertwined storylines that need to be wrapped up. Meyer does this skillfully, and the result is a rich, gripping tale.
While the sheer number of plot threads may seem unwieldly, it is in fact one of my favourite things about this series, because each book’s storyline roughly follows the plot of a familiar fairy tale. Winter is no different, introducing Winter, the beautiful princess with the murderous stepmother. As with long books, I’m always a bit trepidatious when the last book in a series introduces a new POV character; while I knew it would be the case with Winter, following the pattern of the rest of the series, I really just wanted to find out what was happening with Cinder and the rest of the gang. Again, however, my concerns were unfounded. I fell utterly in love with Winter, for her compassion, her concern for the rights of others, her quiet rebellion against Levana. After learning that she caused harm by using her Lunar gift, even though her intent had been to help, she swears off it altogether, even though by not using it she is going slowly mad, to her distress and Levana’s humiliation. This subtle, yet powerful, assertion of her independence from her stepmother and the importance of her morals makes her a compelling character, fighting not just an external foe but her own mind, and I think she might just be my favourite of the series.
There are, of course, obvious parallels between Winter’s affliction and real-world mental illness. Winter’s choice to not use her gift has obvious parallels with people going off antidepressants that are causing unpleasant side effects. Besides Levana and some of her court, however, no one ever treats Winter as though she is inferior for her illness. She is well-loved by Lunars, but because of her compassion and conscientiousness, not because of her ‘inspirational’ illness. It’s one of the rare cases I’ve found in SF/F where a mentally ill person is treated as a person, not an illness.
Meyer may have made me fall in love with Winter, but not at the expense of the existing characters. Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and even Iko all have their own challenges and growth in this book, making for a powerful, satisfying end to the series. It really is a must-read for readers who have enjoyed the previous books in the series, though I’d recommend reading Fairest as well as the other books beforehand.
Nicola lives and breathes books in Edinburgh, but you can find her on Twitter.