As you know from reading Nicola’s post a couple weeks ago, we are huge fans of Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles and are thrilled to share our discussion of Winter, the final book in the series besides Stars Above: A Lunar Chronicles Collection (February, 2016).
As a reminder, our discussion posts often reveal spoilers, so if you haven’t read Winter yet, better do that before reading this post. If you have read the book, let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Alyssa: The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series. I generally enjoy fairy tale retellings, and I can’t praise enough Meyer’s highly original, inventive, and compelling science fiction re-imaginings of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. I especially love how each subsequent book expands and evolves into a more elaborate ensemble narrative. Every book introduces new characters and their complicated romances (Scarlet and Wolf, Cress and Thorne, Winter and Jacin), which are loosely based on the four fairy tales, and still focuses primarily on this series’ major conflict involving Cinder, Levana, and Kai.
Nicola: Like you, I love the blend of fairy tales and science fiction, along with fairy myth. The Lunar glamours have their roots in the glamours of fairies, but where fairies are inhuman beings Lunars are human, albeit with somewhat divergent evolution from Earth humans. This makes their use of glamour all the more chilling, because instead of being a borderline sociopathic race of immortals who treat humans as playthings, Lunars are good and evil, selfish and generous, kind and cruel, just like their Earth counterparts. What is a disturbing power in a villainous race is even more so in a human society, and I really enjoyed the way that Winter explored the societal ramifications of being able to change one’s appearance at will.
Alyssa: I love that about this series, too. It’s wonderful that Lunars are evolved humans, rather than superhumans, with powers that are very desirable and also incredibly frightening. I’d love to be able to change my appearance at will and manipulate other people’s thoughts and feelings in my favor! But, of course, such a gift would quickly become a curse, and who’s to say I wouldn’t become evil with such powers, like Levana? Especially if not using my powers makes me mad, like what happens to Winter. And if Cinder didn’t have Levana as an antagonist, who’s to say she wouldn’t be more like her mother or aunt?
It would be very difficult to act humanely and set limits based on a moral compass with that kind of power. I think most of us Earthens would resort to some kind of villainy, even if unintentional, if we had Lunar abilities. That’s what makes Levana’s story in Fairest and her ties with Cinder so interesting. Levana is evil and despicable, of course, but I think some of her evilness is understandable too, especially considering how her sister–Cinder’s mother–treated her. I really appreciate that Meyer’s wrote Levana’s story before Winter. Levana is not merely a one-dimensional evil character and I gained a better understanding of her hatred of Cinder and complex connection to Winter.
Allison: One of the things I like best about Winter is that we finally get to see the corrupting influence of the Lunar gift on Cinder. She’s consistently reminded of the fact that using her gift often means deceiving and controlling others, as a person with inherent power to begin with, because of her royal status. I thought it was one of the most compelling aspects of the novel. Though Cinder insists over and over that she isn’t like Levana (to herself and others), I felt that by the end, she realized that being queen and having the Lunar gift might ruin her.
Alyssa: Yes, that was such an important realization and conclusion to the series! Cinder could have easily used her power to take revenge against those who had wronged and demeaned her. She was certainly tempted, since, like Levana before she became powerful, Cinder’s been treated horribly by human and Lunar societies. It’s really important that she has Levana as an extreme antagonist, whose powers ruin her, to keep Cinder from being destroyed by her powers too.
What surprised me the most about this series is that its main storyline–Cinder’s battle with Levana over the Lunar throne (and Kai)–turned out to be less central to me than the other characters and their romances. Before I’d read the sequels, I assumed Cinder would be my favorite character and that her star-crossed romance with Kai would be the focal point of this series and my favorite love story. Yet, even though Cinder is still the main character and her romance with Kai stays significant throughout the series, I found myself caring more about the other POV characters and their difficult relationships. Don’t get me wrong. Cinder and Kai have a swoon-worthy romance and I badly wanted them to be together the whole time, but I LOVE even more Scarlet and Wolf. Cress and Thorne too. Less so, Winter and Jacin. I love Iko, too, and her deep friendship with Cinder. I don’t love specific characters as much as I love how these couples complement one another.
Allison: Scarlet and Wolf are probably my favorite couple, because they’re so visceral. In Winter, Scarlet accepts her role as Wolf’s mate and it brings out a kind of unconditional love that I found super interesting. They weren’t a cut and dry couple the way I feel like Cinder and Kai were, though honestly, I kind of like that Cinder and Kai are a given. They don’t have much drama (other than, you know, the interstellar conflict between their worlds). What I mean is, they like each other from the beginning and that deepens without complication, whereas Scarlet and Wolf are both such difficult people. I love the fact that they don’t turn away from one another when the other gets “ugly.”
Nicola: I think Cress and Thorne might be my favourite couple in this series, though when they were first introduced I thought they’d be my least, as it seemed very much like a naïve girl’s crush on a boy who would only cause her harm. However, in Winter they become a perfect example of one of my favourite things about romantic relationships in fiction: they challenge each other to confront their shortcomings and become better people. Thorne uses humour and joviality to cover up for self-hatred, considering himself rather heartless, but Cress shows him that he has a kind, gentle side. Likewise, Cress has spent her entire life abused and belittled and feels worthless, but Thorne helps her out of her shell, improving her confidence. Even if they broke up the day after the last page, they would still ultimately be happier individuals because of their relationship than if they had never met, and that is a romance I love.
Alyssa: Cress and Thorne might be my favorite couple, too, for the reasons Nicola mentioned. Scarlet and Wolf is about tied, considering their Beauty and the Beast-like romance with a twist, and like Allison says, they love each other when things get “ugly.” Certainly their mated for life bond is very romantic, but I also love that Cress and Thorne have a more complex, life-altering, more conditional relationship and, as Nicola mentioned, they probably benefited the most as individuals from their relationship. Overall, I loved seeing how all the characters and their relationships evolved from book to book. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to know Winter and Jacin over a series of books, so I wasn’t as emotionally invested in their relationship.
Nicola: Yeah, I’m not as wild about Winter/Jacin as the other three. I think it’s because they only get one book as part of an ensemble cast; while I think the two make a good couple and clearly care for each other, I didn’t feel as invested in their relationship because I just didn’t have as much chance to.
Allison: I agree. There’s so much about Winter to like and I feel glad to know what happened to all the characters, but for me, Winter was probably the most intriguing protagonist of all and we don’t get to know her very well.
Alyssa: Yes, that’s why I have mixed feelings about Winter, even though I really liked it. In most ways it’s a satisfying ending to the series, but I also think it tries to accomplish too much in one book. Maybe it should have been two books? One that focuses on Winter as the main character, and a final volume that focuses primarily on Cinder’s fight for the Lunar throne and wraps up all of the secondary storylines. I wish Winter and Jacin were more fully developed in the series.
Nicola: Yeah, that’s kind of my gut feeling. I mean, I hugely enjoyed the book, and I didn’t feel like it was too long, but I did feel like Winter and Jacin got the short end of the stick as far as character and arc development goes, which is a shame as I feel like there’s so much more depth to Winter than we see.
Allison: I also have mixed feelings about Winter. As an individual book and the last book in the series, I thought it was great. It’s the fact that each female protagonist was so fully developed in the earlier books that made me feel like Winter didn’t give Winter (or Winter and Jacin) a full story. I would like to have known a lot more about these characters.
Alyssa: Hopefully we’ll see more of Winter and Jacin, as well as the other couples, in Stars Above. I’m exciting there will be a wedding! Of course, I’d love to see Cinder and Kai married, but I really hope Scarlet and Wolf get married too. How about you?
Nicola: My first thought was, ‘But they’re all so young!’ I’d be interested to see a wedding taking place several years down the line, giving us a glimpse into what everyone’s been up to in the years following Winter.
Alyssa: True. Sometimes I forget how young they really are! Yes, I hope the weddings take place a few, if not several, years later. 🙂
Allison: I would love it if the wedding in Stars Above was a flash forward, rather than an epilogue that takes place too soon after Winter ends. It would be great to know where they all end up. The description definitely makes it seem like Cinder and Kai are getting married, but that’s such a complicated situation, what with her needing to abdicate her throne and all (or him, who knows?). I think a wedding between Wolf and Scarlet seems better suited to a short story– but I’ll be happy with anything! I know all three of us are excited to read Stars Above and anything else Marissa Meyer writes next!
Thanks for joining us for today’s Coven Chat and let us know what you thought of the series in the comments! Tomorrow Nicola, Alyssa and I are wrapping up our 2015 favorites.
Allison, Alyssa and Nicola are about to take a hiatus from CBC to focus on our TBR piles (that are out of control), but we look forward to bringing you new recs in 2016!