Welcome back, everyone! This week I’m finishing off my series review of the Lunar Chronicles with Winter, the fourth book in the tetralogy. While I have read the accompanying novellas – ‘Fairest’ the story that explains Levana’s past and the reasons for her actions, and ‘Stars Above’, a collection of relevant short-stories, I feel they do not merit a full review. Though I read these books in January this year, this series has pulled me out of reading slump and prompted me towards new reading material that I’m excited to share with you!
As mentioned in my previous reviews, the Lunar Chronicles tetralogy is a futuristic and sci-fi/ fantasy retelling of four fairy-tales intertwined – starting with Cinderella (Cinder), Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlet), Rapunzel (Cress), and finally, Snow White (Winter).
In the fourth and final book of her series, Meyer almost completely deviates from the general plot of Snow White, and really ties in the other three stories in a fast-paced, refreshing way. In other words, there are no seven singing, dancing dwarves.
Perhaps Disney has altered my perception of fairy-tales altogether.
The retelling is true to the original mainly through its titular character, Winter as Snow White, and Queen Levana as a version of the Evil Queen. Levana is indeed Winter’s technical stepmother, and a few other characters such as the parallels between Jacin Clay, a royal guard introduced in ‘Cress’ versus thaumaturge Aimery Park as the Huntsman – Jacin wants to protect Winter, Aimery wants to pursue her.
This is one of the longest young-adult books I have ever read at around a staggering eight-hundred pages. This review will contain spoilers for ‘Winter’, as well as the previous three books, so if you would like to read the books and haven’t yet, go do it now! Now, onto the synopsis: “Princess Winter is admired for her grace, kindness and beauty, despite the scars on her face. She’s said to be even more breath-taking than her stepmother, Queen Levana…
When Winter develops feelings for the handsome palace guard, Jacin, she fears the evil Queen will crush their romance before it has a chance to begin.
But there are stirrings against the Queen across the land. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even find the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.”
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter claim their happily-ever-afters by defeating Levana once and for all?”
I quite enjoy the fact that despite being a retelling of Snow White, Winter is a person of colour, instead of a ‘pale and perfect princess’ as often Snow White is described to us. Personally, I think that Winter, Kai, Cinder and Wolf are all excellent examples of white authors writing people of colour or ethnically ambiguous characters into their stories, weaving them into fantasy – or in this case, futuristic – worlds without erasure or relying on stereotypes.
My only point of contention in this book is that both Winter and Jacin aren’t very central characters in the book that is supposed to be about them. They are somewhat overshadowed by the overarching conflict and tension as we draw to a close. However, this is understandable given the variety of broad topics that Meyers covers. Let’s discuss them:
We start with classism, between the citizens of the Earthen Union and Luna, as well as between the Lunar nobles and the ‘shells’, who are disregarded and cast aside by the general Lunar population. Next we see plague, in the form of the letumosis pandemic, something I suppose we can all now relate to. The pandemic truly spurred the plot of ‘Cinder’ into action with Peony’s tragic death, and ultimately, it closes the story as the Rampion crew – in addition to some stray royals and their associates – secure the cure and distribute it. We go through the question of ethics as well, particularly in the field of research, with the experiments conducted on Wolf and others like him Dr. Erland’s shell-testing research as Dr. Darnel on Luna, and the cyborg draft to find a cure for letumosis.
Overall, each book has been a spectacular retelling, with the formerly-distressed damsels taking their lives and all they entail into their own hands, a flip-the-switch situation with the men in the story taking on a passive, if not merely assisting role. I’ve only seen this – although much appreciated and revered, but unfortunately uncommon dynamic – in an Italian children’s cartoon, ‘Winx Club’. The show features a set of fearless and fabulous fairies – the Winx – who save their magical dimension from a multitude of threats each season, with their male counterparts, the Specialists taking on a smaller role, often becoming the damsels themselves.
I feel that since the time of Meyer’s work, the young-adult market has seen a huge, huge upswing of strong protagonists – but where many female protagonists fall flat and one-dimensional, each of Meyer’s characters has a distinctively unique feel, with Cinder’s growing confidence in her capabilities, Scarlet’s spunk, Cress’ precision and skill, and Winter’s kind, caring nature.
I would definitely recommend this series to kids and teenagers, and even others who have fallen into a reading slump and need something to help pull them out of it. I’m a little sad to have finished it so quickly. Kudos to Marissa Meyer for her extraordinarily organized and intricate plot! That’s it for this time!
Photo: Nikita Lakkaraju
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