Winter by Marissa Meyer (review copy) - WARNING! I cannot review this book without spoiling the others in the series. Read no further if you're planning on reading this series and don't want it spoilt for you.
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? From Goodreads.
What can I say? Winter by Marissa Meyer brought The Lunar Chronicles to a conclusion. A series and characters I have grown to love over the last few months. I put off reading Winter for as long as I could, not wanting to say goodbye, yet picked it up after not long at all, desperate to know how the story would end. And Winter was absolutely incredible.
After stalling the wedding between Emperor Kai and Queen Levana by kidnapping Kai, Cinder and her friends start finalising their plans. Kai is now on board, and will do all he can to help. He must go back and persuade Levana that the wedding should take place on Luna. When the Earthens travel to Luna, Cinder, Cress, Thorne, Wolf and Iko will be smuggled in. Cinder will then announce her true identity to the citizens of Luna and start a revolution to get Levana off the throne. Meanwhile, Levana has started to become jealous of the love and adoration her step-daughter Winter inspires in the people of Luna. Not being of royal blood, there's no way that Winter can ever become Queen, but Levana is anxious enough as it is with Cinder still out there somewhere. Levana will not leave any threat to her throne, and Winter must escape if she wants to keep on living. Being reunited with her long lost cousin and joining their revolution to overthrow Levana is the only way she can remain safe. But having refused to use her Lunar gift for years, her mind is fraying. She is constantly bombarded with hallucinations and sometimes barely holds it together. Will Winter really be able to help when she can't trust her own mind?
Oh, how I loved this book! I've been saying it in each of my reviews of this series as they've gone on, but Winter was so epic! Although there are the sci-fi roots with cyborgs, androids and space travel, Winter felt a lot more like a high fantasy meets dystopia, and I absolutely loved it! The revolution, the plans and strategy, the various people coming together to fight against an evil entity felt so familiar, it was like coming home, but to a more contemporary/futuristic high fantasy, but high fantasy nonetheless. There were twists and turns the whole way through. Things didn't always go to plan, the group was separated, and no-one knew what was happening to them, if they were still alive. Plans had to be adapted when pivotal people went missing, and you were constantly left dying to know more, desperate to know how things would play out, how these amazing characters were going to get out of that. It was just bloody brilliant! So epic and fast paced, and things really get moving very early on, and it's almost non-stop from the get-go. Winter is a book where you're constantly on the edge of your seat, and it was just incredible!
Of course, I need to talk about the title character. Being the final book in the series, in comparison to the other books, we're with the other characters more than we are with Winter - or rather, it's pretty equal. Everyone gets their own third person narrations at different parts of the story. But at the same time, Winter had to deal with the revolution but also Winter's story, that of Snow White. I have to say I was really impressed with Winter in this regard; it can't have been easy to finish off this series, tie up loose ends and bring the story to a fantastic conclusion, but also introduce a new character and tell her story too. The fairy tale elements of Snow White were there, given a twist and updated like we're used to, but with this story, they were wonderfully interwoven with the larger plot. I think it would have been very easy for it to feel like to separate stories - the story of the revolution and the story of Winter - but Meyer shows just what an expert storyteller she is in creating one whole story; the revolution wouldn't have been what it was without Winter, and Winter's story wouldn't have played out the way it did if the revolution wasn't happening. They were integral to each other, rather than separates. And it was just wonderful!
I found Winter to be a fantastic character. She is so kind and selfless, to the point that she is putting her life at risk. She swore long ago never to lie or manipulate others with her gift, and the effects of not using it have led to her suffering from what is called the Lunar sickness. She's become mentally ill, and her hallucinations seem so very real, and they absolutely terrify her. Can you imagine? These visions are horrific - the walls bleed, or a harness starts to suffocate you, or your body slowly starts turning to ice - and you know it's not real, it's not really happening, but that doesn't stop you from panicking. And there's a way you could make this all stop, but making it stop would mean going against your morals, so you continue to suffer, and get worse. And it's not just the hallucinations, the Lunar sickness effects how she thinks, too. So she makes decisions that aren't necessarily wise, and puts herself in dangerous situations simply because she doesn't think rationally, at least not all the time. I'd like to say Winter isn't romanticising mental illness in the slightest, it doesn't give the idea of Winter heroically suffering for the sake of others, that's not what it's about. There's nothing heroic or beautiful about what Winter is going through. It's traumatic. And I think the subject of mental illness is dealt with so brilliantly in this novel. It's fantastic.
I absolutely loved the climax of the story. It was unbelievable! It's full of jaw-dropping "OH MY GOD!" moments, and you have no idea who's going to get out of it alive. Seriously, the stakes are so high, lives are at considerable risk. It's terrifying. The ending of the book, and the series, was just fantastic and so satisfying - though there were moments I wish we'd got to see or got to see more of. I felt those moments were pretty important, and we should have got to see them. But overall, Winter is an amazing story and an epic conclusion, and has firmly put Meyer up there with my favourites. I'm so happy there's still Stars Above, the short story collection, so I don't have to say a complete goodbye to these characters just yet. I will read anything Meyer writes in the future with complete relish. Meyer is definitely an auto-buy author.
Thank you to Puffin for the review copy.
Published: 12th November 2015
Marissa Meyer's Website
My other reviews from the series:
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Book 1)
Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles Book 2)
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles Book 3)
Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles Book 3.5)