Winter by Marissa Meyer

Rating: 5 Stars

Age Recommendation: Upper Young Adult + (Perhaps around 16 and up)

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Warnings: Character Death, Violence, Potential Triggers (mental illness)

Genre(s): Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling, Science Fiction

“We can’t go back,” said Wolf. “It’s suicide.”

To punctuate his words, a volley of bullets struck the doors, their loud clangs echoing down the corridor they were now trapped in.

“We’re not leaving her.”

“Thorne-” started Cinder.

“No!” Wriggling one arm free, Thorne swung, but Wolf ducked. In half a heartbeat, Wolf had spun around and pinned Thorne to the wall, one enormous hand at Thorne’s throat.

“She gave us this chance,” Wolf said. “Don’t waste it.”

Winter, by Marissa Meyer, is the final installment in The Lunar Chronicles (aside from the novella that Meyer released, though it does not fall within the same timeline as the other four books). Although the reader is granted a closer look at Princess Winter and the struggles she faces, we also see Cinder, Cress, Thorn, Scarlet, Kai, Iko and everyone else we have grown to love throughout the series. Their plan to take out the evil queen (pun intended) is a daunting one, and they quickly realize that they are going to need a lot of help if they want their attempt to succeed.

I want to take a minute to address the warnings I listed above before I get into the finer details of the story and writing style. This book is a great deal more violent than any of the others, as it is the actual climax of the story, and because Princess Winter has a mental illness brought on by things that are explained within the novel.

The story doesn’t glorify violence, or make out her condition to be something inherently negative, and for those reasons, I deeply appreciate this book and the way in which Meyer wrote it. But I will say that it is certainly possible that younger readers would be frightened by some of the events, this time. It might be best to read these more slowly if your reader is of the early young adult age, perhaps by gifting them one a year or every few months or so.

As for the rest of the novel, allow me to pick out a few points that I noticed along the way. First, characters within the main cast are flawed wonderfully, but Meyer clearly makes an effort to distinguish between the sorts of flaws that heroes can have. By that, I mean that characters learn to be heroes throughout, growing as people and acquiring qualities that allow them to succeed. Those who do not change, or who develop traits that directly, negatively affect others are going to find that their ways are not going to be rewarded.

Second, several types of romance have been portrayed throughout this series, and all of that becomes quite clear when looking at the final installment. Nowhere will you find an abusive relationship in this story or one that you would not want your child glorifying in their mind. Safety, confidence, equality and acceptance are some of the key themes in the relationships, and I find that incredibly appealing. I have no doubt that a young adult audience would as well, and they are definitely the sorts of examples I would want to offer my son or daughter in the future.

Another thing I recognized throughout the text was how much more realistic it is than other revolution-themed series. Some young adult series make it far too simple or give the impression that pretty much anything a hero does will succeed. In Winter, that is not the case, and it’s spectacular. The book is quite long – particularly in the paperback version I own – but it needs to be that way because the heroes come across a multitude of challenges and setbacks. Yet they stand firm in what they want to do, which is another quality that I appreciate about the cast of characters Meyer presents the reader with.

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The Lunar Chronicles are, far and away, my favorite series of all time. Genre aside, the themes explored are relevant to everyone – particularly with the frightening and dangerous times that we are now experiencing all over the world. I cannot explain how well I loved this series, except like this:

If it weren’t for the essays I have due in a couple weeks, I would pick up Cinder and read the whole series all over again.

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