Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

CressCress
by Marissa Meyer
Series:
The Lunar Chronicles #3
Publication date: 04 February 2014
Feiwel & Friends, Hardcover, 550 pages
Source: Library

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WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR CINDER AND SCARLET.

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Rating: ★★★★★

As The Lunar Chronicles continues, the books get progressively fatter and crazier. Crazier being a good thing, of course. My love for Cress really can’t be encompassed in a review. Picking up immediately where Scarlet left off, there wasn’t a single dull moment in Cress and it definitely shines in every aspect. No, I’m not exaggerating at all.

Because Cress is the retelling of Rapunzel, I sort of expected it to be all fun and fluffy, pretty much like the movie, Tangled. Well, there were plenty of cute moments between Cress and Thorne but this novel was about so much more than just the relationship between them two. Honestly, that shocked me a little because back in Scarlet, Wolf and Scarlet did have this epically romantic adventure… But in Cress, you’ll find action, humor, family values, friendships, violence, galactic politics (that sounded so good to my sci-fi loving brain) and in the midst of all that, romance! Despite addressing a bunch of issues, every detail in the story was still impeccably put across and the whole book in general was a bundle of feels.

Cress was also full of surprises; I was completely unprepared for how gory the events in the book got at some points and also how much more we got to know the characters. As we all know, there are a lot of characters in The Lunar Chronicles. Before starting the book, I was a teensy bit worried due to the great number of POVs that would be involved, the story-telling might get slightly messy. However, that was pointless fretting because each individual had such a clear voice and Meyer did a fantastic job in getting readers to sympathize with each of their different perspectives, both the villains and heroes/heroines.

One of my favorite aspect in Cress was Meyer’s incredible ability to juggle four amazing relationships – Cinder and Kai, Scarlet and Wolf, Cress and Thorne, Winter and the guy I shall not name because not every knows who he is yet (unless you stalk Marissa Meyer’s book news like I do or have already read Cress). While some authors struggle to handle just one fictional relationship, Meyer pulls off four without hindering the main plot at all. In fact, the romance complements the story!

There had been plenty of ways for the whatever-it-is thing going on between Cinder and Kai to go wrong, especially since they’ve only known each other for such a short amount of time. Scarlet and Wolf’s relationship could also have easily become lackluster as compared to how hot it burned in Scarlet. Of course, these two ‘older’ romances continued to play out perfectly and the new romance between Cress and Thorne had been flawlessly weaved into the story too. Excuse me while I go swoon and fan myself in a corner for a moment; I ship everyone in The Lunar Chronicles so, so much.

Now that I’m done obsessing over the romance, lets move on to the plot. I’m not sure what to say about the plot because the only thing I can even think of to describe it is “so darn amazing my brain is still processing the awesomeness I’ve just witnessed“. I loved every single thing that happened (or loved hurting over the painful bits) and a word of caution to those who intend to read Cress soon: be prepared to start severely pining for Winter after finishing Cress.

All in all, Cress is one heck of a novel and fans of The Lunar Chronicles will definitely not be disappointed with it. I’m still pretty hungover and after the monumental way Meyer ended off this third installment, I really cannot wait to get my hands on the final novel, Winter. I know I would probably die from the feels it would bring but well, I’ve died multiple times in the hands of talented authors and I can’t say those deaths were ones I did not want.

Adelena

Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Across a Star-swept Sea

Across a Star-Swept Sea
by Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #2
Published: 15 October 2013
Balzer + Bray, Hardcover, 449 pages
Source: Library

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WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1.

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.

Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.

Rating: ★★★★

Let me just begin by saying that I probably would’ve given Across a Star-Swept Sea 5 stars had I not been a little distracted while reading it. I really did want to love it as I did For Darkness Shows the Stars, its predecessor, and well, I did love it but my mind was just… elsewhere at some points of the story. So that one missing star caused by my absentmindedness really shouldn’t hinder your impression of this amazing book.

That said, Across the Star-Swept Sea completely impressed me with its glamorous world-building, beautiful characters and action-packed story. The world-building in this novel was insanely better developed than that of For Darkness Shows the Stars despite being set in the same world. New Pacifica, unlike where Elliot had come from, is exactly how many would imagine a futuristic society – technologically and culturally advanced. The people of New Pacifica had also found a cure for Reduction and they mostly seem a lot more modern than the society Elliot grew up in; an absolutely different yet pleasant change of scenery.

The setting was not the only huge difference between Across a Star-Swept Sea and its prior novel. If you had been expecting characters similar to Elliot and Kai, you’ll be in for a surprise because Persis and Justen are as different from the previous protagonists as they can get. That, however, is not a bad thing and I do love all four of the above mentioned characters. Persis was an extrovert where Elliot had been an introvert. Comparing them two would be like comparing the sun and the moon – similar in certain ways yet ultimately, they are opposites.

I have to say Persis Blake was an incredibly lovable character and seeing her acting as Persis Flake (her bimbotic disguise) and the Wild Poppy (her secret spy identity) was wholly intriguing. I loved that the real Persis was a mix between her two alter egos – fun and girly yet intelligent and proactive – because personally, I’m getting a little tired of protagonists who can only either be 100% girly or completely tough.

Persis was not the only interesting character in the book, of course. One that’s really worth mentioning is Vania Aldred. She’s the revolution leader’s daughter, Justen’s cousin and a military captain hence, she’s definitely pretty badass. I felt she was a really complex character what with who had raised her and everything occurring in her life at the time the story was set in. However, I’ve got conflicting feelings about the role Diana Peterfreund decided to give Vania towards the end because she was a character who had so much more potential to be better developed and portrayed.

My favorite aspects of Across a Star-Swept Sea was the technology in it and the romance. All the new inventions and gengineering (genetic engineering) wonders shown in this novel were absolutely stunning! Flutternotes, palmports and hybrid-species pets are just a few of the ubiquitous futuristic innovations in the story. It really made me wish we had their technology in real life! As for the romance, it was actually really subtle and down-played – which I utterly adored. Nothing was too serious and the pace at which Persis and Justen’s relationship progressed was slow yet entirely appropriate and fitting.

In Across a Star-Swept Sea, some characters we know from For Darkness Shows the Stars would also make appearances (specifically Elliot, Kai, Andromeda & Ro). Although it’s already great to see those beloved characters, Diana Peterfreund went the extra mile to include them in the main plot. Hence, it doesn’t seem at all like she gave those characters cameos just for the sake of giving them cameos as they had definitely contributed to the story.

Filled with just the right amount of adventure, spy-action, futuristic glamor and romance, I definitely think Across the Star-Swept Sea is set apart from your run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic novel. It gives a brighter look on how humans could move on after a catastrophic disaster and is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air among the depressing and devastating futures numerous post-apocalyptic stories are inclined to portray. I’m unsure whether Diana Peterfreund would be writing more books set in this world but I would certainly look forward to them if she does!

Adelena

Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Of Beast and BeautyOf Beast and Beauty
by Stacey Jay
Published: 23 July 2013
Delacorte Press, Hardcover, 391 pages
Source: Library

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In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Rating: ★★★½

Recently, I’ve made it pretty known that I’m a huge fan of classic and fairytale retellings. So imagine my excitement when I spotted Of Beast and Beauty at the library! I’ve got to admit the stunning cover was what first captured me because apparently, I’ve got a thing for roses and blood on book covers (like Renegade by J.A. Souders).

Moving on to the actual plot, I would say Stacey Jay successfully created a very fairytale-like feel. However, that also means the villains didn’t seem villainous enough and the buildup to the climax was slightly lacking. Despite that, I did love the romance between Isra and Gem. It’s simply wonderful how two people raised to hate each other’s kind can fall in love.

Or maybe star-crossed lovers are just too enchanting.

Isra was a very interesting protagonist. The fact that she was blind really set her apart as when the story was told from her perspective, it was quite fascinating for me to imagine things from a blind girl’s point of view (pun completely unintended). As for Gem, it was pretty adorable witnessing him trying to keep on hating Isra when he obviously was falling for her though I did feel his character needed to be better defined.

One other notable character was Bo. He actually disturbed me from the very beginning and was quite an unpredictable character. His unpredictability actually made the story more mysterious and intriguing, though. Because it makes you wonder whether he’s going to have a violent outburst or do something noble. I’m pretty sure Bo was meant to represent Gaston, one of the villains in the original story. Yet, Stacey Jay’s twist on Gaston’s character in Bo created a more human character whose motives were better understood and realistic.

Overall, Of Beast and Beauty was a magically enchanting adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Although not a stunning young adult novel, I would say it was an unique fairytale retelling that still kept the important areas of the original tale. If you’re looking for a more in depth sci-fi fairytale retelling, I would recommend the Lunar Chronicles by  Marissa Meyer instead, but if you want a simple science fiction and fantasy standalone, you should definitely pick this up.

Adelena