Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Fence-sitting ahoy!

One thing I forgot to mention in my "Scalet" review, and which I really should have said straight off the bat - Marissa Meyer sure knows how to spin an interesting story. Where some series may have a pacing issue or ten (especially if they're like the Lunar Chronicles, where every new installment just keeps adding new characters) the action here just keeps coming on fast and strong, and even when there's a lull, I'm sitting on the edge of my seat because new developments are coming from every direction.

Few books can keep me up until late at night, and these ones definitely did.

Like "Cinder" and "Scarlet", "Cress" is a sci-fi retelling of a classical fairy tale. Like "Cinder" and "Scarlet", it subverts some of the original's themes, though to a lesser extent. I won't get into too much details about the plot - because, seriously, spoilers! - but I do want to talk a little bit about characterization and how the romance is portrayed here because... well, it's probably one of the most honest ones I've seen in a novel recently.

So, let's get this thing out of the way: if you, as the Queen, place all of your security and spyware management in the hands of one teen genius, and then you let her handler abuse her into submission, you deserve to get your arse bitten. Seriously. Information is already the fourth industry, and it's even more important in the future. Cress, despite her limitations, has enough power at her fingertips to cause some serious damage, and she does.

However, after seven years on satellite, she also has a few problems, most notably her lack of social experience which has led her to being very, very immature about certain things, romance in particular. She starts off the novel already knowing everything there is to know about the previous characters, and she has been idealizing Thorne, the sly, jokey captain from "Scarlet." Naturally, when she meets the actual Thorne and the two get stranded in the Sahara desert, she quickly discovers that there's more to a person than there exists online.

(Side note: In fact, one should be especially leery of information there is online about someone, particularly the stuff they put out themselves. This student from the Netherlands did her whole final year project on it, and if you have the time, absolutely read the article, it's an eye-opener.) 

Now, this isn't anything new, per se. Lots of books have the characters start off thinking of each other in one way and then changing their minds as the story goes along. (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?) That said, most of these stories focus on what it's like when an initial bad impression is slowly improved upon. Less often, we see the opposite - when someone realizes the idealized version of someone else isn't anything like the real thing.

And I think we need more stories like that. Having been like Cress - building up a certain image of the world and of people in my head, and then having myself proven wrong - I can tell you, it's unpleasant, but it's a part of growing up.

So, with such high praise about the believeability of the romance, why am I still sitting on the fence. Weeeeeeeeeell...

Thing is, while some aspects of the story are incredibly mature and realistic (Scarlet and Wolf have each some very good scenes that further drive that point) others are still quite twee, with Cress and Thorne ending up in genuinely scary and strange situations and somehow getting by with... luck, I guess? It's not a bad thing, per se, but it was jarring, like someone suddenly decided that enough's enough, time to make this teen-friendly again. (Whatever that means.)

That said, this book succeeded in making me want to rip my hair out from the suspense (again,) and I'm not left to gnash my teeth waiting for "Winter" for over 12 more months. (And no, I don't think "Fairest" is going to alleviate any of this, despite the fact that I'm looking forward to finally getting to know the villain of this series.) 

Note: Image via BookLikes.

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