Review

Book Review: Cress

cress

cress2

Blurb

Cress grew up as a prisoner. With only netscreens for company, she’s forced to do the bidding of the evil Queen Levana. Now that means tracking down Cinder and her handsome accomplice Emperor Kai. But little does Queen Levana know that those she seeks, and the man she loves, are plotting her downfall… 

As paths cross and the price of freedom rises, happily ever after has never seemed further away for Cress, Scarlet and Cinder.

goodreads

At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 4.46 out of 5

Opening Lines

Her satellite made one full orbit around planet Earth every sixteen hours. It was a prison that came with an endlessly breathtaking view – vast blue oceans and swirling clouds and sunrises that set half the world on fire.

Review

Warning: This is such a long post. Like waaay long. As in, I need an editor long. Read at your peril or you know, get a biscuit and cosy on up.

Guess what? This is number three of the four part ‘The Lunar Chronicles’ series. In this story we meet Rapunzel aka Cress.

We have met Cress before, albeit briefly, in ‘Cinder’ as someone (with masses amounts of hair) who orbits Earth in an isolated satellite and who is desperate to deliver communications to Earth about the evil queen’s plan.

Before I go into the review of the book I want to bang on about talk about the fairy tale that ‘Cress’ is based on. The first two books of the series are based on very commonplace fairy tales; Cinderella and Red Riding Hood. I didn’t elaborate on the original version of Cinderella and although I alluded to the adult themes of Red Riding Hood it wasn’t something that I went into in any detail.

I won’t go into great detail regarding Rapunzel but I feel that the original version is not one of the ‘as well known as it could be’ tales. One popular retelling of Rapunzel exists in the form of Disney’s, ‘Tangled’ which is probably the most well-known.

I know this is a book blog and not a movie/ Disney blog but I happen to love Tangled. Controversially, I actually enjoy it more than I enjoy Frozen. I’m not too sure if that is actually controversial but I’m sure there are a million people who would be disagreeing with me right now.

The reason why I bring up Tangled is to highlight an obvious similarity between the movie and ‘Cress’ which I feel readers who have seen the movie will instantly recognise.I did mention this in my last post on ‘Scarlet’ but repetition is a good thing for memory retention so here it is again…

In Tangled we have Flynn Rider, a roguish, handsome thief who believes he can charm his way out of every situation and despite not being as heroic as the ‘Rapunzel’ of his story originally believes him to be, turns out to be genuinely good underneath it all.

In ‘Cress’ we have Thorne, a roguish, handsome thief who believes he can charm his way out of every situation and despite not being as heroic as the ‘Rapunzel’ of his story originally believes him to be, turns out to be genuinely good underneath it all.

‘Scarlet’ – which contains the first introduction of Thorne – was released in 2013 and Tangled was released in 2011. Although it would be easy to dismiss Thorne as Flynn Rider CTRL+C; CTRL+V (that’s er, copy and paste), Marissa Meyer actually acknowledged their similarities but stated she was two drafts into the novel which introduced Thorne when Tangled came out. If I’m being really honest here I happen to like both Flynn Rider and Thorne and so don’t particularly mind the resemblance.

I just want to get that off the bat straight away.

Now, two observations about The Lunar Chronicles as  we move through it: –

  1. The Goodreads rating average for the books increases as the series continues
  2. The page length for each book also increases with ‘Cress’ containing approx. 100 pages more than ‘Scarlet’

If the average rating is increasing does this mean that the Chronicles are getting better? I would say with this being the authors third book in the series and with some more writing experience behind her – yes. The writing is becoming more fluid and the characters and plot lines more complex and interesting.

Does this mean that we need those additional pages? Again, I would say – yes. The plot officially launched into hyper-speed now that (hidden for spoiler) Cinder has decided to reclaim her throne and lead a revolution. This means that those increasingly complex story lines need room to grow and there needs to be more scope to the story in order to navigate the growing cast of characters.

In ‘Cress,’ Thorne gets his own main plot and we are introduced to two more new characters – Cress, our new major player and heroine of er, ‘Cress,’ and Jacin (he gets to have a plot of his very own in the next book).

I have previously mentioned about new characters and new story lines making life more difficult for the writer. While it may be more complicated for the author to untangle (heheheh) the threads of their story it shouldn’t be more difficult for the reader to follow those threads (if it is, it’s gone wrong). But even in ‘Cress’ with its additional 100 pages something has to be sacrificed somewhere. ‘Cress’ gives us more Emperor Kai (which is welcome) and we get significantly more Thorne and Cress (obviously) but this comes at the expense of Scarlet and Wolf.

This is particularly disappointing considering as they were the main character additions just one book previously and they both had interesting backgrounds to dig up. As they are featured significantly less they begin to feel more like bit-part characters being shuffled around to make room for more and more new ones. Due to this their character development is almost non-existent and I was a bit like… ‘oh ok, where’d they go?’

How do Thorne and Cress manage to fare considering that existing characters were moved over to give them their time to shine? This is personal opinion of course (isn’t everything?) but….. I love them. I mean heart eyes love. Here, have an emoji.

heart eyes

Ugh, I feel so cheap.

Cress is a welcome addition in that she is a socially awkward and shy young woman who is both a heady romantic and excessive day dreamer (sometimes to her detriment). She’s cerebral and exceptionally talented at hacking and she just wants to see beautiful things on Earth and be kissed by the handsome Captain Thorne. She’s as cute as a button and I like her specifically because she’s as cute as a button. I like when YA introduce female leads that have strengths in areas other than physical action and personalities that are other than those seen as ‘feisty’ and ‘sassy’ (though I enjoy those too).

I have already mentioned the similarities between Flynn Rider and Thorne as that is the most obvious thing to mention, but honestly? Those don’t matter. Thorne is also a charming character but in a more overt, typically charismatic way. His character is arrogant, ridiculous and incredibly funny.

As a continuation of the ‘Lunar Chronicles’, the story is really coming into its own now and is opening up into more strategic and connected plot lines as opposed to being isolated retelling’s and the broadening of cast members. As an individual story ‘Cress’ does work, using the Rapunzel classic and twisting it so that it suits the overall plot but also making for an entertaining read (though I think this is in part due to following Thorne and Cress who work well as characters together).

I did mention in my review of ‘Scarlet’ that I could tell where Thorne’s story was heading and I knew he would be the main partner to Cress’ story based on my knowledge of ‘Rapunzel.’ For fun, because I’m sure you will agree this is exhilarating, I will bullet-point the main bits that I picked up. Spoilers are hidden as best as possible. Just highlight as and when required.

  • Thorne’s cargo spaceship is called ‘The Rampion’ with rampion being an edible species of flower also known as rapunzel.
  • In the original, after the evil witch discovers that Rapunzel is receiving a visitor (she does more than just receive him, know what I’m sayin’) she tricks the prince into climbing the tower where she throws him into the thorns and blinds him.
  • Thorne constantly jokes in ‘Scarlet’ about rescuing damsels in distress.
  • The few minutes we see Cress in ‘Cinder’ she is described as having a lot, like a lot, of hair.

Yeah, as soon as I saw ‘The Rampion’ and the name ‘Thorne’ I knew where his story was going because I am a genius nerd.

Again, for a dose of exhilarating fun what are the links between the original and this retelling?

  • Rapunzel is kept isolated in a tower while Cress is isolated in an Earth orbiting satellite.
  • The prince discovers Rapunzel by her singing voice; Thorne discovers that Cress has a lovely singing voice
  • The prince in the original is blinded after falling into thorns; Thorne is blinded after suffering  damage to his optic nerve when the satellite crashes
  • In the original, Rapunzel cries on the prince’s eyes and heals his blindness; Cress cries and then administers medical eye drops that are designed to repair Thorne’s optic nerves
  • After the prince is thrown from the tower, he wanders blind in the wastelands; after the satellite crashes Thorne wanders blind in the desert

I actually very much liked how the original Rapunzel telling was incorporated into Cress which is why I wanted to include it. I would say I enjoyed it even more than how the original versions of Cinderella and Red Riding Hood were incorporated into ‘Cinder’ and ‘Scarlet’ and that is pretty much due to the originality and blending of science fiction and fairy tale components.

As you can see (when you get there) that I have given ‘Cress’ three out of five stars hearts. But whilst all three stars are equal some three stars are more equal than others, (thanks George *winks* –  no not George R.R. Martin).

If I’m being objective, I would objectively say that the story telling, writing, characterisation and world-building remains consistent but if I’m being completely subjective than my personal liking of the series has increased with each new book. I liked ‘Scarlet’ more than I liked ‘Cinder’ and I liked ‘Cress’ more than I liked ‘Scarlet.’

This could be due to a variety of factors; it could be that I find the new characters more suited to my preference, that the plot is becoming more focused, that the new subplots add complexity or that the author is displaying more finesse with her writing style.

There aren’t too many Rapunzel retelling’s on the market, either for adults or young adults. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella tend to over-saturate and stories such as Red Riding Hood often appear as adult retelling’s in which to explore the adult subtexts (I personally enjoy this though).

Aside from Tangled this is the first, main, retelling of Rapunzel that I have discovered even though Goodreads lists around 86 books either solely focused on Rapunzel or which contain an element of the tale. Though ‘Cress’ is not the highest rated on that list it is, at time of writing this review, the most popular. I know popular doesn’t always mean good, but I am genuinely pleased to see this adaptation on there.

My Rating

3 Star

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Cress

  1. I completely agree with you on Cress. I think she’s such a great heroine because she’s not the typical “strong badass” but rather the emotionally strong one (as in, she’s open and kind), which I personally find more appealing in my heroines. And I find your take on Flynn vs. Thorne so interesting! I totally see the similarities there, and even in Cress vs. the movie version Rapunzel (they’re both cutie pies). Coincidence? Who knows, but like you say, I don’t mind too much. 🙂 Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! There are definite similarities but then I wonder if it’s just a natural progression really. Rapunzel as a character would logically (god I can’t believe I’m using ‘logically’) would be someone who is socially stunted and lacking in confidence yet has strong hopes and dreams about life (fantasist maybe but still…) and so as a counterpart it makes sense to have the opposite – a socially confident, exuberant and outgoing personality BUT because the heroine is gentle at the core the counterpart needs to have a heart of gold underneath it all. Opposite’s attract and all that 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a great review! Book reviews can be a little boring but you had my attention the whole time. I haven’t started Cinder yet but its on my TBR and I’m a huge Disney fan so I have a feeling I’m going to like this series. I like Tangled better than Frozen too 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it and didn’t think it was too long at a million plus pages! Cinder is very enjoyable so definitely give it a go! Ah yay! I do like Frozen but I really, truly adored Tangled and could watch it over and over again. I feel like it’s not seen as memorable since Frozen came out but I do love it!

      Like

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