Read: August 2023
The final book in the series is a 830 page beast. It honestly didn’t need to be so long, after a while it starts to feel like the plot is a revolving door of characters being captured by Levana. Everyone gets a turn!
We are finally introduced to Princess Winter (Snow White), who we had heard a little about in Cress from Jacin (the huntsman), and when she rescued Scarlet from execution at the end of that novel. She’s the step-daughter of Levana, loved by the people (because she’s so naturally beautiful) but with some serious mental health issues because she refuses to use her Lunar gift. I found this element a bit uncomfortable, along with Jacin being older, I can’t put my finger on exactly why. Her general dreamy vibe and flights of fancy I found quite annoying too.
Thankfully – for me – her role is small but that is an odd choice when she’s the titular character! In fact I would go as far as to say she really just functions as a plot device, just there to further the narrative, rather than being a rounded out character in the way that our other crew members are. I think the fact that we don’t really spent time with her and Jacin together is why I couldn’t get invested in them as a couple, we’re just told that they have this history from childhood but don’t get experience that growth. With romance I need to feel it, I don’t want to be just told about it.
I never really understood the relationship between Levana, Winter and her father. How and why Levena married a guard (that detail seemed really out of left field), his death and Winters existence was very murky. I think this is on purpose to make you read the bridging novella Fairest! I have no interest in that one, especially having last year read Meyer’s other attempt at giving an Evil Queen (from Alice in Wonderland) a back story in Heartless which was…. not good (a DNF for me!).
Winter also is a lot more plot/action heavy than the previous books, and I did miss getting to spend time with the characters. We now have 9 main POV characters (Cinder, Iko, Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, Thorne, Cress, Jacin and Winter) and meant – despite 830 pages – some of them did fall by the wayside (especially Wolf and Scarlet, who I had found to be the more interested of the lot!). It also felt a little much on the romance side that by the end we have 4 perfectly neat pairings, and an implied love interest for Iko introduced too.. I know it’s a fairy tale, but come on now! At some point it starts to feel a bit creepy.
I also wasn’t too sure on the messaging around Levana towards the end. It was implied that she was somehow worse for not only being evil but evil and hideously ugly (from horrific burns). I don’t see how her looks should have come into it, this message is not only deeply shitty but goes against the themes of just being yourself and owning your flaws found elsewhere in the series! The fact that it felt like that judgement was coming from Cinder, of all people, just did not sit right.
That said though I did enjoy it a lot, and overall it was a satisfying conclusion to the series and the characters I’ve come to love! But, the points above mean I have to take a star off my rating for this one – loved it but it needed a tighter edit.
There are not many YA series I ever managed to finish, never mind finish and love, and reread and still love 8 years later!