Cress lives all alone on a satellite that orbits Earth. A worthless Shell from the Moon, she was condemned to death at birth and rescued by her Mistress. She watches the world below and dreams of a wide open sky, and a handsome prince who will come and rescue her. Cress knows better– Mistress will never let her go free. She was kept alive because she is the best hacker in the world, and this is useful to Mistress and to the wicked Queen Levana, who is finally beginning her invasion of Earth after years of plotting.
But things are changing on Earth and on the Moon–Linh Cinder, the cyborg who defied the Queen, has escaped prison and is on the run with a farm pilot, a renegade Moon soldier, and the handsome, dashing, brave, kind Captain Carswell Thorne. They’re looking for the long-lost Princess Selene, the rightful heir to the Lunar Kingdom, and the only person who can stop Queen Levana from marrying Emperor Kaito of the Eastern Commonwealth and becoming the Empress of Earth.
Cress contacts Cinder and her friends and offers her help, if they will rescue her from her prison. But Mistress interrupts and Cress and Thorne crash-land in the middle of the desert. Separated from their friends, they must escape the desert and stop the royal wedding that will spell tyranny for the Earth and death for Cinder’s beloved Kai. But they must also avoid the mad scientist who is hunting Lunars–a scientist who has been looking for his lost precious Crescent Moon for a very, very long time…
This series keeps getting better and better with every installment. Meyer has created a rich world, set in a dystopia framed like a utopia, with fairy tale elements woven in so gracefully that sometimes I’m in the middle of the scene before I remember the reference and make the connection to the original story. For example, Cress’ name is short for Crescent Moon–a logical enough name for someone born in the Lunar Kingdom, where Moon-related names seem to be common. But cress is also in some versions of the story the plant that Rapunzel’s mother craved during her pregnancy and that her father stole from the witch’s garden, which led to the witch demanding the babe as payment for the theft. Cress has long, tangled hair which whirls around the room, because she has been isolated for so long and no one else has been there to cut it for her. And it isn’t a lovely, shining, part of her beauty, it’s heavy and tangled and frizzy and literally a pain in her neck from the weight. Let’s face it, there’s a very good reason that hair past your waist is uncommon nowadays–it’s time-consuming and inconvenient and requires a great deal of attention to keep it tidy and controlled. In the fairy tale the prince is blinded by thorns when he falls from the tower–here Thorne is blinded when he gets hit on the head when the satellite crash-lands on Earth.
Cress is very different from Disney’s spunky Rapunzel–she has the same intelligence and wide range of interests to keep herself occupied, but she’s not quite sane due to her isolation. Not crazy, but her marbles are rolling around a little. Cinder and Scarlet both grew up surrounded by people, friends, family, neighbours, people they liked and people they hated–Cress has had no one for years except for Mistress, who doesn’t exactly like to stop by for tea and gossip. Cress also approaches romance differently than Cinder and Scarlet do–they both meet their princes (or wolves), like them, argue, fall in love, get separated, fight to be reunited…the usual. Cress falls for Thorne before she ever meets him based on how he looks and her in-depth background check that she thinks means she knows ‘the real Thorne’. Cress is a little bit of a creepy internet stalker. She learns that he’s no noble knight in shining armour, but he’s not a ruthless criminal either–he’s just a man. Maybe he’ll be a lover, but first he’ll be a friend.
We spend less time on society in this book, now that the world is more firmly established, and more time on the rebels’ adventures. There are still hints of what is to come–everything is connected, be it ever so long ago and far away. Each of the girls–Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and the forthcoming Winter–are linked by their families, people who set events into motion many years ago that the girls are going to have to work together to set right. And only by working together can they find the truth and destroy Levana’s power.
I’m still loving this series, and I’m looking forward to the fourth and final book, Winter, due out in 2015. (I have to wait a year?!? Aww, man!) Meyer has created a fascinating world populated by very active princesses, and even the damsel in distress still tries to fight back however she can. These princesses will live happily ever after with their chosen princes because they will fight damn hard to make sure that evil is defeated and they get their happy endings. These princesses will change the world.
Still suitable for anyone who likes a butt-kicking princess, whether the butts she kicks are mechanical, electronic, or physical.
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.
When she was first imprisoned, she had loved nothing more than to stack her pillows on top of the desk that was built into the walls and drape her bed linens over the screens, making a small alcove for herself. She would pretend that she was not on a satellite at all, but in a podship en route to the blue planet. Soon she would land and step out onto real dirt, feel real sunshine, smell real oxygen.
She would stare at the continents for hours and hours, imagining what that must be like.
Her view of Luna, however, was always to be avoided. Some days her satellite passed so close that the moon took up the entire view and she could make out the enormous glinting domes on its surface and the sparkling cities where the Lunars lived. Where she, too, had lived. Years ago. Before she’d been banished.
As a child, Cress had hidden from the moon during those achingly long hours. Sometimes she would escape to the small washroom and distract herself by twisting elaborate braids into her hair. Or she would scramble beneath her desk and sing lullabies until she fell asleep. Or she would dream up a mother and a father, and imagine how they would play make-believe with her and read her adventure stories and brush her hair lovingly off her brow, until finally—finally—the moon would sink again behind the protective Earth, and she was safe.
Even now, Cress used those hours to crawl beneath her bed and nap or read or write songs in her head or work out complicated coding. She still did not like to look at the cities of Luna; she harbored a secret paranoia that if she could see the Lunars, surely they could look up beyond their artificial skies and see her.
For more than seven years, this had been her nightmare.
But now the silver horizon of Luna was creeping into the corner of her window, and Cress paid no attention. This time, her wall of invisi-screens was showing her a brand-new nightmare. Brutal words were splattered across the newsfeeds, photos and videos blurring in her vision as she scrolled from one feed to the next. She couldn’t read fast enough.
14 CITIES ATTACKED WORLDWIDE
2-HOUR MURDER SPREE RESULTS IN 16,000 EARTHEN DEATHS
LARGEST MASSACRE IN THIRD ERA
The net was littered with horrors. Victims dead in the streets with shredded abdomens and blood leaking into the gutters. Feral men-creatures with gore on their chins and beneath their fingernails and staining the fronts of their shirts. She scrolled through them all with one hand pressed over her mouth. Breathing became increasingly difficult as the truth of it all sank in.
This was her fault.
The conspiracy theorists had been slobbering over themselves ever since the cyborg girl had disappeared. Some said that Linh Cinder was working for the Commonwealth government, or Queen Levana, or that she was in cahoots with a secret society determined to overthrow one government or another, or that she was the missing Lunar princess, or that she knew where the Lunar princess was, or that she was somehow tied to the spread of letumosis, or that she had seduced Emperor Kaito and was now pregnant with a Lunar-Earthen-cyborg thing.
There were almost as many rumors surrounding Carswell Thorne. They included theories on the realreason that he was in prison, such as plotting to kill the last emperor, or how he’d been working with Linh Cinder for years prior to her arrest, or how he was connected to an underground network that had infiltrated the prison system years ago in preparation for the day when he would require their assistance. This newest theory was suggesting that Carswell Thorne was, in fact, an undercover Lunar thaumaturge meant to assist Linh Cinder with her escape so that Luna would have an excuse for starting the war.
Essentially, nobody knew anything.
Except for Cress, who knew the truth of Carswell Thorne’s crimes, his trial, and his escape—at least, the elements of the escape she’d been able to piece together using prison surveillance video and the statements from the on-duty guards.
In fact, Cress was convinced that she knew more about Carswell Thorne than anyone else alive. In a life in which newness and novelty were so rare, he had become a fixture of fascination to her. At first, she was disgusted by him and his apparent greed and recklessness. When he’d deserted the military, he’d left half a dozen cadets and two commanding officers stranded on an island in the Caribbean. He had stolen a collection of second-era goddess sculptures from a private collector in the Eastern Commonwealth and a set of Venezuelan dream dolls on loan to a museum in Australia to potentially never be seen in public again. There were additional claims of an unsuccessful robbery of a young widow from the Commonwealth who owned an extensive collection of antique jewelry.
Cress had continued to dig, entranced by his path of self-destruction. Like watching an asteroid collision, she couldn’t look away.
But then, strange anomalies had begun to creep up in her research.
Age eight. The city of Los Angeles spent four days in panic after a rare Sumatran tiger escaped from the zoo. Video surveillance of the cage showed the young Carswell Thorne, there on a field trip with his class, opening the cage. He later told the authorities that the tiger had looked sad locked up like that, and that he didn’t regret it. Luckily, no one, including the tiger, had been hurt.
Age eleven. A police report was filed by his parents claiming they’d been robbed—overnight, a second-era diamond necklace had gone missing from his mother’s jewelry chest. The necklace was traced to a net sales listing, where it had recently sold for 40,000 univs to a buyer in Brazil. The seller was, of course, Carswell himself, who had not yet had a chance to send off the necklace, and was forced to return the payment, along with an official apology. That apology, made public record to prevent other teens from getting the same idea, claimed that he was only trying to raise money for a local charity offering android assistance to the elderly.
Age thirteen. Carswell Thorne was given a weeklong school suspension after fighting with three boys in his grade, a fight he had lost according to the school’s med-droid report. His statement proclaimed that one of the boys had stolen a portscreen from a girl named Kate Fallow. Carswell had been trying to get it back.
One situation after another was brought to Cress’s attention. Theft, violence, trespassing, school suspensions, police reprimands. Yet Carswell Thorne, when given a chance to explain, always had a reason. A good reason. A heart-stopping, pulse-racing, awe-inspiring reason.
Like the sun rising over Earth’s horizon, her perception began to change. Carswell Thorne wasn’t a heartless scoundrel at all. If anyone bothered to get to know him, they would see that he was compassionate and chivalrous.
He was exactly the kind of hero Cress had been dreaming about her entire life.
With that discovery, thoughts of Carswell Thorne began to infiltrate her every waking moment. She dreamed of deep soul connections and passionate kisses and daring escapades. She was certain that he simply had to meet her, just once, and he would feel the same way. It would be like those epic love affairs that exploded into existence and burned white hot for all eternity. The type of love that time and distance and even death couldn’t separate.
Because if there was one thing Cress knew about heroes, it was that they could not resist a damsel in distress.
And she was nothing if not in distress.