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YA Book Review: Winter – A Stunning Conclusion

winter book cover marissa meyer

Winter Book Review

Every good series must come to an end. It’s always bittersweet, the ending of the adventure that you have followed these characters on for, often, hundreds of pages. Will the author make all your reading and emotional distress over these characters worth it, or will the story end in such a way as to leave you scratching your head and thinking, “Huh? That’s not what I was expecting,” (and not in a good way)? Of course, the story belongs to the author, and it plays out as they want it to, but I think that, as readers, you understand what I mean.

Marissa Meyer, in her stunning conclusion to her best-selling series, “The Lunar Chronicles,” does not disappoint.  A futuristic retelling of some of our favorite fairy-tales, “The Lunar Chronicles” took those stories and set them in a dystopian setting.

“The Lunar Chronicles” is made up of Cinder (Cinderella), Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), Fairest (The Evil Queen in Snow White), and the book of the post, Winter. The fifth and final book in the series, Winter, based on Snow White, is just as full of adventure, humor, and romance as the earlier books in the series.

Winter was one of those books that I had been looking forward to for what seemed like months, and when it arrived in the mail, I devoured it. When I went back and reread it, it was still a delightful read. For a series that continued to up the ante with each new installment, I expected a lot, and to me, Winter delivered.

I will keep spoilers for Winter to a minimum, but, fair warning.

There are going to be some spoilers for the earlier books in the series after this point.

In Winter, we follow the Princess Winter, Queen Levana of Luna’s stepdaughter. The action picks up right after the events of Cress; Cinder and her band have kidnapped Kai, Scarlet is captured on Luna, and Thorne is blind. Jacin has been captured by Lunar Soldiers and brought back to stand trial for his actions in Cress, mainly, siding with Cinder against the Queen’s troops.

During Jacin’s trial, we learn that Winter and Jacin were childhood friends, but that they both mean much more to each other than either can admit, being a Princess and a guard. It’s also very interesting throughout Winter to see the relationship between Levana and Winter (which was set up in Fairest) further elaborated on. Winter also has been keeping Scarlet safe, making her one of her pets.

As the novel progresses, Kai and Levana’s wedding is set to take place on Luna. When Kai and Cinder try to use the arrival of the Earthen wedding party to smuggle Cinder and her crew onto Luna for their rebellion, things go badly and the group is separated. Kai is put under arrest until the wedding, Cress is trapped in the palace, and the others find themselves in Luna’s mining district. Here, they decide they might as well try to start the rebellion. Winter and Jacin save Cress and hide her in the palace, a plan that could easily backfire.

Meanwhile, Levana is becoming increasingly jealous of her beautiful stepdaughter, Winter. Despite her fragile emotional and mental state, people seem to love Winter in a way that they don’t love Levana. Winter herself is an intriguing character. Quietly undermining her stepmother for years, she made the choice as a young girl to not use her Gift when she saw what it could do. Because of this, she is slowly going insane, seeing visions of death and destruction in her city.

As Levana is fighting against Cinder and the revolution she is trying to start, her jealousy of Winter grows to the point of obsession. When Jacin is ordered to kill Winter to save his family, he instead fakes her death and helps her escape with Scarlet. Winter and Scarlet proceed to head out of the city, determined to help Cinder with her rebellion and overthrow the tyrant Levana once and for all.

Of course, Levana is close behind them all, and the revolution has to succeed before Levana is crowned Empress on Earth.  The stakes have been raised and characters are in even more danger. Additionally, the plague that had been developed as biological warfare against Earth has mutated to affect Lunars, and has now been brought back home to Luna.

In a war where you are fighting a Queen who rules through fear and has no qualms about using genetic modification, brainwashing, and biological warfare as her tools, no one is safe and Meyer does not let us think, for a minute, that her characters are going to survive unscathed. The stakes are high, and the fate of two worlds hangs in the balance.

Like the other books in the series, Winter deals with some serious issues, including love, loyalty, mental illness, sacrifice, healing, revolution, democracy, manipulation, forgiveness, unionization, choice, and jealousy.

Questions raised include the following. How do you choose between two people you love? Can all illnesses be cured? When is it acceptable to murder? What is the cost of revolution? Does everyone deserve forgiveness? What is love, and how does that affect your actions? What is worth dying for? What is true leadership?

Something that I love about this series, and think I might have mentioned in my review of Cress, is the fact that the leading ladies are all different. Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter are all strong characters, but they show their strength in different ways. Cinder is a mechanic and a natural leader, Scarlet is a fighter and a pilot, Cress is a shy hacker, and Winter is a princess who is kind, slightly crazy, and inspires loyalty through her genuine goodness.

Despite, or maybe because of, their differences, they all work well together. Some of the best moments in Winter are Scarlet and Winter in the caverns with Alpha Strom and later in the Lumber District. These two, in particular, are very different, but they bring out the best in each other and keep each other alive in dangerous situations.

Like the plot itself, the romances have loose ends that need to be tied up. Scarlet and Wolf need to find each other again. Cress realizes that her crush on Thorne has changed into real feelings (and he is confronted by his feelings for her). These two stories continue in a way that is faithful to the previous books that starred these couples while continuing to raise the stakes in a believable way.

Kai and Cinder continue to struggle with their conflicting situations in life. He is the leader of his country and engaged to her aunt, while she is the leader of a rebellion and a cyborg. Since the two of them have entire countries to look after and think of, their relationship has always seemed more complicated to me because there are major political implications to their romances. Of all the romances, this one is the one that I felt I had been watching unfold the longest, making the ending that much sweeter.

Winter and Jacin have a similar issue to Kai and Cinder (meddling politics and Levana), but in their case it has more to do with Winter’s status as a princess and someone who is ill. While their mutual affection helps them both to stand against tyranny, it also gives the tyrant something to use against them. Add the sinister Thaumatuge Aimery and his designs on Winter, and the plot thickens. The way Winter and Jacin interact and protect each other, even risking everything to save the other one, is a different love story than we have seen in the series so far, and it works, both overall and for them.

To me, the series itself is Cinder’s story. We start with her and we have to end with her too, sharing her discovering who she is and what she wants to become. The other characters are important, but it’s the Cyborg Princess who is fighting for a kingdom and a destiny she doesn’t even know if she wants that we are following with rapt attention for five books.

Winter is longer than the other books in the series, clocking in at 823 pages, but since Winter has to not only tell Winter’s story, but also wrap up the entire series, this makes sense. Striking what I thought was a great balance between telling the overall story, while still giving Winter enough page time to tell her story, Winter was a satisfying, no, a stunning conclusion to a beautifully crafted series. I look forward to reading Meyer’s next book (based on Alice in Wonderland).

Adaptation Recommendation

Like I’ve said about the other books in the series, this is definitely miniseries material, and I would be first in line if they needed screenwriters or book-smackers (people who have read the book and smack people when it gets too distant from the source material. If it’s not a real job, it should be).

Of course, the special effects budget for this film would be extensive. You have the constantly changing Glamours of the people of Luna, Winter’s hallucinations, the tunnels, Levana’s wolves, and Cinder herself. Plus, the setting itself is complex; it’s a kingdom on the moon. However, this is one series that I would love to see adapted correctly, it could be absolutely fantastic.


Five Corset Rating Lower Byte Size

“The stuff that dreams are made of.”


Five heart rating

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. I have loved none but you.”

Have you read Winter? What’s your favorite fairy-tale retelling? Let me know in the comments!

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By on January 2nd, 2016

About Bailey Cavender

Bailey grew up in North Idaho where she was encouraged from a young age to love reading, writing and learning; as a result, storytelling is a major part of her life. She believes that no story is ever the same to anyone and that everyone has a story to tell. With that in mind, she someday hopes to write a humorous and inspiring book (or ten, either way).

Her books, "A Journey Through Disney," "The Mermaid," and "Dear NSA: One Man's Adventures in Phone-Tapping and Blogging," can be found on Amazon.

More posts by this author.

4 thoughts on “YA Book Review: Winter – A Stunning Conclusion”

  1. I’ve loved how cleverly the stories in this series have been intertwined. Great writing.
    And I think every film should have a book-smacker lol. I would sooooo love that job 🙂

    • Yeah, it was very clear that she took the time to piece it all together, and that she took her characters and her readers seriously. I’m really looking forward to her next series!
      I agree! If you figure out who to contact for that, let me know 🙂

  2. GAH just finished this IT WAS SO
    GOOD. Devastated that it’s over and I love a good “group of friends saving world” book…also WOLF AAAAHHH

    • It’s true. SO GOOD. I had to go back and reread (after a few days) because of ALL THE FEELS. The short story collection comes out tomorrow.


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