Winter (2015) is the fourth and final novel in Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES series for young adults. You need to read the first three novels, Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress first. There will be some spoilers for those previous stories in this review.
Winter, which is loosely based on the Snow White fairytale, begins in Queen Levana’s court. The evil queen thought she’d be empress of the galaxy by this point but, so far, her plans have been thwarted. She’s taking out her anger on her own citizens and requiring 17-year-old princess Winter to watch the ruthless proceedings. Winter, who has no stomach for the Queen’s brutality, gets through the ordeal by telling herself it’s not really happening and allowing her mind to retreat to a fantasy world. These kinds of delusions and hallucinations, plus the fact that she hasn’t used her own magical gift for so many years, have caused the beautiful princess to go quite mad.
Another factor in Winter’s declining mental health might be the loss, many years ago, of her best friend, Princess Celine who, as we learned in the previous books, was thought to be dead but is in fact alive and using the name Cinder. When Jacin, Winter’s bodyguard and new best friend, tells Winter that Princess Celine is alive and planning to unseat Queen Levana, Winter and Jacin get involved in the drama. For Winter, this starts with alerting Scarlet, now the Queen’s prisoner, that Cinder is coming to rescue her.
Meanwhile, our other heroes (Cinder, Kai, Thorne, Cress, Wolfe, and Iko) are each doing their parts to insight a revolution on Luna which will bring Levana down. Along with a lot of luck and courage, they’ll need the help of some of the citizens of Luna.
Winter is a satisfying ending to the LUNAR CHRONICLES. Along with the type of exciting action we’ve become accustomed to, it’s got sweet reunions, sad losses, a couple of new characters to love, and crafty allusions to the Snow White fairytale including an evil stepmother, an honest mirror, a poison apple, a deep sleep, and, of course, an important kiss. An allusion to Cinderella in one of the final scenes cleverly brings the story full circle.
The LUNAR CHRONICLES stories have some weaknesses which I’ve mentioned before. Most notably, for me, is the idea that all of our eight heroes (four female, four male) must be paired off. (Many readers will be annoyed at the binary and heterocentric assumptions, too.) Something else that has bothered me all along is our heroes’ supposition that the only way to get the plague antidote from Queen Levana is to appease her. Options other than placating a terrorist were not seriously attempted.
But overall, this has been a fun series to listen to with my teenage daughter. We loved Macmillan Audio’s edition read by Rebecca Soler. We’re planning to listen to the related short story collection called Stars Above as well as a related novella called Fairest.