I just returned from book hangover (it exists, people!) ...
At more than 10,000 locations on my Kindle (or approximately 800 pages), WINTER is the longest book I read this year (and probably for the last few years as well) but oh, so worth it. It is worth the wait and worth all those hours reading it. With all major characters make their appearance as Cinder plots the revolution to bring Queen Levana down from her Lunar crown, Marissa Meyer is still able to keep her narrative well-paced and exciting with progress and surprises in every turn.
It has been hours since I finished and everytime I wonder whether the story could or should be trimmed down... and all I can think of, nope, every scenes are perfect. Sure there are times that I wished the story moved quicker to the climax, but I couldn't say that I didn't enjoy every pages.
Those last quarter of the book, when Cinder finally reached the castle with her army, I literally biting my nails. The final showdown between Cinder and Levana is intense and gratifying, I feel like running a marathon... when I finally closed down my Kindle and put it down, I know that this is a perfect way to close this saga.
Now I want to talk about the major characters and couples separately ... it will be LONG and VERY SPOILERY. Apology in advance for all the grammatical errors *lol*. I am an ESL after all.
Winter and Jacin
Having her name as the title, I should feel annoyed that the unstable Princess Winter needs to share her spotlight with the rest of them. But I think Meyer did an excellent job to make sure that Winter gets the fair amount of page time. Winter is fascinating -- her mind is sometimes broken and she battles with hallucinations that threatens to break her. And all because Winter vows to never use her gift of manipulation on others. But never think that she is not resourceful. Because Winter is able to see things beyond what eyes can see. And her kindness, her beauty, is able to charm even the most dangerous possible allies. She does it with kindness rather than manipulation like Levana and I easily believe how people will follow her.
For the past book, I wasn't sure about Jacin's "voice". The rest of the heroes feel distinct but Jacin was still a mystery. But her total dedication towards Winter makes Jacin pretty stands out now in this book. I still think that he doesn't have stronger characteristics compared to the other three heroes, but as someone who will protect Winter no mater what, who will always puts Winter's needs ahead of anyone else, I can only have my admiration for Jacin.
Cress and Thorne
They are definitely the most adorable couple for me here. Sure, Cress and Thorne are not really together until the very end -- with Cress trying to stay away from flirty Thorne, and they get separated, and Thorne not really acting on their attractions, but their final moment is probably one of the sweetest among all couples (save the other one for Scarlet and Wolf). Cress is always the breath of fresh air for me in this series. She is the ingenue princess; among the other heroines she is able to retain her sense of innocence. However, at the same time she grows stronger as well. She focuses on the revolution with her unbeatable hacking skill, which is a very important element in Cinder's plan.
While Thorne, the flirt, provides the comic and humor in this saga. At times I was shocked with laughter with the things that came out of his mouth. His presence is needed because in the dark time, we always need our laughs. I simply can imagine adult Cress and adult Thorne, where in a party Thorne will be flirting and dancing with every women who flutter their eyelashes at him, and Cinder will be just stand aside rolling her eyes, sipping her drink. But in the end, at the last dance, the last song, Thorne will look at Cress, his eyes saying, "I love you, these women mean nothing, it has always been you, dance with me", and they will have their slow dance even when the music stops.
Scarlet and Wolf
For me, Scarlet and Wolf are the Alpha couple of this series. They are the most solid, the most committed to one another. I admit I was a bit miffed with how Meyer treated them. Scarlet was practically missing in the first part of the book, being kept as pet at the menagerie. Then while everyone survive the revolution relatively intact, Wolf's physique is forever altered ... although it does make him feel (and look) more like, well, Wolf.
But then I also thought that because they are the most solid, the separation and the physical transformation of Wolf make sense. They don't have to struggle with their feeling like Winter/Jacin or Cress/Thorne. Their relationship and love are strong. Plus the last moment where Scarlet reassures Wolf that she still loves him despite what he looks now is definitely one of my favorites.
Cinder and Kai
I haven't been impressed with His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Kaito of Earth’s Eastern Commonwealth, for the first two books but Kai grows on me. Sure, he admits that he lacks practical skills ("I can’t cook. I can’t fix anything. I can’t help Cress with surveillance. I know nothing about guns or fighting...… Mostly, I’m just a good talker, and that’s only useful in politics") but Kai also very important for Cinder's plan to work. He clearly excels in diplomacy and his ability to reassure Levana helps everything puts in motion. Kai stays cool and level-headed when needed and he is definitely matured up in this last two books. I believe that his ordeal in this young age will make Kai a very wise emperor indeed.
And Cinder ... this saga starts with her and I will close this review with her. Being the first major character introduced, Cinder has the most development in the whole series. While in the beginning she is reluctant to accept her destiny, but in this book Cinder shows that she is no longer that cyborg everyone dismiss. Cinder is the general and she's the kind of leader that marches with her army rather than staying behind making pans. She's the kind that inspire friendship and loyalty from others and it's easy to see why people will join her for revolution. I can only feel deep admiration for this young lady.
So finally, all I can say is long live Her Royal Majesty, Queen Selene Channary Jannali Blackburn of Luna.
... and thank you Marissa Meyer for giving me one of the highlights of my reading experience this year.