The third book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is named after Crescent Moon Damel, who goes by Cress. Cress is a shell who has been told her whole life that her parents gave her up as soon as it became clear she had no Lunar gift – that they didn’t want her. She spent much of her childhood with a bunch of other kids like her until one day Thaumaturge Sybil Mira decided she could be useful and put her on a satellite orbiting Luna and put her to work.
In the several years that Cress has been on the satellite, she has not only grown out her blonde curls to an impossibly long length, but she has become quite the hacker, and so she has been put to work spying on Earth, but in the time she has spent spying on Earth, she’s grown fond of Earthens – one Carswell Thorne in particular. She knows he has a checkered past, but being the hacker she is, she’s looked into it and found he always has a good excuse for his misbehavior and it usually involves helping someone. So, even though she knows it’s silly and romantic, she’s fantasized about the first time they see each other and how time will stop for them in that moment.
In the meantime, she’s been helping him and Cress with their escape by tracking their movements and making sure that any cameras in their way are turned elsewhere while they pass by, which is how they’ve managed to go undetected for so long, although they don’t realize that’s the reason.
Finally, Cress is able to contact Cinder and her crew, explain her situation, and ask for their help in escaping from the satellite. They know it could be a trap, but they decide to take the chance and help her out.
Cress was never trying to trick them, but Sybil shows up at the exact wrong time and manages to foil their plans to rescue Cress. In the rescue gone wrong, Sybil is shot by her own pilot, Jacin, who ends up with Cress and Wolf aboard the Rampion, Scarlet is kidnapped by Sybil, who is wounded, but not killed, and Thorne ends up with Cress in the satellite, which Sybill has sent hurtling towards earth. They manage to survive the crash, but Thorne hits the back of his head pretty hard, which results in him going blind, and Cress cuts her hair really short in order to make travel easier.
When they land, they find themselves in the middle of a desert with no signs of life anywhere, so they decide to just pick a direction and stick to it until they find someone. They do so, and along the way they get to know each other. Cress admits everything she knows about Thorne, and Thorne admits that everything he’s done in his past has really been for selfish reasons, and that his supposedly good excuses were merely the ones he thought would be most likely to get him out of trouble.
Just when Cress is about to quit from fatigue, they come across some fellow travelers who just happen to be on their way to a nearby city and are willing to let Cress and Thorne tag along.
Once in the city, Thorne loses no time in heading for the gambling tables where a beautiful robot tries to seduce him in order to get him to spend more at the gambling table. Despite being blind, Thorne is able to “see” right through her, not just the fact that she’s a robot, but her attempts to lead his gambles astray. Thorne manages to win the robot in his gambling games, thinking she’ll make the perfect body for Iko. But Cress (still nursing a crush on him) doesn’t know any of this when she sees him flirting with a gorgeous woman, so she takes off, only to find the travelers she thought were helping them are really there to kidnap her as soon as they confirm she’s a shell. So she ends up in the back of a truck on her way to who knows where.
In the meantime, since tracking down Michelle Benoit turned out to be a bust, Cinder, thinking Cress and Thorne were both killed in the satellite crash, has decided to take what remains of her crew (Wolf and Jacin) and head to Africa to meet up with Dr. Erland, who has begun to wonder what happened to her? They succeed in finding Dr. Erland, who has been paying the locals to bring him shells so he can run tests on their blood and hopefully find a cure for letumosis. He just happens to be the doctor Cress’s kidnappers are taking her to. When she gets there, he manages to recognize her as his daughter and run a test to confirm his hypothesis, although he doesn’t tell her about any of it.
Cress is understandably terrified, not realizing that all he wants is a sample of her blood and then she’s free to go, so as soon as he’s done taking her blood, she runs off and hides in a random room in the hotel, which just happens to be the room where Wolf is recovering from the fight on Cress’s satellite.
Meanwhile, Thorne has figured out what happened to Cress and has followed her to Dr. Erland’s hotel (although he doesn’t know that’s where Dr. Erland is staying).
When Cinder shows up, she recognizes Cress and Thorne and explains to everyone who they are and the fact that they’re all on the same side.
Then Sybil shows up with a whole lot of Lunar soldiers to take Cinder and all her friends to Queen Levana, but all the Lunar refugees, who have been living there peacefully with their Earthen neighbors, rise up and join the fight to prevent the Thaumaturge from taking anyone.
Back on the Rampion, the crew put together a plan to kidnap Kai on the day of his wedding in order to prevent the marriage. Wolf is mourning Scarlet, who they think is probably dead (she’s not, but she is getting tortured by Lunar aristocrats for their entertainment), but he’s also helping Cinder figure out how to use her Lunar gifts. I’m still fuzzy on why her chip stopped preventing her from using her Lunar gifts. I don’t think that part was ever fully explained. Anyway, Lunar operatives are supposed to be very hard to control, so if Cinder can control Wolf, she can control anyone else easily. It’s controlling multiple people at a time that will turn out to be tricky.
They decide to let Jacin in on the plot, even though they’re not entirely sure they can trust him, which is always a great plan. Jacin claims he was manipulated by Sybil into being her pilot and that he is not loyal to Levana, but who can tell?
While they’re breaking into the palace to rescue Kai, Dr. Erland and Thorne head to a lab in the basement where Dr. Erland can come up with a serum to bring back Thorne’s eyesight, which doesn’t make any sense because Thorne lost his eyesight by hitting the back of his head, meaning the loss of sight is due to damage done to the occipital lobe of his brain, not his eyes, but whatever.
Anyway, while they’re in there, Dr. Erland has a talk with Thorne about not messing around with his daughter because he can tell Cress has feelings for Thorne, but he can also tell that Thorne is flighty and liable to break her heart.
In the meantime, Dr. Erland has noticed that he has letumosis, which should be impossible, since he’s Lunar, but this appears to be an advanced form of the disease, especially since he appears to be going through the stages of the disease much faster than normal. So he fixes up Thorne, sends him on his way, and then quarantines himself in the lab so he doesn’t infect anyone else. When Cress encounters Thorne, he tells her what happened and that Dr. Erland locked himself in the lab. They’re able to communicate through and intercom and Dr. Erland is able to tell Cress that he’s her father, that he loves her, has always loved her, and never wanted to give her up. It’s a lot for poor Cress to process. She tells him he loves him, even though she’s not sure it’s true since she just met him and all, but it seems like the thing to say when your estranged father is dying.
They manage to slip Kai out of the palace using secret tunnels, but Jacin and the ship aren’t where they’re supposed to be for their getaway. Instead, Sybil is there with a whole bunch of her Lunar operatives, making it look an awful lot like Jacin just ratted them out and ran.
Thorne, thinking this might be it for them, kisses Cress because he had promised her he wouldn’t let her die without having been kissed.
Fortunately, all Cinder’s practice has been paying off and she’s able to overpower Sybil and get her to throw herself off the roof. So they all live and now Thorne and Cress have to live with that kiss. It means something to Cress, but Thorne acts like it never happened. They all get on the Ramion and fly off into the proverbial sunset.
Meanwhile, on Luna, Queen Levana is trying to get information out of Scarlet and punishes her for her actions against Luna by manipulating Scarlet and forcing her to cut off her own thumb. Levana’s stepdaughter, the princess Winter, convinces Levana to let her have Scarlet “as a pet.” Scarlet is brought to Winter’s “menagerie,” where she’s still kept in a cage, but Winter comes to visit her and often brings little candies for her.
To be continued…