The final installment of the Lunar Chronicles! It’s also the longest, with the audiobook running at 23.5 hours. I had to commit to listening to a little over an hour of this audiobook every day before my library was going to take it back. That wasn’t a problem, because this book is as much fun as the first three in the series (although I did need almost the full three weeks to finish listening to it).
So Scarlet is trapped in Winter’s “menagerie,” and as much as it sucks to be a prisoner, she grows fond of Winter, who she realizes is a little “off,” but still well meaning, since she does things like pass secret notes to Scarlet to let her know things like the fact that her friends are on their way to rescue her. She affectionately dubs Winter “Crazy,” and since Winter knows she’s crazy, she’s OK with that name.
In fact, one of my favorite moments was when Scarlet asked Winter why she doesn’t use her gift for good instead of evil and Winter points out that making a choice for someone else is never good. She tells a story of finding a young servant girl about to commit suicide and she used her powers to convince her to keep living. It turned out the girl was being abused by one of Levana’s thaumaturges and that living longer subjected her to more torture, so even though Winter thought she was doing the right thing, she was really just inflicting more pain on the girl because she didn’t know the full story, and that’s when Winter stopped using her gift. It’s an incredible story and I love the message it sends.
Meanwhile, Jacin shows up again. Turns out he’s not loyal to Levana, but he wasn’t exactly loyal to Cinder and her crew either. It’s unclear whether he really was the one who tipped off Sybil that Kai, Cinder and her crew would show up on the roof of the palace in New Beijing, but now that he’s back in Luna, he has to convince Levana that he was manipulated by Cinder into shooting Sybil and joining Cress and her crew. None of those things are true, but it’s what he needs to say to survive right now. He gives them a little bit of information about Cinder and her crew in exchange for his life, but not enough for them to do any real damage, especially now that they’re down a hacker. Levana still punishes him with lashes, just to be on the safe side. Jacin survives his punishment and Winter manages to get him reassigned to be her personal guard.
When he reappears in Artemesia, Winter gets all excited because she clearly has a really big crush on him. They’ve been friends since childhood and they’re devoted to each other, but Jacin keeps strict boundaries since she’s royalty and he’s supposed to be nothing more than her guard.
Meanwhile, Kai and Cinder are busy making out on the Rampion* every chance they get, but they know it can’t last. Levana has gone back to Luna, so at some point they have to drop Kai off and let him get back to being emperor – but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy their little vacation while it lasts…
They end up dropping Kai at one of his many private, top-secret retreats in some remote location. Wolf gives him a good punch in the face to make it look like they forced him to come with them and were really keeping him against his will. He immediately calls his adviser, followed by Queen Levana so they can make new arrangements for their wedding. At this point, Cinder and her crew are planning on heading to Luna and causing a revolution, and in order to make that happen, they need to use the wedding as cover, largely by sneaking aboard Kai’s ship in order to get onto Luna.
But Levana is too clever to fall for that trick. She and her thaumaturges can sense someone’s bioelectricity on Kai’s ship, even after everyone is supposed to have exited the ship. So they search the ship and Cinder and her crew have to fight their way out. Cinder has a way of using her gift to motivate people without actually taking over their minds and manipulating them. For example, she sends images to Wolf of Scarlet being captured so Wolf will fight harder.
When they find that the doors that are supposed to be unlocked to let them off the port and into the rest of Luna are actually locked against them, Cress manages to sneak to the control panel and work her hacker magic to unlock the doors for her pals, but that means leaving herself vulnerable to be taken prisoner, but she manages to sneak into a crate. Winter spots her, covers for her, sneaks her into her own room, and convinces Jacin to keep her in his quarters for the time being.
Jacin tries to resist Winter’s charms, but she convinces him to take a stroll through the city with her. Some local florists from whom she bought flowers in the past have made a crown of flowers, which they give to her, but Jacin, knowing Levana’s cameras are everywhere, quickly throws it in the trash and warns Winter to be more careful about accepting crowns from the locals. He knows Winter is beloved by the people of Luna, and that poses a threat to Levana’s rule, even though Winter isn’t of royal blood, and therefore can’t take the throne.
I appreciate that it’s made clear throughout this book that Winter retains scars on her face from the fire in the nursery when she was a kid (the same fire that was supposed to have killed Princess Selene), but that she’s still the most beautiful person anyone has ever seen, even without using a glamour. It suggests beauty is more than skin deep, and I appreciated the message that a person with severe burn scars can still be widely considered beautiful.
It’s not enough, though. Levana sees Winter take the crown of flowers and vows to get rid of her once and for all. Despite the fact that her last promise to her husband (whom she really did love, in a way, I guess) was to keep his daughter safe, she manages to convince herself that the best thing to do would be to just kill Winter. She orders Jacin to be the one to kill her, knowing Jacin loves her, so he’ll make it quick and merciful.
Instead, Jacin takes Winter to her menagerie, presses her against her wolf’s cage, so he knows his back is to the camera. He tells Winter what Levana ordered him to do. They kiss and Jacin reaches through the bars of the cage and stabs the wolf. He orders Winter to fall to the ground and appear dead, and that, combined with the wolf’s blood, is enough to make Winter’s “death” look convincing, but Winter is horrified to lose one of her best friends (I have to admit I felt pretty bad for the wolf, too).
Jacin frees Scarlet when he leaves the menagerie and tells her to take Winter somewhere safe, so they head to RM9, where Scarlet remembers Wolf is from.
Meanwhile, thinking Cress is lost to them forever, Cinder and her crew manage to use the tunnels of Luna to sneak to RM9, the mining sector of Luna where Wolf grew up and where his parents might or might not still be alive. Turns out his mother is still alive and is willing to take them in, even though everyone in RM9 is on strict food rations. They do the best they can to help out with the food they brought with them, but it’s not enough.
At some point in their escape from the menagerie, Scarlet gives Winter her sweatshirt, and when they manage to reach RM9 and Wolf smells Scarlet on Winter, he demands to know where Scarlet is, but she’s right there, and they’re reunited, so it’s all good.
All the while, Cinder and her crew are planning a revolution against Queen Levana, but they’re not sure about the best way to go about doing it. Will they believe her when she says she’s Princess Selene, or will they dismiss her as a liar? Will they want to rebel against Queen Levana?
Cress had managed to get a program to Cinder that would allow Cinder to get a pre-recorded video to all the sectors of Luna at once, overriding all the mandatory propaganda they’re required to watch. Then she just has to lay low for a while and see what the reaction will be.
Because the sectors are intentionally separated, it’s impossible to tell what the reactions in other sectors have been like, but the reaction in RM9 seems to be mostly positive. People start standing up and demanding a voice in their own government, but when Levana responds by sending her soldiers to kill a bunch of people in RM9, Cinder rushes out to reveal herself in order to stop the killing. Wolf’s mother is killed for harboring the fugitives and Cinder and Wolf are both taken prisoner to Artemesia.
Winter and Iko are attacked at Wolf’s mother’s house, and although Iko manages to fight them off, her robot body is severely damaged and Winter sustains a blow to the head. Nevertheless, she and Scarlet decide to take off into the lava tunnels in search of Levana’s Lunar Special Operatives. If they can convince them to join their cause, it will give them that much more strength in the fight against Levana. Scarlet is pretty sure this plan will get them killed, but what choice do they have?
Wolf is taken to another lab and turned into an even more monstrous version of himself, one that can’t be controlled by the Lunar gift, but can be trained to obey orders.
To add insult to injury, Cinder is thrown in a cell with Adri and Pearl, the two people she hates most. Adri accuses Cinder of deliberately denying Peony the antidote, taunting her with it as she died before giving it to that boy, and Cinder gives up on ever gaining her approval.
After the wedding between Kai and Levana (which does take place, much to my surprise), Adri and Cinder are brought in as part of the entertainment and Adri is accused of conspiring with Cinder because she’s the one who gave Cinder the invitations to the wedding, which allowed Cinder and her crew to infiltrate the wedding and “kidnap” Kai. Of course, Cinder only got the invitations from Adri by using a glamour to make herself look like a palace official, but it’s hard to convince Levana of that (although she probably knows).
Levana also accuses Adri of knowing about the technology her husband invented to keep Cinder from using her gift, but Adri genuinely has no idea what she’s talking about and Levana has conveniently had all evidence of the technology’s plans destroyed because it posed a danger to her and her rule. Cinder doesn’t have any love for Adri, but that doesn’t mean she wants her to suffer or die on her behalf.
The fight between Queen Levana and Cinder is pretty epic. Cinder’s eyes (manipulated by Levana’s glamour) are fighting with the chip in her brain, which only sees the truth, which is that Levana is horribly disfigured from burn scars all down one side of her face. Cinder decides to let the chip take over and use it to record the entire interaction and broadcast it to all of Luna, letting them know that Levana is a fraud, a usurper, and an attempted child murderer.
The scene ends with almost all the guards in the room dead and Cinder jumping out the window and into Lake Artemesia. Her cyborg parts shut down as a result of all the water, but she manages to swim close enough to shore just in time for her friends to find her before she can give up and allow herself to drown. They had seen the footage the palace had played of Cinder flying out the window, but they had refused to believe she’s dead (even though the palace produced a fake body to convince the public that Cinder was dead and the rebellion was over). Instead, they bring her to an abandoned aristocrat’s mansion to recover and decide their next steps.
Meanwhile, Scarlet and Winter manage to find the packs of wolves they’re looking for and, against all odds, convince them to fight for their side instead of Queen Levana’s. It’s hard for me to choose which was my favorite part of this scene. I really loved Scarlet and her total refusal to be intimidated. At one point one of the wolves snarls at her and her response is to snarl right back at him. She’s so badass and I love her for it.
Winter, of course, takes a very different approach. She’s much gentler, but she comes up with a song about winter and night that ends with the line, “and the wolves all howl,” followed by a soft, high-pitched howl that you would expect out of Snow White. I loved getting to hear the narrator perform that soft howl because I thought it was perfect.
So, when the wolves agree to join their cause, Winter, of course, lifts her head to the sky, and howls, and it’s perfect, and I loved everything about it. It’s really hard to say which character I loved most in this series.
When Scarlet and Winter use Winter’s ID to get into the wolves’ den, so to speak, it alerts Levana to the fact that Winter is, in fact, still alive. She decides that, if you want a job done, you have to do it yourself, so she infects a piece of candy with the new version letumosis, which can infect Lunars (apple candy, obviously), and uses her glamour to disguise herself as an old woman, offering a piece of candy to her princess.
Winter eats the candy and almost immediately starts to feel the effect of the disease. Levana figures she’ll let Winter wander back to her army camp to infect everyone else, but they figure out pretty quick that she’s infected with letumosis and they get her into a stasis tank, which just happens to look like a glass coffin and will halt the progression of the disease until they can get her a cure.
Meanwhile, Cinder and her crew decide to make another attack on the palace. They manage to get Queen Levana alone in her throne room, but as someone who has been practicing the use of her gift all her life, Levana is prepared for them. She and Cinder have a battle of the wills, in which Levana explains that Cinder’s mother, Queen Chanary, was even worse, that Levana was the prettier of the two until her jealous older sister forced her to press her face into a bed of hot coals when they were both children, after which, Channary became the pretty one. Levana insists that Channary was a tyrant, but she’s a benevolent dictator, and while it seems like she actually believes that, Cinder isn’t buying it for a second.
The battle of wills at the end is pretty epic. Thorne and Cress both get involved, Thorne gets shot and then manipulated into stabbing Cress, but Cinder ultimately prevails and manages to kill Queen Levana.
Don’t worry, everyone survives. I was really worried about Cress for a while there, and while it does take her the longest to recover from her injuries, she makes it out OK, too. I would have appreciated it if some major characters hadn’t made it out of this whole mess alive, because that would have been more realistic, but since they’re based on fairy tales, I guess it makes sense that everyone gets to live happily ever after.
Once Cress is brought out of her coma or whatever, she and Thorne have a heart-to-heart in which he explains how he’ll become worthy of her love, even though he already has it, and it’s pretty adorable.
Wolf wonders if Scarlet will want to be seen with him looking like a monster, but she insists she couldn’t care less about how he looks. I have to admit that my favorite fairy tale has always been Beauty and the Beast, and somehow I initially thought (before I started listening to these audiobooks) that Scarlet’s story was a B&B story rather than a Little Red Riding Hood story. By the end, I was definitely convinced that it was a B&B story, regardless of whether Meyer intended it that way. It’s just that, in this case, the beast remains a “beast” instead of transforming into a handsome prince.
Although there are plenty of times in this book where I thought Winter was my favorite character of this series, the end definitely convinced me that Thorne was my favorite. At one point, he is announced to Cinder as “Captain Carswell Thorne” and we hear his voice through the door telling Cress, “I told you I could get him to call me Captain,” which was just so Thorne. I also have to hand it to the narrator of this audiobook, who I thought did an excellent job narrating Thorne’s voice, as well as all the other characters.
The other moment I loved was Cinder walking down the aisle during her coronation and getting a high five from Thorne. I really love that guy, and it was moments like that that made me think, “I’m going to miss these characters so much!” as I reached the conclusion of the series.
Cinder announces that she’s discovered the secret to Linh Garan’s technology, which prevents Lunars from using their gifts without going crazy. It turned out the program was hidden in Iko’s personality chip the whole time, so it’s a really good thing Adri didn’t end up disposing of Iko’s personality chip. Cinder wants to rebuild relations between Luna and Earth and allow Lunars to freely move to Earth if they choose, but Earthens are understandably wary of this option, given the potential power Lunars have over them. Cinder’s solution is her adopted father’s technology, but I’m not sure this should be promoted as great democracy. What is it worth to move to a new home if doing so means giving up a significant part of what makes you who you are?
Because Linh Garan developed the technology, Cinder admits (however grudgingly) that Adri is the rightful owner of the patent of that technology, which should provide enough income to keep her comfortable for the rest of her life.
Then Cinder rescinds her throne and suggests Luna should consider a democratic government instead, since if she takes the throne, there’s a chance some of her offspring later on down the line will produce the same problems as Queen Levana.
There are no weddings in this book, but Kai does hint that he might ask Cinder to be his empress someday.
I know there’s a book of short stories that take place in this same world, and although I heard they don’t add anything to the plot, I might have to read or listen to them anyway, just to spend more time with these characters.
*I just realized that these books were published by “Rampion press” and I think it’s really cool that Meyer managed to work the name of her publisher into these books in the form of the model of the spaceship her characters used. I find it highly unlikely that it was a coincidence.