A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers can look at the original Snow White tale and see how this series plays with it, just like Book 1 played with Cinderella, Book 2 with Little Red Riding Hood, and book 3 with Rapunzel. They can also think about what life on the moon would really be like. There are details on domes, mining operations, and how trees and wildlife were imported from Earth but nothing on how the moon got water.
Loyalty to friends and bravery are key in this finale. There's a look at discrimination from many angles. Those labeled not human enough (cyborgs), not Lunar enough (those without gifts to manipulate others, those genetically modified to be unthinking soldiers), or not elite enough (lower classes forced to work for little in outer sectors of Luna) finally get their say. And as in previous books, Winter shows how wielding a great power over others can make some evil and some reluctant to use it.
Positive Role Models
Out of all the strong girls in this series -- Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress -- Winter doesn't first appear as if she has strength. But she demonstrates a strong character by not using her Lunar gift of manipulation against others. Though the suppression of her gift makes her go slowly mad, she still manages to use her power and influence for good. Cress is less swoony and naive in this one and works hard to find her heroic side. Her amazing hacking abilities help. Cinder and Scarlet remain strong characters until the end. Cinder doesn't shy away from her role as leader.
Violence & Scariness
A whole moon must go to war before book's end. It's a nastier business with scary, genetically enhanced soldiers that partially eat their enemies and enemies that can control minds and make whole waves of oncoming opposition turn on each other with guns and knives. Many, many dead. Numerous times friends turn on friends and stab or shoot them because their minds are being controlled. Wounds are serious and almost kill main characters. People are shot in a town square at random, and a woman close to the main characters is made to break her own fingers before being shot. Main characters are taken prisoner and tortured; one loses a finger and is kept in a cage for Lunars to look at. A disease kills a handful quickly after it's unleashed as bio warfare. Heartless onlookers watch executions in the throne room. There's a near-drowning and a wolf killed. A forced kiss by manipulation.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are four couples, and all have their big, passionate reunion-kiss moments, but it never goes beyond that. Talk of "companionship rooms" in the palace.
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"Hell" and "damn."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Queen Levana has a glass of wine. Otherwise, what everyone is drinking at all these Lunar galas is never really mentioned.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Winter is the finale of Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles series that features major sci-fi twists on well-known fairy tales. You'll need to read the first three -- Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress -- to keep up. Reading the prequel Fairest, written between Cress and Winter, isn't essential, but it definitely puts the motivations of evil Queen Levana of Luna (the moon) in perspective before readers dig into this Snow White reimagining. All of Luna is at war by the end of this 800-plus-pager. It's a nastier business with scary, genetically enhanced soldiers who partially eat their enemies and enemies who can control minds and make whole waves of oncoming opposition turn on each other with guns and knives. Many, many end up dead. Numerous times friends turn on friends and stab or shoot them because their minds are being controlled. Wounds are serious and almost kill main characters. There's also a near-drowning, bio warfare, and people shot at random in a town square. Each of the stories adds a fairy-tale couple, so expect four passionate-reunion-style kisses and a few other smooches mixed in. All female characters remain strong and at the center of the series. Even Winter, the new female hero here, who at first seems like she's too much weakened by madness, shows that it's caused by her strong resolve not to use her Lunar gift of manipulation against others; she'd rather have reoccurring violent hallucinations than be like her stepmother, Levana.
Is It Any Good?
If you're a fan of the Lunar Chronicles series and of massive, epic endings, then expect this 800-page-plus finale to really satisfy. With that many pages in WINTER, expect no subplot to go unexamined; no romantic interlude to go by without a hearty amount of swooning and intensity after couples are reunited, separated, and reunited again; no battle scene without some serious slo-mo mind-control bloodshed and gravitas; and no wedding gown in a throne room to go unbloodied. You get the idea. Big, sweeping stuff.
For readers who don't like both the sci-fi/action and romance pieces equally, you may find yourself overwhelmed by one or the other. Even fans of both will find a moment or two thinking they wish Cinder would just storm the castle already. But it's all good, careful storytelling and it all intertwines beautifully in the end. Happily ever after, of course.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.