And finally, the Lunar Chronicles conclude. Happily, they conclude without the series falling apart (as too often happens), and I love them even more now that they’re all written and published and read. I imagine sitting down with the entire series at some point and rereading, considering that I’ve been reading, without ever going back, since January 2012, and I know there are some inside-things to revisit and rediscover.
Now, it’s hard to review the end of a series without giving away spoilers for earlier volumes. So instead of reviewing, exactly, I’m going to talk about the title character of this book. Winter.
Princess Winter is the Lunar queen’s stepdaughter. She had two defining characteristics: she’s unsurpassed in beauty, and she’s batshit crazy. The first, she inherited from her mother, and is the primary reason her stepmother hates her. (After all, for those who didn’t know, this book is a retelling of Snow White, just as previous books were retellings of other fairy tales.) The second is because Winter refuses to use her Lunar gift of mind-control, and repressing the ability causes brain dysfunction and eventual full-on insanity. So I meant it when I said she’s batshit crazy. The opening chapter has Winter in the midst of one of her hallucinations, trying not to panic as her body becomes encased in imaginary ice.
So why, exactly, am I focusing this post on Winter as a character? Because I think she’s literally the most fascinating character I’ve read since back in 2008, when I was introduced to Rochester in Jane Eyre for the first time. That’s not to say she’s anything like Rochester – just that she’s different from the typical book character, the way he is. Winter is nothing like anyone I’ve read before. In some ways, she’s creepy, like the way she calls everyone “friend” with every sentence, and almost never uses contractions. In some ways, she’s disturbing, like when she has the dream about the plates shattering when she touches them, but she’s still desperate to finish washing the dishes. And in some ways, she’s endearing (if a bit creepy or disturbing), like when she begins howling with the wolves when she “joins” their pack.
The thing about Winter is, she holds nothing back. Everyone knows she’s crazy, and so she’s adapted by acting crazy even when she’s not in the midst of a hallucination. Easiest way to get people to do things? Fall apart. Then there’s the fact that she’s genuine and sweet to those she cares about. She cares so much about not manipulating people with her gift, even if they’d agree to it for the sake of a group as a whole. She’s this bundle of contradictions who manipulates those she doesn’t trust into doing what she wants, with her crazy-fits, as a coping mechanism, while at the same time refusing to just control people with her Lunar gift. She’s optimistic and terrified and so very strange, and Meyer wrote her so, so well. This book, which is essentially a war campaign like you see at the end of many series, was made unique through Winter.
It’s Winter who doesn’t let us gloss over the horrors of war. So many people are focused on the aims of the war effort, on what they need to do or who they need to protect, but Winter sees the chaos and violence and blood, regardless of which side is winning. There isn’t a distinction anymore whether the walls are bleeding due to hallucination, or due to the number of freshly-dead bodies piled up against it. “I am destroyed,” she says. “I do not know that even a sane person could recover from this. So how can I?” Winter brought humanity and light into a book of violence and death and cause. And that is what made this book so great, and what brought the conclusion to the series to such a powerful end.