Cruel Crown

As my reading slump continues, I decided to tackle a few of the short stories I had in my TBR pile and I ended up with Cruel Crown, a Victoria Aveyard short story collection from the universe of Red Queen. I've said before that I enjoy short story collections because I feel they give more depth to both the world and the characters and it's always fun to learn more about a story that you like.

Cruel Crown is actually made up of two short stories, Queen Song and Steel Scars. In the first story, we meet Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias and mother to Cal. Her family have a nice name but little money to it and in her teenage years, Coriane is forced to move away from her beloved childhood home and to the capital. Once there she befriends the then-prince, Tiberias, and a romance sparks between the two. Soon they're married and Coriane is crowned queen, a title she never really wanted but one she got when she married the man she loved. However, despite being queen, Coriane is afraid something will happen to her and she worries about her new-born son. Through her diary, Coriane tells the story of how she came to this point and how she now fears that she will lose everything.

Steel Scars is the backstory of Farley and how she travelled through Norta, planting seeds for an uprising and in search of people to join in on the rebellion. In this short story the reader gets a deep insight in many of the things Farley was up to before Red Queen and what a big part Mare Barrow really plays in the rebellion. A familiar character makes an appearance as well, giving more depth to his personality and backstory while adding both a scoop of mystery, intrigue and romance to the story.

These two short stories are very different but fit well with the rest of the series. Queen Coriane is a character that has been mentioned many times in the books and so it was nice to meet her and get a glimpse of her story. Farley is a big part of the series but she shows that the rebellion in Norta wasn’t an accident but rather the goal from years and years of hard work. I liked both stories but thought Queen Song was better. It was sensitive, beautiful and heart-breaking while Steel Scars was packed with action and fights. It’s two great short stories for anyone who likes Aveyard’s world and the Red Queen books.

 

Cress

For the past few months I've lacked that wonderful feeling of wanting to read and instead ended up in a real slump. Though I have many books on my TBR pile I still don't get around to reading so I've decided to go back to a series that I really enjoy and reread it in the hopes that my reading lust will come back. Cress is the third instalment in the Lunar Chronicles and my favourite in the series. I've read it twice before and I love it just as much now as I did when I first picked it up three years ago.

In this novel, author Marissa Meyer introduces a third female protagonist, the centre of her very own fairy tale. Cress is a shell, living on a satellite orbiting Earth every sixteen hours. She was brought there from Luna seven years ago by Sybil Mira to work as a hacker and a spy for the Lunar crown. Cress knows everything important going on on Earth, which includes the man-hunt for Linh Cinder and her fellow accomplice, Carswell Thorne. Though Queen Levana has had Cress search for Cinder and the spaceship she's hiding on, Cress has been protecting the cyborg for some time now. It didn't take long for her to find them in space and in the hopes that Cinder can make a difference, Cress turn her back on her mistress and the queen. Queen Levana can't rule a kingdom on Earth or it will be the launching pad to a worldwide war and Cress and the Rampion crew seems to be the only people who can stop that from happening. But the ride towards a happily ever after is neither smooth nor easy.

Something I really love about this series is that Meyer beautifully creates a handful of separate tales and manages to wove them together. She tells the story, about the long-lost Lunar princess out to reclaim her throne, through different viewpoints to allow the reader the full perspective on everything that’s going on. That also gives you a bigger understanding for many of the characters. They, in turn, all have strong personalities and different things that makes them unique. It’s fun to read about the Rampion crew and their fight to overthrow Levana but it’s even more fun to follow each individual character’s story in the hopes that they all will get a happily ever after.

Cress takes the reader across the world and I like how Meyer subtly points out differences from one place to another. Two new and important characters are introduced in the novel and though Jacin has quite a snarky and arrogant personality I still found myself softening towards him. Cinder and the guys are trying to stop the royal wedding from happening and that leads to a lot of bickering, which brought a lot of laughs from me, before the ultimate plan is created. And while all of this is happening aboard the Rampion, Emperor Kai is in New Beijing, worried what a marriage to Levana will mean for the Commonwealth and wondering what Cinder is up to, if she has, in fact, found the lost princess who could change everything.

The stakes are higher in this book and yet you can feel it growing towards an explosion in the last book; Winter. I wasn’t too fond of Winter the first time I read it but I think I will give it another chance now and see if it’s better than I remember. Nevertheless, this is a great series with a lot of action, romance and comedy that I think will speak to everyone who enjoys fairy tale retellings. If you haven’t already, jump on the Lunar Chronicles train – you won’t regret it.

Scarlet

The second novel in Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles is called Scarlet and in this instalment, which takes place right after Cinder ended, we're introduced to Scarlet Benoit, an eighteen-year-old living in a small town in France with her grandmother. It's been almost three weeks since her grandmother disappeared and Scarlet is certain that she's been kidnapped but the police have closed the case so Scarlet takes it upon herself to investigate. She meets the mysterious Wolf who seems to have more answers than he's willing to give yet Scarlet manages to get him to help. Together they travel to Paris to find her grandmother but despite Wolf's warnings, Scarlet can't begin to phantom what awaits her at the capital. At the same time across the world, Cinder is dealing with the news Dr. Erland has delivered and she starts to accept that the only way to save anyone is to escape from prison.

Like I've said before, I really like this story, the whole series, but I do have a soft spot for both Scarlet and Wolf. Scarlet is fierce and strong, if a bit rash at times. She's inspiring though, how she gives everything for what she believes in and how she never stops fighting. Wolf is the mysterious bad boy with a soft heart, a somewhat traditional character maybe, but it's one I love. He has such a nice personality and I really like the chemistry between him and Scarlet. I like how he can be both strong and tender at once and how he changes throughout the story. Wolf and Scarlet carry this story forward and I think they do it in a great way.

This novel is a retelling of "The Little Red Riding Hood" and a big portion of the story is about Scarlet finding her grandmother who is believed to have something to do with Princess Selene and this is a mystery Scarlet is left to solve together with Wolf. Cinder makes appearances throughout the story and with her another major character is introduced, namely Captain Carswell Thorne, another favourite of mine. He is sassy, flirty and fun and some of the best lines in the books is delivered by him. He brings both comic and action to the story and is a great addition to the series overall.

I love how the world Meyer has created and how she's weaved it all together. Everything fit, like a beautifully choreographed dance. The threat of war from Queen Levana is hangs heavy over Emperor Kai’s head and Meyer allows the reader to see every aspect of the story, from the palace in the Eastern Commonwealth, Scarlet’s home in France to the spaceship Cinder ends up on. It gives depth to the story and I really like how you get to take part of the characters, follow their thoughts and their actions while everything weaves itself into the bigger picture which is Scarlet. This novel sets up the sequel, Cress, in a really great way and leaves the reader craving more. There’s love, there’s action, there’s a deadly disease, a prison break, crazy kidnappers and an even crazier queen, the threat of war, new allegiances and a princess once thought to be dead, ready to reclaim her throne. I don’t know about you but this is basically all I’ve ever wanted, packed into one perfect book, one perfect series. You won’t regret reading this, it’s one amazing ride you never want to end!