Cress by Marissa Meyer
Cinder is still on the run and she has a new ally she doesn't even know about, the lunar shell Cress who has been trapped high in her satellite for years and has been erasing their ship off the map just like she's done with other lunar ships for years. But Cress is tired of her tower and dreams of meeting up with Cinder and the rest of her team, too bad that dreams aren't always what you really want.
I know I mentioned in my review of Cinder that while I loved the accompanying short story and the initial excerpt I read I wasn't as blown away by the actual story and the same thing happened to me with Scarlet. And yet again, while I still like the idea this story as a whole just isn't coming together for me and it's not coming together in a rather complicated way. There isn't one glaring problem that is holding the series back but rather many little problems and it's making it hard to me to say what I'm actually enjoying.
One problem is how un-distinct from each other each character is. They're not carbon copies of each other but half of the group have really similar speech patterns (the same just awkwardly placed quips and such) and for a group that doesn't really feel like a group that's a problem. Everyone is in a pair with another character or two and Meyer has spent a lot of time trying to give those character deep bonds with each other but as a whole? They just feel less cohesive than I think they're supposed to and that makes the problem even worse. I also noticed that the men in the group are written rather, femininely and I can't work out if that's a problem or not since it just feels so odd. Thorne and Wolf feel more like what a girl hopes a guy is like than a real person and I was unsettled to realize that Kai has a lot of traits that I dislike in female characters in the same position (ie, someone in power with no skills at all in politics even though they really should have some, at least he's not as prone to violence as female characters in this position often are). This is coupled with another problem, we're leading up to the grand finale and, with hardly any work, Cinder has assembled her team of allies (whom the book has implied are the best people to pull this off but hasn't managed to convince me) and it just doesn't quite work. I actually understand why most authors don't do this now, when someone doesn't have to fight until the bitter end to get everyone to cooperate it feels false and flat*.
Connected to that idea, a lot of the conflicts feel artificial here. Queen Levana wants to remain Queen because that's what evil queens want and that's her only reason as far as I can tell. "But the book gives all these reasons for her to have such a stranglehold over Earth!" you might cry and I'll agree, the book went out of it's way to paint as bleak a picture as possible and question every the competency of every leader on Earth for letting it get that way. And going from that idea, how can any victory by Cinder feel like a real victory and not some plot contrivance at this point? Heck, in most series the hero will have had a minor victory or two by this point (which helps build their support case since every hero has support) and that hasn't happened here, we've had no proof that Cinder can do anything aside from getting a town of people who believed in her, based on what someone else told them, razzed to the ground for acting on their own, not even for being lead by her. I really wish that the story would at the very least explore that plotline about Cinder's own mother being a bad queen more as well since it's been brought up a few times and it would be interesting to see Cinder struggle with the expectation that since her whole family has turned out evil that she will be as well, as it stands there are way too many random people who are putting their faith in her. So by this point I'm pretty sure I won't like how Winter ends, I do plan to read it at some point (because I already came this far!) but I'm really disappointed that the story seems to have grand ideas but it refuses to give the character the grand struggles, hopes, and set-backs that this set-up requires.
*I am up for debate however if this is just because it's what I'm used to reading or if it's because that's how groups tend to work in real life since I've been part of several rather cohesive groups which makes me doubt that reason.