This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the fourth book in “The Lunar Chronicles” series.
Princess Winter is the stepdaughter of Queen Levana, Luna’s despotic ruler. As a child, Levana was forced into a fire by her beautiful, older sister, Channary, where she sustained disfiguring burns. Levana learned how to use her bioelectrical ability (glamour) to project an image of herself to others and hide her true face to the world.
Cinder is Levana’s niece and the true heir to the Lunar throne. Levana tried to have Cinder killed in a fire when the girl was only 3 years old, but she was saved and smuggled to Earth. Cinder discovers that Levana plans to marry Kai, the emperor of Earth’s Eastern Commonwealth, and then kill him after she becomes empress. Kai wants to find the lost Lunar princess and encourage her to take back her throne, ridding the world of Levana.
Cinder tries to assassinate Levana but fails and ends up a fugitive. She is on the run with a group of other fugitives: another criminal, Carswell Thorne; Levana’s best computer programmer, Cress; one of Levana’s genetically mutated soldiers, Wolf; Scarlet, a girl who’s grandmother helped the toddler-princess escape from Luna; and Cinder’s friend and android, Iko. Cinder sets a plan in motion to start a revolution on Luna and reclaim her throne.
In an act of desperation to stop a war and get the cure for a Lunar-created plague that has been ravaging Earth, Kai agrees to marry Levana, but Cinder kidnaps him before the wedding. She takes him aboard Thorne’s ship and reveals that she is the princess. The kidnapping enrages Levana, who unleashes mutant soldiers on Earth. Cinder and Kai devise a plan to take Luna back from Levana, and the first part of the plan is for Kai to go through with the wedding. He contacts Levana and suggests the ceremony be held on Luna so Cinder and her friends can gain access to the tightly guarded moon. Levana agrees.
Levana is intensely jealous of her beautiful stepdaughter, Princess Winter. Winter has chosen to stop using her mind-control ability, a decision that has led to her mentally instability. Winter has frequent, vivid hallucinations, but remains kind and caring to the people of Luna, much to Levana’s ire.
Winter cares nothing of beauty, but is in love with her childhood best friend, a palace guard named Jacin Clay. Jacin had briefly defected from Levana’s service in an effort to help Cinder, but allowed himself to be caught so he could return to Luna to protect Winter. As a result of Jacin’s betrayal, Scarlet was captured, and Cinder’s group believes that Jacin double-crossed them.
After Jacin returns to Luna, Levana assigns him to be Winter’s personal guard, a position that both thrills and terrifies Jacin, who is in love with her. Jacin knows that if he reveals how much he cares for the princess, Levana will use this to blackmail and punish him, which is exactly what she does. After Levana’s head thaumaturge, Aimery Park, proposes marriage to Winter and she refuses, Levana orders Jacin to murder the princess. Jacin frees the imprisoned Scarlet and asks her to take Winter to the outer sectors of Luna where she can hide from Levana until Cinder reclaims her throne. Winter and Scarlet escape to Wolf’s hometown. Jacin then fakes Winter’s death.
When Kai’s ship lands on Luna, Levana suspects that Cinder is onboard. Guards search the ship and a fight ensues, but Cinder and her friends manage to escape and make their way to Wolf’s childhood home to enlist help from the people in Luna’s poor, outer sectors. Maha, Wolf’s mother, welcomes them, and they begin strategizing their revolution. The group reunites with Winter and Scarlet.
Cress hacks the Luna broadcast system and plays a videotaped message from Cinder, announcing her as Luna’s true queen and urging citizens to take up arms and join a revolution against Levana. The message is so effective that immediately after it plays, Cinder sees citizens in the town square beating up guards. She begs them to stop and save the fight for their true enemy, Levana.
Levana sees footage from the town square and sends soldiers to apprehend Cinder. Soldiers arrive, kill Wolf’s mother and capture Wolf and Cinder. The others escape. Afterward, Thorne and Iko travel to the palace to try and free Cinder and Wolf, while Scarlet and Winter go in search of Levana’s hybrid wolf army to convince them to fight against the evil queen.
The girls travel deep underground. They find the soldiers, who at first would rather eat the girls than help them. The soldiers are, however, surprised and impressed to meet Winter, a royal who refuses to use her abilities to manipulate and control others, sacrificing her mental health. They agree to fight for Cinder and their freedom, and remove Levana from the throne. Winter’s arrival in the soldiers’ barracks alerts Levana that she is still alive.
Winter, Scarlet and the soldiers travel from the tunnels to Luna’s lumber sector to recruit people to their cause. While the soldiers train the people, Winter battles hallucinations. Determined to kill Winter, Levana glamours herself as Jacin. She lures Winter into the woods, and then changes her appearance to that of an old woman who offers the princess apple candy. Winter eats the candy, which contains an aggressive, mutated form of the plague, and falls deathly ill.
Scarlet finds her in the woods and recognizes the markings of the plague. She takes Winter to the clinic, and the local doctor puts her in a suspension tank in an attempt to slow the progress of the disease. Soldiers take the tank out of the clinic into the open so people can see their beloved princess and lay flowers around her.
Back at the palace, Levana is irate with Kai for bringing Cinder to Luna, but she goes forward with the wedding. Kai dreads the wedding, and while he doesn’t know if Cinder is still alive, he has faith in her and her plan so he goes through with the marriage. During the reception, Levana brings Cinder from her dungeon for entertainment and for execution. Kai is horrified to see that Cinder is captured.
Levana isn’t wearing her veil. Since Cinder’s cybernetics aren’t affected by glamour, she records the queen’s face during the confrontation. Cinder declares herself the true queen of Luna and starts a fight. She escapes by jumping from the balcony into the lake below the palace. She almost drowns, but is rescued by Thorne, Iko, Cress and Jacin, who is now on the run since the queen knows that he faked Winter’s murder.
They take Cinder to a safe house, where they try to repair her badly damaged cybernetics and come up with a new plan to defeat Levana during the coronation. The group sees alerts that one of the outer sectors has been quarantined. They find video footage of Winter in the tank.
Cress and Thorne sneak into the palace as Lunar attendees to the coronation, while Cinder, Jacin and Iko break into the medical labs and steal the cure for the plague. After stealing the vials, they travel to the outer sectors and administer the cure to Winter, Scarlet and everyone else who is infected. Afterward, Cinder leads the rebels to the palace while Winter and Jacin travel to other sectors to gather support and fighters for Cinder’s revolution.
As Levana is crowned empress of Earth’s Eastern Commonwealth, Cinder and her rebel fighters arrive at the palace and demand the queen’s surrender. Levana and her thaumaturges engage the rebels in a bloody fight, using mind control to force many to kill themselves. Cress infiltrates the palace’s communication system, playing Cinder’s video, which shows Levana’s true face and hideous scars. The video unhinges Levana and the thaumaturges, causing them to lose control of the fight. Levana retreats into the palace, pursued by Cinder.
Winter and Jacin arrive with rebel reinforcements, but Jacin stops Winter from joining the fighting, fearing her fragile mental state. As he tries to take her away, Aimery shows up and uses his mind control to try to force Winter to kill Jacin, whom he has always seen as his competitor for Winter’s affection. In desperation, Winter uses her mind control to force Scarlet to stab Aimery to death. The act causes Winter to have a psychotic break.
Cinder finds Levana in the throne room, holding Thorne hostage. Cinder and Levana battle using mind control, until Levana surrenders. When Cinder goes to take a weapon away from her, Levana stabs Cinder in the heart. Cinder shoots and kills Levana. Cinder survives the stabbing and, in her first act as queen, gives Earth the cure for the plague, asks Earth’s world leaders to retract the laws that treat cyborgs as property and to allow Lunars to travel freely to Earth. They agree. Thone and Cress agree to help the government take the cure to different cities around the world.
Winter remains in the hospital for weeks following her breakdown. Not even a kiss from Jacin can wake her up. Finally, after an extended hospital stay, Winter becomes lucid enough to function. She volunteers to try a device that would suppress her abilities, which may help her mental illness. She also agrees to become a Lunar ambassador to Earth. Jacin vows to stay by her side. Scarlet asks Wolf to move back to Scarlet’s farm in France.
Cinder is crowned queen of Luna. Afterward, she tells Kai that she would eventually like to help Luna transition to a democracy with an elected government. At that time, she will step down as queen. He asks her if she would ever consider becoming his empress. She says that she would consider it, one day.
The Lunars can control the minds, and thus the actions, of those around them telekinetically.
Levana hates her stepdaughter, Winter, and her niece, Cinder, and tries to have both killed. She uses, fear and intimidation to keep Lunars under control. She expects them to love her in spite of her cruelty. Kai’s adviser, Konn Torin, provides him with sound advice and wise counsel. Kai loves Torin like a father, and when he looks at the man, Kai feels that he is looking at an older, wiser version of himself. Kai thinks it would good for him to grow up to be as stable and capable as Torin.
Cinder’s stepsister, Pearl, has lost her social standing, and while she blames Cinder, she also blames her mother, Audri. Audri admits that she knew Cinder was important when her husband adopted her, but she still treated the child poorly.
Wolf was taken from his parents when he was just a child, and when he finds his mother on Luna, he worries that she will be disgusted and fearful of the mutant he has become. Maha is happy to see her son, despite the genetic mutations that have been forced on him, and welcomes him with open arms. Wolf is saddened to find out that his father died a few years earlier.
Language and name-calling include hell and stupid. Stars is used as if it were profanity. Other variations include holy stars almighty, stars above, thank the stars and oh stars.
The violence depicted is graphic. There are numerous, bloody battles filled with gore. Executions are usually carried out by the victim’s own hand, through manipulation. Winter witnesses a prisoner slit his own neck at Aimery’s command. Lunar soldiers travel in packs on Earth and leave trails of blood and severed limbs in their wake. Guns are fired during fights. Blood, gore and injuries are depicted.
Jacin fakes Winter’s death by killing an arctic wolf, one of the princess’s favorite animals. He covers her body with its blood.
Pearl arrives home to find mutant Lunar soldiers in her home and is so afraid that she pees on herself. The soldiers discuss eating her, but decide against it, as they were ordered to bring her to Levana alive. Mutant soldiers are enticed into battle with the promise of killing and eating their opponents’ flesh, which they do.
Aimery manipulates Maha to first break her fingers and then someone shoots her, while her son watches in horror. He is restrained and unable to help her. Both thaumaturges and civilians are killed and wounded in the standoff. When soldiers go to Maha’s house looking for other rebels, they find and shoot Iko, badly damaging her android body. Iko uses a thaumaturge as a shield, and the woman is killed. Winter tries to save Iko. She stabs a guard, but gets beaten unconscious. Another guard shoots and kills her attacker.
Winter’s arrival in the soldiers’ barracks alerts Levana that she is still alive; the queen sends her thaumaturges to control the situation. Levana’s thaumaturges arrive, treat the soldiers like dogs and order them to kill Winter and Scarlet. The soldiers choose to fight back and kill the thaumaturges instead. The battle is bloody, as the soldiers rip the thaumaturges’ bodies to pieces, eating their flesh.
As a child, Winter used her mind-control abilities to stop a servant from committing suicide, only to find out later that the woman was being tortured by Aimery. The servant successfully committed suicide later, and afterward, Winter decided to stop using abilities, a decision that caused mental instability. Aimery uses mental manipulation to force Winter to strangle Jacin, but before she chokes him to death, she turns her own powers on Scarlet, manipulating the girl to kill Aimery with a blade.
Winter has visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations (many involving her drowning in blood). After her mental breakdown, she lashes out at others and herself and has to be kept hospitalized and in restraints.
During the wedding ceremony, Kai stabs Levana in the arm with a pair of scissors. He takes pleasure in the fact that he was able to hurt her, proving that she isn’t invincible. (He was aiming for her heart.) He tells her that he knows she intends to kill him when he is no longer useful. He wants her to know the feeling was mutual.
Levana plans to hold Cinder’s execution during the wedding reception, but instead, Cinder starts a fight that results in guests and guards being shot or ripped apart by Levana’s mutant wolf soldiers.
The final battle between Levana’s thaumaturges and Cinder’s rebels is a bloody, gory massacre. Thaumaturges manipulate wolf soldiers to turn on civilians and force civilians to turn on each other and themselves, many taking their own lives with the weapons they’re carrying. Levana stabs Cinder, and Cinder shoots Levana, killing her. While being manipulated, Thorne shoots Cress in the stomach, and Cress cuts off one of his fingers in an attempt to stop him.
The reader is told that Aimery was fond of the servant woman who committed suicide. It is implied that the torture of her was sexual. When Aimery proposes to Winter, she is horrified, as she knows how he treats the women he is attracted to. She refuses his proposal, and he becomes enraged. Jacin and Winter love each other but do not act on their feelings in fear of Levana’s vindictive nature.
Jacin passionately kisses Winter just before he stages her death. Winter, believing Jacin is about to carry out the order to kill her, tells him that she loves him. A palace guard finds Winter after she has escaped from the palace. As he has her cornered, he tells her that he’s been waiting to have her alone for years. When Aimery tries to manipulate Winter into killing Jacin, he tells her he will have her, if not as a wife or a willing mistress, then as a possession. When she is in the hospital suffering from her mental breakdown, Jacin tells her he loves her, hoping that she will hear him and wake up. Men stare lustfully at Winter, which angers Jacin.
Kai and Cinder have feelings for each other and kiss several times. She refers to him as her boyfriend when speaking to others. He is amused when he finds out. Kai kisses Levana at their wedding but it is abrupt and passionless, nothing like the kisses he shares with Cinder. After Cinder survives Levana’s attack, Kai is there when she wakes up. He assures her that his marriage to Levana was never consummated. After she is crowned queen, he jokes about proposing marriage to her, which Cinder makes clear that she isn’t ready for. But she does mention that one day she will be.
Cress is in love with Thorne but believes she isn’t glamorous enough to have her affections returned. Furthermore, Thorne is a notorious flirt who has told Cress that she is too good for him. Unbeknown to Cress, Thorne loves her, too. In the palace, two Lunars (a woman and a man glamoured to look like a woman) make passes at Thorne. Guests are invited to enjoy the palace’s companionship rooms. A Lunar woman glamours herself to look like Cress, and she manipulates Throne. He passionately kisses her and tells her he loves her, believing her to be Cress. Cress is upset by this, but then Thorne kisses her as well. He later admits that he loves Cress, and she agrees to travel the world with him on his ship.
Wolf is in love with Scarlet and considers her his mate. When Scarlet goes to the hybrid soldiers to ask for help, one of them suggestively tells her that they will be happy to satisfy whatever needs she has. She angrily tells the soldier that she already has an alpha mate to satisfy her needs. After Wolf is captured by Levana and further mutated to look and behave even more like a wolf, he is afraid that Scarlet will reject him, but she does not. Scarlet tells a friend that she is dating Wolf. He agrees to move back to France with her and live on her farm.
Drinking: Guests drink at palace events. Thorne drinks a blue liquid from a goblet.
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