“But you’re a prisoner,” said Thorne.
“I prefer damsel in distress,” she murmured.
One side of Thorne’s mouth quirked up, into that perfect half smile he had in his graduation photo. A look that was a little bit devious, and all sorts of charming.

Cress sent me on a whirlwind of emotions from beginning to end.

Of all Marissa Meyer’s novels, Cress is my favorite and remains so to this day. Unfortunately, to describe all my reasons for loving this book would be to riddle this review in spoilers, so I won’t do that. But I’d be remiss if I did not point to how much this book has come to mean to me. I don’t think I ever expected to see myself so thoroughly in Cress, but she speaks to me on a level I never even knew was possible. So often we speak of the importance in seeing ourselves in characters we read. For me, I have never felt it more strongly than I do with Cress.

“I am an explorer,” she whispered, “setting courageously off into the wild unknown.” It was not a daydream she’d ever had before, but she felt the familiar comfort of her imagination wrapping around her. She was an archeologist, a scientist, a treasure hunter. She was a master of land and sea. “My life is an adventure.”

Crescent is a young tech wiz imprisoned in a satellite by Lunar Queen Levana’s most important dignitary. Cress’ entire life has been shaped by the laws of her planet (the moon), an unfortunate circumstance in her birth, her own brilliant intelligence with technology, and the misfortune of Sybil Mira learning about it. Kept isolated from everyone but Sybil herself, Cress’ social skills and understanding of the world are sorely underdeveloped. Everything she’s ever learned has come almost solely from the internet.

And she is perhaps one of the most impressive characters I’ve ever seen. 

I related to Cress quickly. This wasn’t because I’m some technology or programming genius, but rather that the way Cress reacts to the world resonated deeply with me. While I did not grow up wholly isolated from the world, I was an incredibly shy bookish sort. In a sense, I had a sheltered upbringing that left me floundering somewhat as an adult. I felt exceedingly connected with Cress’ anxiety, determination, and coping mechanisms. She has always, without fail, felt incredibly similar to me in a great many ways.

As an added bonus, Cress was also infatuated with Carswell Thorne almost as soon as she learned of him. Which only made me love her more. 

Maybe great, epic romances don’t just happen. We have to make them ourselves.

This is the book that I leave wanting to immediately turn around and re-read. It’s the one I connect to in a way feels more real than most books I’ve read. Readers always parrot the very real idea that books allow them to experience different lives and adventures we’d never have otherwise. Cress hits this very nail on the head exceedingly well. The main character’s immense relatability made it impressively easy to fit myself in her shoes. Of course, I do realize this is closely related to who I am as a person, but I doubt I am the only one who felt this way.

Inspired by the tale of Rapunzel, Cress hits all the best points of a story I’ve always loved immensely. Cress is a novel of adventure, love, self-actualization, growing, and of loss. Centered around Cress, the book spends quite a bit of time with her and, to my everlasting pleasure, Carswell Thorne.

Thorne’s development from Scarlet to Cress could not be more perfect. Carswell’s personality growth as a result of meeting Cress and sharing experiences with her is beautifully written. There’s something to be said for the ways in which another person can influence our own development as people. I don’t think either Cress or Carswell would have ever grown into impressively amazing people without the other.

In its own way, this beautiful romance that has permeated every aspect of my emotional connection to this book, mirrors a huge part of my own life. Now, my partner isn’t a debonair criminal mastermind, but having him in my life has allowed both of us to grow exponentially as people. I will always feel eternally grateful for the opportunity to re-experience this every time I read this novel.

Maybe there isn’t such a thing as fate. Maybe it’s just the opportunities we’re given, and what we do with them.

I could go on forever about the relatability aspect of Cress and how much it has impacted me. But Cress shines for more than just this reason. I’ve always made no secret of my adoration for Meyer’s work, but I believe this novel truly showcases the brilliance of her abilities. In every way, Cress is the best book I have read in my entire life. The plot is a continuation of the first two books; following that theme of twisting a fairytale into Meyer’s pre-established world.

Cress is a very character driven novel. Each moment is centered around choices characters must make to survive through their circumstances. With so many characters involved now, we jump between a wide variety of them. Each leads into important and impactful moments that have the power to change the course of the future. I love how the lives of these different characters intertwine. Adventure comes of connecting moments. Before they even realize, a group of people become involved in saving the world, a fate they likely never imagined for themselves.

Except for Cress. Cress always imagined it.

You can help me pick out a tiara when we’re done saving the world.

This is also the book in which readers meet Princess Winter for the very first time. Winter’s debut in this novel was nothing short of amazing. The misfortune that plagues her and the ways in which she manages it is astounding. We meet her for a mere chapter. And in that short span of time, I was blown away.

Prince Kai’s point of view returns, even more prominent in its importance here. In fact, so much happens through Cress it’s difficult to write a review that truly encompasses the brilliance of each moment. We gain and lose characters, illustrating the ever-growing high stakes Cinder faces. Revelations are made and characters grow, all leading up to one final moment that sets up the series end.

I’d once been certain Meyer could do nothing more to improve my high regard for her skills as a writer. But, without fail, she manages time and time again to surpass herself entirely. This, of course, marks Cress as the most unforgettable and amazing book I own. 

🦊🦊🦊🦊🦊

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