Cress by Marissa Meyer

13206828 If you haven't read Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, and you like fairy tales, science fiction, YA, or just good books, run out and get the first book, Cinder, immediately.

If you've already read the first two books in the series, then Cress is a great addition. In this third book in the series, we see Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf and Captain Thorne continue to fight to stop Levana's wedding to Emperor Kai, while also meeting Cress, a Lunar shell who has spent the last seven years alone on a satellite, spying on Earthen leaders and concealing Lunar ships. Yet Cress's hacking skills go far beyond anything that her captors imagine, and although she's been ordered to find Cinder, she's been concealing her ship, in the hope that she'll be able to stop Levana and possibly even rescue Cress in the process.

Warning: the overarching Queen Levana plot mostly pauses for the middle 50% of the book, where the story mostly focusses on retelling the Rapunzel fairy tale. As all the other plotlines are mostly paused for various reasons, I actually found myself frustrated when chapters returned to Cinder's perspective, since I got pretty invested in Cress's story.

Cress is an adorable character. I think some people might take issue with her, because she's very much the naive damsel, but I absolutely love her. She's a romantic daydreamer who develops a massive crush on Captain Thorne before she ever meets him, but her whole narrative plays with this idea of being a damsel in distress with the handsome hero who rescues her, and the result, at least to me, is pretty darn fulfilling.

And Cress is very much not a "Strong Female Character (TM)." Instead, she mixes strengths and weaknesses, silliness and awesomeness to be a very compelling and believable female character. My favorite kind! She dreams that her life will be like some epic drama, she's melodramatic as all hell, and she gets through frightening moments by make-believing that she's an actress or an adventurer, which is, I think, a totally fun and valid way of dealing with fear. She is very girly, loves twirling in gorgeous dresses and imagining romance, but she's also a real badass hacker, combining "shallow girly" traits and "nerdy masculine" traits into one totally original, totally believable character. And although she's forced to wait for rescue in her satellite, she's hardly the kind who sits back and lets other people do all the hard work for her. She's never going to be running headfirst into battle, but she's fierce and brave in her own way.

It also seems fitting that I'm writing this review on Valentine's Day, because Cress definitely ups the series' romantic stakes, and the story between Cress and Captain Thorne is laugh-out-loud and swoonworthy in equal measure. If you like your fairy tale retellings with Han Solo-esque heroes and hilarious melodramatic declarations of "I'm going to die and I've never been kissed, this is the biggest tragedy in the history of the world!", then step right up. "Do you think fate brought us together?" Cress asks at one point. "No, I'm pretty sure it was Cinder," Thorne replies. I'm in love.

In short, The Lunar Chronicles is still a fab fairy tale series. The only downside? The next and final book, Winter, is now a year away.