Remember back in primary school when your teachers employed the “buddy system” on field trips to prevent"Winter" was written to test human resilience.
Remember back in primary school when your teachers employed the “buddy system” on field trips to prevent kids from getting lost or running off? That is basically the entire plot and master strategy to taking down Levana, the antagonist in “Winter”. For 800 pages, all the main characters of The Lunar Chronicles run back and forth between subplots, losing each other in the midst of their poorly conceived battle plans. The entire storyline is one huge dramatic attempt to regroup a bunch of wayward children at a zoo gone wild and Cinder, our protagonist is that one designated chaperone who was suppose to be WATCHING AFTER THE CHILDREN BECAUSE OF HOW RESPONSIBLE SHE IS but inexplicably enough, she STILL somehow manages to lose sight of everyone that was under her watch:
Kai: Following the events of “Cress”, which was basically a 550-page rescue mission to save his ass from getting married to Levana (who, as has been clearly established for three books now, will most likely kill him off the moment she puts a ring on it), at the very first opportunity he is given any agency in this book, Cinder and the Rampion kids drop him off at some port on enemy soil and our tragically useless and stupid crowned prince goes off… AND FUCKING GETS HIMSELF ENGAGED AGAIN. The emperor must be rolling in his grave because his son managed to dishonor their entire country with his stupidity.
Cress: Gets lost TWICE. She was lucky enough to be rescued first time around by Jacin, but the moment Jacin lets her go and she is reunited with Thorne, she gets lost again. Miraculously found by Kai for some inexplicable reason; apparently all of Levana’s guards were off duty or the fucking castle is really just too small.
Thorne: Gets captured by Levana for some stupid shit that went down in some costume party and to give Cress the opportunity to run away, which she couldn’t even do properly, as Cress is unable to function confidently as a human being without Thorne around.
Wolf: At some point, Wolf is captured and once again, undergoes torturous experimentation by Lunar operatives, but as no one in the story really gives a fuck about Wolf’s whereabouts (and probably for good reason, as Wolf is unstable as fuck and no one wants to deal with his shit), neither should we.
Scarlet: To be fair, was already kidnapped at the start of “Winter” but no one ever came to look for her ass because apparently, they were all getting lost and kidnapped themselves. She is busted out of prison by Jacin under the condition that she looks after Winter (who is incapable of making sound decisions for herself due to mental trauma), but instead, leads Winter into a room full of angry, violent, and hungry wolf-men. Oh, and then lets Winter wander off into the woods by herself, eat poison candy from a stranger, and then they both contract a deadly case of leutomosis that happened so briefly and inconsequentially that there was no legitimate point as to why that subplot was added into the story to begin with.
Jacin: Spends most of the book encountering every single one of the main characters and trying to get their shits together, but there is only so much one person can do when they are surrounded by so much stupid.
Other shit with this book that did not go down well (and is still incomplete - Goodreads is giving me 5000 more words to use before I run out of ranting space so let's see how this all goes once I recover from carpal tunnel syndrome):
The Problematic Treatment and Romanticization of Winter's Mental Illness: It is heavily implied that Winter suffers from chronic mental illness characterized by severe bouts of hallucinations and detachment from reality. Her visibly fragmented state makes her incapable of making sound decisions for herself or for the well-being of others and in the story, everyone treats her mental illness as a hindrance rather than an actual serious medical condition, to the point where it is occasionally employed for comic relief (Scarlet’s “teasing” that Winter is “crazy” and using ableist mentality to justify Winter's "craziness", i.e. "my grandma is crazy, people think i'm crazy, therefore, we're all a little crazy!" uh pretty sure that's now how mental illness works, Scarlet; Jacin occasionally attempting to normalize her behavior by romanticizing Winter’s mental illness as personality quirks - MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT QUIRKY OR CUTE). Scarlet openly blames Winter for putting both of their lives in danger when they wound up in a den full of violent, angry, and unstable Lunar soldiers, but as the only person capable of making sound decisions, she should have taken the initiative to get them both the fuck out of that room OR NEVER STEP FOOT IN THE ROOM IN THE FIRST PLACE instead of going along with Winter for Winter’s amusement. She victim-blames Winter, as if Winter had any control over her state of mind.
In addition, Winter's vulnerability is linked heavily to her sexuality. Her mental illness is often followed by emphases on her outward beauty, blurring the reality of a person's physical appeal and the less appealing struggles she suffers. Her fragility is what makes her so appealing to Aimery, several other thaumaturges, the wolf-soldiers, and for Jacin, makes it difficult to ascertain whether he is acting out of genuine concern for her as a person or to "save" her due to her vulnerable state of mind. Also since the narrative gives a disproportionate amount of focus to her illness over the other facets of Winter as a character, it feels like Winter isn't really relevant or "interesting" as a character without her mental illness.
Wolf is the only other character implied with a debilitating state of mind that is almost completely disregarded by the narrative. With the exception of Scarlet, none of the other characters attempt to help him cope with his instability and views it as a hindrance. As with Winter, since there's so much disproportionate focus on how mentally unstable Wolf is and so little focus on his cognitive resilience, it makes his relationship with Scarlet seem even more unhealthy.
Why Cinder is Unfit to Rule Lunar (or Any Governing Body, honestly, why is the fate of the country’s sociopolitical structure dependent on inexperienced children? This is why they’re always at world wars):
#1. Cinder’s approach to justice is just as arbitrary as Levana’s approach to state-ruling, the only difference is that the narrative absolves Cinder of responsibility and consequence, while punishing Levana for it. Her immediate reaction to retaliating against Levana is to use the same despotic tactics as Levana. Levana forces outer-wall civilians into arbitrary compliance by taking away their children and exploiting them for biological warfare; Cinder forces the Artemisia people into arbitrary compliance by driving them into a surrender-or-die dilemma — swear fealty to her or be punished. Sound familiar? It must run in the family. See the massacre during Cinder’s trial (it’s a massacre no matter how fancy you want to get with euphemisms) Cinder took mass control over a dozen thaumaturges and guards, resulting in the deaths of several unarmed aristocrats and implied civilians caught in the crossfire, but neither she nor Kai showed any remorse for the unnecessary killing of life in order to regain control over the situation.
#2. Cinder confuses justice with vengeance. Herein lies one of the major problems with the narrative of this entire story, if not Cinder as a character; the narrative does not acknowledge Cinder for her shortcomings, inexperience, and problems as a leader, but constantly penalizes Levana for the same issues when Cinder’s actions and motives mirrors Levana's. Levana (while mostly self-serving) favors the wealthy and upper-class and will resort to whatever tactics possible in order to maintain control over the populace, she herself, having very little understanding and empathy to what life is like for the impoverished. Cinder favors the disadvantaged and lower-class and will ALSO resort to whatever tactics possible (hostile takeover of the palace and its residents within) in order to maintain control over the aristocracy, she herself having very little understanding and empathy to what life is like for the Artemesian people and especially, the Queen’s guard who are directly servile to Levana’s rule. Looking at Jacin, a captain of the Queen’s guard who was forced into servility under threat of harm to his parents and Kinney, a soldier who shows active dissension towards Levana’s ruling methods, it is likely that there are many other militant officers and thaumaturges that do not agree with Levana but are severely forced into compliance.
#3. And the #3 reason why Cinder is unfit to rule… she has no fucking clue about anything on Lunar. That’s like delegating the role and title of Prime Minister of Japan to a citizen who was born under the non-liberal pluralistic system of the People’s Republic of China on the sole basis of birth entitlement. Cinder has very limited understanding to the living conditions on Lunar (her view considerably slanted since she has only been to one or two sections of the outer-wall), its culture and customs, and most importantly, its sociopolitical and economic standings. Cinder never took the time and effort to discern more about the Lunar civilization neither did she attempt to understand the institutional powers and systems that perpetuate and propagate inequality amongst the populace. Considering that Lunar’s monarchy has spanned for possibly a century or so (since everyone constantly emphasizes that you have to be of direct royal blood in order to rule and the Blackburn family has been the dominant ruling family for awhile based on Levana’s limited explanation of it), Cinder has no idea how significant Lunar’s current political structure is ingrained into its society. And she never took the time and effort to properly find out from Lunar citizens, both in “Cress” and her time spend with Wolf’s mother, Maha, and the wolf-soldier, Strom, she never thought to discern more about this country that she has so little knowledge of, but is more than willing to abuse her title as “the rightful queen” out of self-entitlement (EXACTLY LIKE LEVANA).
Narrative’s Problematic Treatment of Moral Ethics and Responsibility:
#1. Winter’s use of glamouring completely invalidates her principles about using coercive manipulation against a person’s will and further romanticizes her mental illness as a plot device rather than an actual MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION. Winter’s history of mental illness stems from exposure to Levana’s repeated abuse of glamouring. As Winter could not bring herself to use a “gift” that she believes forces a person to act against their free will to protect herself from Levana (having experienced the effects herself FOR MANY YEARS), over the years, the abuse and exposure to vulnerability has done a significant amount of damage to her mental health. All of this becomes inconsequential and incredibly problematic when Winter (view spoiler)[glamours Scarlet into killing Aimery (hide spoiler)]. There are several reasons as to why this is problematic in addition to rendering Winter’s mental health and moral ethics inconsequential: Scarlet is forced into the act of killing someone against her own free will (whether or not Scarlet was intending on killing Aimery to begin with is left open-ended, but Scarlet has never killed someone before and certainly not by force, yet the narrative absolves her of any trauma or repercussions to what it must feel like to have just KILLED someone), Winter’s trauma and repercussions (this should have detrimentally affected her health even more, but instead of focusing on the importance of her actions, Winter is once again, reduced to secondary background character in the book that she is ONLY SUPPOSE TO BE THE MAIN CHARACTER OF), and the blurred lines of ethics involving glamouring. What even constitutes as ethical when you have an ability that persuades people to do [immoral] things without their consent even if it’s being used with good intentions?
#2. The events at Cinder’s Trial are absolved by the narrative and the characters’ actions pardoned of punishment. Again, Cinder uses glamouring against the thaumaturges and Queen’s guard, resulting in the proximal deaths of everyone who was in the room (with the exception of Kai and a scant innocent few that managed to evade attack), regardless of whether or not they posed as a threat. Within the boundaries of the narrative, it’s understandable why Cinder needed to kill the thaumaturges (immediate threat) in order to escape being executed. However, in the process, her recklessness jeopardizes the lives of those within her proximity (aristocrats, servants, unarmed civilians = not immediate threat), but instead of acknowledging the wrongs of her actions, she and Kai barely showed any remorse for what happened in the chaos and it’s never regarded by the story itself that what Cinder and indirectly, Kai did was morally wrong.
#3. (view spoiler)[Levana forces Thorne into mortally stabbing Cress (hide spoiler)]. This scene has to do more with the narrative’s lack of focus on Thorne and Cress’ individual character arcs and the depth and plausibility of their relationship. As established in “Cress”, Cress romanticizes Thorne by sentimentalizing his criminal reputation as a means to cope with her seven years in isolation, but the important thing is even Thorne recognizes that she has a romantic ideal of him that is not him (“It’s just, when Cress thought she was in love with me, she was actually in love with this other guy she’d made up in her head, who was all brave and selfless and stuff.” page 135). The fact that Thorne exhibited so much uncertainty in the beginning of this book in regards to Cress’ perception of him and how he actually views himself, only for that doubt to be entirely tossed out of the window by the end as a result of how he almost killed Cress makes their entire relationship seem built on Cress’ insecurities and Thorne’s guilt rather than genuine feelings for each other. Otherwise, with what limited dynamics we have going between the both of them, how is Thorne’s interactions with Cress any different from the interactions he has had in the past with those “24 other women”? ...more