EDIT: I’m coming a little late to the party, but in case you haven’t heard the incredibly good news, THE WINNER’S KISS WILL BE RELEASED IN THE ORIGINAL COVER!!! Read here! I’m so so happy about the news! I actually think I almost cried when I heard it! Thank you so much to FSG/Macmillan/Fierce Reads for listening to the readers’ comments and deciding to release the hardcover of The Winner’s Kiss in the original cover!
Writing this rage-infested post in the wee early hours of the morning because 1) My dog woke me up and 2) My rage can no longer be tamped down.
As you know if you were around the Interweb yesterday, THIS happened.
Sigh. As a general rule, it’s never cool to have a mid-series cover change. But it happens. The Shatter Me trilogy, the Across the Universe trilogy, the Cahill Witch Chronicles series, the Dissonance books are just a few examples that come to mind. Sometimes I welcome these changes (as I did with Shatter Me and Dissonance), but more often than not, it just becomes a big hassle and an OCD nightmare when your hardcover books no longer match.
I’m going to start by saying I absolutely LOVED the original Winner’s Curse covers. They’re actually one of my favorite covers ever and I’ll admit it’s part of why I was turned on to the series when it first came out. I think they’re incredibly gorgeous and I would have never thought they’d do a cover change with these books.
Another qualm I have: It’s three months to its release date. That’s right, The Winner’s Kiss comes out in a measly three months. The beautiful cover for the third book had already been released months ago and I’d been looking forward to buying my gorgeous hardcopy. So the fact that readers are in a rage having been presented with a new cover all of a sudden is no surprise.
But my biggest problem with the cover change: They were changed for the sole reason of making Kestrel look more bad***. (Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the Tweet in which this was stated, but that really was the reason that prompted this cover change.) That was just such a disappointment for me. The new covers show Kestrel in a much more warrior-tinted light. The new covers are generic and many are saying they are cheap Throne of Glass ripoffs (which I can’t help but agree with). The new covers no longer have the beautiful subtleties of the original covers. They no longer convey the dangerous, yet beautiful tone of the book. They no longer have the layers of depth that I saw in the original covers that echoed the story.
Worst of all, the new covers go against Kestrel’s character. If you’ve read The Winner’s Curse (which you should by the way), you’ll know that Kestrel is not a fighter. It is one of the things that I love about Kestrel. Her strengths come from her intelligence and cunning versus her physical strength. She is actually rather bad at fighting and avoids it when she can because she knows that’s not where she excels. Her keen observations are what get her places, her ability to put two and two together quickly when most people don’t, her mind, her talents as a strategist, her cleverness–that is what makes her strong. And so the fact that the new covers were redesigned to make her look more bad*** warrior fighting princess is an incredible disappointment and such an offense to who her character is.
There’s a scene in the book (look away now if you don’t care for this minor spoiler) where Kestrel is forced into a duel with someone she knows is physically stronger than her and more trained. She knows well that she won’t be able to win using just her fighting skills, which are lacking. So instead, she does something else. Earlier on in the book, there are very keen observations that she makes and using that information, she is able to deduce a great secret of his to blackmail him into throwing the duel.
How is that not bad***?
There always seem to be complaints about covers with “a girl in a dress.” And I understand. After seeing a thousand covers with girls in dresses, it can get tiresome. I understand that right now “Katniss”-type characters are in vogue and publishers want to capitalize on that. I get that right now what’s popular and what appeals to readers is a main character that can swing swords and chop off head with machetes and stab bad guys with knives. Which is great and I love that and that’s totally fine when that is who the character is. But I think people are forgetting that that’s not the only character you can have and those types of physically strong, fighting characters are not the only characters who are strong.
There is a terrible stereotype that a “girly girl” or a “girl in a dress” is not capable of being strong. This right here is one of my biggest ever pet peeves. While in many ways I consider myself somewhat of a tomboy, I also love wearing dresses, I love painting my nails and putting on make-up. I love buying pretty jewelry and wearing fancy high heels. But I also don’t mind squashing spiders and punching my brother when he’s annoying and being a total slob sometimes. One of my favorite types of people are actually people who seem really “girly” but then turn out to be the toughest people I’ve ever met who don’t shy away from anything. Strength and “girliness” are not mutually exclusive and the implication that it is annoys the crap out of me, especially because I feel as though I have both a “girly” side and a “tomboyish” side.
And while we’re on the subject… About a week ago, I posted The Lunar Chronicles on my bookstagram, asking people which was their favorite book. I was surprised when someone said that they hated Winter, which is fine because everyone has their likes and dislikes, but what bothered me was the reason I was given for hating this book. The commenter said that they hated Winter because she was such a weak character and mentioned (look away again if you haven’t read Cinder!) that if Cinder marries Kai and goes off to live with him in the Commonwealth versus ruling Luna on her own, they were going to be enraged.
In a way, I understand what this person was saying. But I also personally feel as though this is a really one-sided, shallow way to think. Cinder would never be a character that I would call “weak” in whatever sense of the word. She’s pretty tough and certainly knows her way around her machinery. But the implication that if she marries someone she loves and chooses to be with him suddenly makes her weak and woefully dependent? That doesn’t sit right with me. First of all, if Cinder does choose to (look away!) not to rule Luna, I think it makes perfect sense. She has never wanted to be a princess and the only reason why she did choose to come into her birthright was to stop Queen Levana. She never asked to rule Luna and she has never wanted to. So what if she wants to give that duty up to someone else and live with Kai and continue her work as the best mechanic in all of New Beijing? Why should she have to rule Luna in order to maintain her status as a “strong” character when that goes against her desires? It would be completely different if Cinder had wanted to rule Luna and was forced out of it by Kai, but that’s not the case here. Cinder makes her own decisions and if she doesn’t want to rule Luna, so be it!
Point number 2: Winter is weak. Why? How? Again, in some ways, I get it. But, again, it’s what enrages me. Why is she thought to be a weak character? Because she doesn’t physically fight the bad guys? Just because she’s scared and shows it, that automatically makes her weak? What about her kindness? What about how she never uses her Lunar powers because she refuses to become like Levana, despite the fact it’s destroying her? What about having lived with Levana all her life and suffered greatly, yet is not bitter nor heartless? Wouldn’t you consider that a strength?
I really do think kindness is underrated. In many ways kindness is thought to be a weakness (at least in fiction) and that to be kind is to be stupid or somehow lower. But the people I admire most in life are the people who are kind and especially the people who are kind and positive even when they are in pain (working at a PT clinic, these are really the kinds of people you come to love and admire.)
And same with Cress. Yes, she cowers and shakes and hides behind Thorne, but despite how afraid she is, she doesn’t back down. She does what she needs to because she knows people are relying on her. She comes through, she faces the bad guys despite how much it scares her. Don’t you think that makes her braver than someone who faces the bad guy with no fear at all? Because she’s shy, that makes her weak?
Strength does not have to be physical strength. That is not the only kind of strength that should be valued.
Remember that there is an entire spectrum of characters. It’s not either Bella* or Katniss. There’s Kestrel and Fire and Cress and Celaena and Alina and Laia and June. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses. They all struggle with different things. They all have different personalities. They are all different characters and people. They don’t have to be one or the other. Do all characters have to be as a cold as Katniss to be considered strong? Because Bella wants to get married to the love of her life, she is considered weak?
(*Also, what’s wrong with Bella? Yes, she’s not as independent and proactive as many other characters, but that’s the thing–there are all different types of characters. What about her fierce desire to protect her family? What about her willingness to sacrifice herself for those she loves? Why should one be thought of as better than the other? I totally get it if she’s not the character for you, but just remember that she, too, has her strengths as well as her weaknesses.)
I think things like this become a problem when we see too much of one character and people forget that there are other people, personalities, and characters. I think things like this become a problem when one character is revered and another is demeaned. There definitely can be infuriating characters and annoying characters and stupid characters and characters you hate and that purely comes down to opinion, but I think it’s always good to keep in mind that there is no one ultimate character. There can be all sorts of heroines who are all amazing and awesome and strong for different reasons, but amazing and awesome and strong all the same.
So, for the end of this very long post, I want to give some recommendations of books that I have enjoyed that don’t feature a physically strong character and may even wear dresses all the time.
Fire by Kristin Cashore – featuring Fire, a beautiful “monster” who uses her abilities to fight for her kingdom.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – featuring Laia, a girl set out to find and rescue her captured brother.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – featuring Shazi, a girl who seeks revenge against a king that killed her friend.
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoksi – featuring Kestrel, a girl who uses her wits, cunning, and intelligence to outmaneuver her enemies.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik – featuring Agneiszka, a girl who uses her magic to save her village from the corrupted Woods.
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi – featuring Aria, a Dweller who knows nothing of the outside world that goes on a journey to rescue Perry’s nephew.
Across a Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund – featuring Persis, a girl who pretends to be stupid to hide the fact that she is secretly a rebel going on missions to rescue people about to be executed.
Mulan – Okay, so not a book, but awesome all the same. Featuring, Mulan, who saved all of China, in a dress I might add.
(I highly suggest reading Across a Star Swept Sea, which despite being amazing and an incredible read, is rather unknown.)
What are your recommendations? What are your thoughts about this?