By Marissa Meyer
January 3, 2012
Feiwel & Friends
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
CINDER is a well written re-envisioning of the classic fairy tale… with cyborgs, alien races and interracial war in the mix. I admire Marissa’s bravery in undertaking a well-known story and dropping it right in the middle of a futuristic setting as well as turning Cinder(ella) into a cyborg. For the traditionalist, that is quite a lot to take in. It could have gone bad, so very, very bad, but amazingly it works! And it works in a very, very good way indeed.
So you have the classic fairy tale, ok. But place it somewhere in the distant future after multiple World Wars have ultimately united the citizens of Earth. Throw in a race of Lunars (people living on the moon) and you have the world conflict. Then you make Cinder even more of an outcast by turning her into a cyborg in a world where cyborgs are looked down upon in society as the lowest of the low. Mix in a deadly disease, a controlling step-mother and two step-sisters, as well as a mystery of epic proportions, and you have turned the classic fairy tale into this highly entertaining, futuristic cyberpunk chronicle. Sadly, I did notice a couple little “holes” here and there while reading, though I’m not sure if they are holes, so much as they are items that we’re not yet supposed to know about (there are three more books currently planned in the series). This book definitely does read like the first part in a continuing story. We’ve only scratched at the surface here. (But still I wonder, did I miss the explanation as to how the Lunars ended up on the moon and became the “Lunar” race in the first place?)
I instantly fell in love with the main character, Cinder. She is both meek and strong-willed, if such a thing can be said about a single person (er, cyborg). She is fixated with the belief that her kind -cyborgs- are worthless and have no real place in the world. All thanks to the words of her step-mother, as well as the beliefs of those who live and work around her. Yet, at the same time, Cinder knows what she wants and in most cases (except for those that have some relation to her being a cyborg, of course) she will stand strong in her convictions and work tirelessly for what she wants or for what she believes is right. I admire Cinder, both as a person, per say, and as the heroine of the story. Ohhh, but there moments when I seriously wanted to strangle her (for reasons I will not reveal)!!! In addition, I fell in love with the “Prince”, Kai. In Cinder we have the opportunity to get into the prince’s head, witness his side of the events and learn more about his story, which is something lacking in most classic fairy tales. The step-mother fits her mold, as do the step-sisters (or at least one of them). Cinder also has a wonderful android friend, Iko, who I grew to like for her humor and personality (chip). Finally, there is an additional antagonist in the story, Lunar Queen Levana, who chilled me to the bone on more than one occasion.
At some unknown time in the future, people are identified with chips in their arms, use net screens to communicate, hover cars have replaced the modern vehicle, broken body parts are replaced with cyborg pieces, the elite are assisted by androids and all people live in a unified world where the Commonwealth appears to reign supreme. Oh, and there is a race of people on the moon who we are apparently deathly afraid of. This is the world in which Cinder lives, and it is in many ways familiar, yet in ever more ways like a foreign unimaginable future. I love the way that Marissa takes components of our current world and twists them into things of her future world. Oh, and apparently, in this distant future, we have already experienced not one but two more World Wars – the second of which almost destroyed us all. Finally, the fear that the citizens have for some new, fast-acting and deadly disease that is rampaging around the land (which is incurable at that) is felt in nearly every action and/or word said by the characters. I only wish that a little more could have been said about how we got to this future.
Quite a lot happens to poor Cinder within these 300 pages. There is a large amount of build up and multiple peaking climaxes within the book before you even reach the final, fast-paced climax. At its core, the book follows the classic storyline of Cinderella, but it is a telling unlike any Cinderella you have ever read or seen before. There is no fairy godmother here, and thankfully there are no clothed mice who talk either. And the ball, well that is something else entirely… It’ll be difficult to put this book down once you’ve started, so be sure to make a corner of your home nice and comfy for a handful of hours or, if you’re a busy mommy like me, for a whole weekend. But please please read the book knowing that this is the first entry in a four part series. With that said, I desperately want the second installment, Scarlet. (Like, NOW NOW NOW!)
Oh my, the dialogue. I personally believe that dialogue is the strongest part of Marissa Meyers’ writing. At times witty and at times quite tragic and sad. She has a way of making you sympathize when you should be sympathizing, or suspicious when you know a character may be pulling one over on you. She will make you despise those who commit wrong doings. There is also a lot of foreshadowing splattered throughout, some of which (most unfortunately) caused me to know the outcome before it even happened. But no worries! Even if it is a bit predictable, you will still find yourself cheering, shrieking or cringing as the events unfold. I did subtract a point though, since I, in all my naivety, could not be surprised to the very end. Others may find it even easier to guess what happens next.
I enjoyed Cinder to my geeky core and I look forward to reading Scarlet in 2013, Cress in 2014 and Winter in 2015. (My! That sounds so far away!) I would recommend this book to anyone who likes cyberpunk, science fiction, fairy tales or anime/manga. The author is a Sailormoon fan, and its influence is slightly apparent in her writing. (That’s a major compliment, coming from a fellow Sailormoon fan.)