I’ve had Cinder by Marissa Meyer sitting on my shelf for months. It’s been calling me, but I kept putting off pleasure reading in the name of review books. Then I started getting burned out, and realized that perhaps I needed to read something for me instead of for other people. (Whether you blog for fun or work in publishing professionally, I think this is a pretty universal concept. All obligation-reading and no pleasure-reading makes Jack a dull boy. Or something.) So I went on a tear of pleasure reading while I took my blogging break, and it was fabulous. The last book I read before I plunged back into the blogosphere was Cinder, and it was an excellent one to end on. Fairy tales and CYBORGS! What more could you want in a book?
The Plot (from Goodreads)
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.
First, I just want to say how much I love the idea of this series. Each book in the futuristic sci-fi Lunar Chronicles is a retelling of a classic fairy tale, and I think that combo is magical. Cinder, obviously, is Cinderella. The sequel, Scarlet, is Little Red Riding Hood. And still to come are Cress (Rapunzel) and Winter (Snow White). Each book will continue the tales of the characters from the prior book while introducing us to new re-imaginings of the fairy tale characters, and while I have no idea how Marissa Meyer is going to pull that off, I’m thrilled about the concept.
Now, talking about the book itself, Cinder was a fun protagonist. She was Cinderella meets Kaylee from Firefly, with robot parts. And I liked that although, like the fairy tale, Cinder’s romance with the Prince was definitely part of the story, her main motivation was not love, it was independence. Cinder was prepared to pull herself up by her mechanical bootstraps, and I appreciated that about her.
Prince Kai wasn’t the most fleshed out of characters, although I liked him well enough. No, I didn’t fully understand what made him so very appealing to Cinder, but he wasn’t unappealing. I just didn’t quite love him. But that’s okay, since as I said, the love story was not actually central to the plot. I’m okay warming up to Kai over several books while I stay invested in the rest of the plot. Even Cinder ends the book not entirely sure about how she feels about him, so it’s all right for me to feel the same way.
I really enjoyed the way the fairy tale elements were woven into the story. There’s still an evil stepmother, and an evil stepsister. There’s a prince, and a ball. And there is the classic running-away-down-the-steps scene, although with a twist.
But at the same time, there’s an evil queen who rules a race of people who live on the moon, with mind control powers. There’s political unrest. There’s a mysterious plague. There’s androids and hovers and cyborgs. So while it is recognizable as the fairy tale that inspired it, it also brings a lot of freshness and imagination that makes it stand out from the crowd.
I will say it’s a bit predictable. I called the big “twist” ending somewhere in the first 50 pages. But it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. I still loved to see how everything unfolded. The thing with fairy tale retellings is that we already know all the bones of the story, so I don’t think a surprise ending is all that important. What matters is the creativity of how the tale is told, and how it differs from the original. The characters and setting and how they can hold my interest, even if I know (more or less) what’s coming. And I think Cinder accomplished that in spades.
If you are looking for a fun, imaginative new series that puts an exciting sci-fi twist on the stories you grew up with, I’d highly recommend Cinder.