Cinder by Marissa Meyer
So Cinder is one of those books that everybody’s read and all of them love. Apparently. I am one of those people who didn’t read it for, like, four years once the series was done and the hype was ending. Evidently.
But DAMN guys, I should have read this ages ago!
For those of you who don’t know (and I know it is hiiiiiiiiighly probable none of you fit that bill), Cinder is a futuristic retelling Cinderella as–wait for it–a cyborg! Serious props to Meyer for coming up with that one. The story takes place in New Beijing, 126 years after WWIV. The world is now divided into kingdoms (more or less representative of the current countries) in relative peace who work together on matters of international peril. Cinder is a mechanic working in the Commonwealth of New Beijing where letumosis claims the lives of many everyday. Then there are the Lunars, mysterious and sort of magical beings from the moon thought to be the source of the plague but also a massive threat to world peace. The Lunars want something and Prince Kai isn’t quite willing to give it to them. When his path crosses with Cinder’s, well, things get a whole lot more complicated.
Okay, full disclosure: the cyborg thing kind of threw me off at first. It’s actually one of the reasons I waited so long before reading it. I’m not usually into the robots and electronics and high-tech futuristic societies kind of thaaaang (my dad’s super tech-y space shows never really did anything for me). But the way Meyer spun her tale didn’t bore me as I’d been expecting; it was captivating. The cyborgs are people who underwent often unwanted surgery during which body parts were exchanged for metal. They’re considered a sort of scum, the lowest, the least human and ranked just barely above the entirely mechanic androids. It was interesting to see the cyborgs and androids acting and thinking and feeling entirely human. I find that in those films and such I am familiar with (ie. iRobot), majority are victim to their own programming and lacking in emotion. But most androids in New Beijing, save for the job-specific ones like med-droids, had distinctive personalities and a measure of free will, while still keeping with traditional robot elements. I also liked that the cyborgs weren’t praised or admired for their extra talents, but hated for them. Now, I don’t know if that’s a common thing with these sorts of books but in any case it was refreshing. Cinder isn’t glad she’s part machine, she resents it.
I loved Cinder as a character. As far as Cinderella goes, she’s pretty defiant. Rather than the endless eye rolls and internal screams to DO SOMETHING RISKY FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE, CINDERELLA, OH MY GOD, Cinder had me whooping. She is sarcastic and rebellious in just the right dosage but still as shy and self-doubting as a Cinderella needs to be. She’s also not one to sit around and wait for her prince to come when there are things, important the-world-is-in-grave-danger things to deal with. Her relationship with Kai is cute and sweet but doesn’t forget the whole prince-peasant thing.
Kai, oh Kai, oh how I love Kai. Just his name makes me giddy (though, to be fair I’ve had a thing for that name ever since BooBoo Stewart guest-starred in that one Good Luck Charlie episode. So much pretty!). Kai–ahem, Prince Kaito is crazy sweet and one heck of a ruler. And when he’s with Cinder? Some of the things he says, I just… I can’t. When y’all get to the part where he first goes to kiss her, report back here–I’m sure you’ll be all gooey too. But for now, please, excuse me while I swoon.
Now let’s talk about ‘dem bitches. Adri, is probably one of the most maddening evil stepmothers I’ve read in quite some time. Her hatred of Cinder is so clear it’s palpable. Her abuse doesn’t stop at forced chores–Cinder works as a mechanic to make money for Adri to take while Adri ensures Cinder never forget how unwanted, how disgusting, how undesirable she is. The eldest evil stepsister, Pearl, is just as evil but more petty and her obsession with the prince is the source of more than a few problems. On the reverse, the younger stepsister, Peony, was surprisingly kind to Cinder, her only human friend in all of New Beijing. It was cool for a change to see some sympathy coming from that god-awful family. We usually don’t get that with Cinderellas.
Something else I liked was that the story was set in New Beijing, not New USA or something like that. It’s a new setting, one that–from what I’ve experienced at least–is left relatively unexplored. Even though it does take place in the distant future, elements of today’s culture and landscape remain, like titles and cherry blossom trees.
The conflict with the Lunars was well done. Though essentially aliens, the Lunars, inhabitants of Earth’s moon, aren’t written all E.T.-like but they keep with the whole let’s-invade-Earth narrative. They’re almost ethereal; mysteriously beautiful and magical. Imagine the moon personified as a woman: elegant, graceful, powerful, mysterious, silver and shimmering; that’s the Lunar royalty. They aren’t bloodthirsty like the whole Alien vs Predator thing, there’s no equally space-y evil archenemy like in Lux, and they’re not surprisingly compassionate and kind like Aelyx in Alienated; the Lunars are an entirely different brand of alien, cruel and vindictive and overly ambitious with power to make people worship even their most inhuman acts. Simultaneously captivating and terrifying and very, very cool.
The one thing I’m not sure how I feel about is the ending. My copy has a bunch of bonus stuff at the end and when I got t0 the ending I guess I didn’t realize it was actually ending. I kept flipping the page back and forth because there is no way it could have ended on such a FREAKING MASSIVE CLIFFHANGER/GAME-CHANGER/WHATEVER! Believe me, I am allllll about suspense, it just wasn’t what I’d expected. There are I think three full novels to follow Cinder: Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. All feature a different “princess” in Cinder‘s world. I hadn’t realized though that Cinder’s story was going to be continued in the following books, as most I’ve read of the sort continue an overlying plot but start and finish an individual character’s story. So it was good, definitely good, just unexpected.
Overall, I have some serious regrets about not reading this when everybody told me to (sincerest apologies, high school book club. You were right). The concept is unique, the story captivating, the characters perfectly lovable and perfectly hate-able. I’ll report back after the next books to see if it truly does live up to alllll the crazy hype but for now, at least, it seems The Lunar Chronicles are off to an incredibly good start!
Click here for the synopsis on Goodreads!