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.
I keep meaning to review Cinder,… and then not doing it. But today is finally the day! As a side note I listened to the audio book version of Cinder. This is worth noting because usually I hate audio books. Cinder is the exception. The audio book is so fabulous that I will only listen to subsequent books in the series on audio book only.
What don’t I like about this book? The plot is intricate without being convoluted and keeps you guessing. Cinder is clearly a Cinderalla remake but at the same time completely remakes the story. Evil Stepmother – check. Stepsisters – check. Handsome prince that doesn’t realize Cinder is poor/cyborg – check. A fancy ball and dancing with the prince – check. But Cinderella as a cyborg, with a deadly plague on the loose, and moon people who can make you think and see whatever they want is completely original and I love them all. Most Cinderella remakes I read feel boring and have a paint-by-number vibe. Cinder is refreshingly new. Take out the ball and it could claim not to be a Cinderella retelling and I would love it just as much.
Now Cinder herself. Oh Cinder. Cinder isn’t perfect. She jumps to conclusions, acts irrationally, doubts herself, and can be very grumpy at times. She has to make plenty of moral choices that she grapples with, and (my favorite part) she tries to think through the consequences to find a choice she can live with. All of which makes her completely believable as a person. She is no perfect princess. She prefers grease and mechanical parts to fancy clothes. She feels like a natural product of her cyberpunk, disease ravaged world.
Which brings me to the world building. Cinder has a lot of moving parts in it. A lot. There are the cyborgs and androids that get treated like second class citizens. The plague that has everyone is terrified of and is killing a large percentage of the population. Then there are the Lunars (moon people!!) who have powers that are a huge threat to Earth, and want to take over Earth. Then you add a fairy tale skeleton. And all these parts interact and affect each other. Phew! There are plenty of books that would have just tackled one of these elements. Some might say that with this many bits and pieces, Meyer is only able to scratch the surface of each. And they would be right. But I don’t care. If Meyer delved any deeper into the world building, the main plot would be overpowered with info dumping. I’m going to hope the rest of the series continues to develop the world as it develops the plot. You learn just enough for everything to make sense and have a cohesion that lets you get completely absorbed.
Oh Prince Kai. I love watching you and Cinder verbally spar, but what kind of prince in a tense political situation hangs out with and flirts openly with a girl he barely knows irrespective of what it would mean to his kingdom? I can ignore some realistic inconsistencies (I’m afraid of what this says about me as a reader), but that bugged me. Kai should know better. He has been raised his entire life to rule his kingdom and he decides to trust Cinder without investigating her first, and discusses sensitive political information with her. That stretches credibility a little too far. Secondly none of his advisers warn him, or council him to be careful about her. It just struck me as very odd.
Also, some of the mystery plot elements are fairly obvious and I just want the characters to make the connections already and stop being obtuse. I know that would change the plot and that this is the first book in a series, but I get frustrated with how slow they can be on the uptake.
I found this book thoroughly refreshing; both as a fairy tale retelling, a young adult novel, and a cyberpunk story. Despite its faults, I enjoyed it enough that I am going to go get the next audio book as soon as I get done writing this.
4/4 Throwing Stars