Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published on January 3rd 2012
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Fiction, Love & Romance, Post-Apocalyptic, Retellings, Romance, Suspense, Young Adult
Source: Purchased, Review Copy
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.
World Building- 9/10
Everyone knows and loves the tale of Cinderella. So when I heard that there was a book that takes this beloved fairy tale and adds in a dystopian society with talking androids and a killer lunar colony, I was very much intrigued. I decided to pick the story up, and I was definitely not disappointed.
Cinder is a gifted mechanic who lives with a cruel foster mom and two foster sisters. She is treated like crap because she is a cyborg, and over 30% of her body is made with steel. This book was really entertaining in two ways; aside from the traditional plot devices found in YA fiction, like fast pace, action, suspense, and mystery, there was also the added benefit of searching for parallels to the original fairy tale of Cinderella, as well as detecting certain aspects where the author has strayed from the original story. This made Cinder a very intriguing read; there were plenty of things to think about and note during every page.
The plot is great; it’s really got everything that a novel should have. Cinder isn’t really all out action (although the climactic ending scenes offer plenty of that), but the plot is very gripping even without it. There’s plenty of mystery and suspense all throughout the book. There are so many questions about the world that even the main character can’t answer. What is the deal with Cinder’s past? What are the hidden motives of the Lunar colony? Who can Cinder trust? Is there a cure for the plague? There are so many mysteries for the reader to think about as the book goes along. And, as mentioned before, the climax is very exciting- there are lots of plot twists, many revelations, and a lot of gritty action.
My only problem with the plot was that it was too predictable. There were lots of mysteries to keep me interested in the story, but I found that some of them were too easy to solve. I had already built up some suspicions about exactly who Cinder was about a third of the way through the book, and I found out near the end that I was right. I think that in some cases, the author made the hints too obvious and hard to ignore. I think the book’s impact on the reader could have been stronger if all of the hints were a bit more subtle and harder to detect. It certainly would have provided more of an emotional shock when all of the reveals came at the end.
The characters were really terrific. Cinder was an admirable lead- she was courageous, willing to sacrifice, and very much driven by her values. She did frustrate me several times with some of the decisions she made, but I suppose that her failures make her that much more human and relatable.
I really liked the portrayal of Cinder’s family. Cinder’s foster mom, Adri, is just as cruel as the original step-mom in Cinderella. She is unwilling to treat Cinder as a human and unwilling to give her basic rights and privileges, forcing her to do all the work to support the family, and blaming tragic circumstances on her very existence. She was utterly disgusting, and I actually found myself hating her more than the real villain (Queen Levana). The stepsisters were really interesting. In Cinderella, both of the stepsisters are fairly cruel. However, in Cinder, Marissa Meyer made one of the stepsisters (Peony) very compassionate and loving towards Cinder. I loved the relationship between Peony and Cinder; Peony felt sorry and sympathetic towards the family’s unjust treatment of Cinder, and Cinder’s love for really the only person close to her was apparent throughout the book. This relationship was also hit with sudden tragedy, and to see both of them struggle through times of tribulation made the book very emotionally captivating and compelling.
Prince Kai was very well developed. He’s not your typical prince; he doesn’t let fame get to his head, he is very grounded and remains connected to his moral values, and he sincerely wants what is best for his people. It’s also emphasized that even though he’s a prince, he’s still human. He has his fair share of awkward, dorky moments, and scenes when he feels hurt and shy, and it takes a while for him to recover from these emotions. I have always respected male characters who are easily driven and affected by emotions, and Prince Kai is no exception. I think his relationship with Cinder was great- it was developed gradually, and even when there were impediments blocking them from being together, Kai kept (rather adorably) trying to make it happen without being too pushy. The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger regarding Cinder and Kai’s relationship, and it will be interesting to see how things unfold between the two of them.
Something else worth noting about the characters is how Meyer gives the androirds personalities and emotions to make them seem more human. A really good example of a media work that gives life to machines or androids is Astro Boy, which is a movie where the main character, a robot, is given emotions, memories, and a distinct personality that makes him likable and easy to root for. Meyer achieved similar success in Cinder, particularly through the android Iko. Iko, Cinder’s personal android, was given a certain personality that, even though she was a robot, still allowed readers to develop a connection to her. I hope her development as something more than an android continues throughout the series.
I don’t really have much to say about the writing other than that it was clear and effective. Marissa Meyer’s real talent isn’t exactly related to what she does with phrases and sentences; her talent is in taking a well-known fairy tale and molding it into a futuristic, exciting, and suspenseful story that offers a good balance of references to the traditional Cinderella story as well as new twists that enhance the story. I am excited to see what she does with the story of the Little Red Riding Hood in the next installment, Scarlet, and how the stories of Scarlet and Cinder will collide.
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