Author: Marissa Meyer
Review:Cinder is 387 pages and has thirty-eight chapters. The narration is third-person and provides Cinder’s perspective primarily, though there are several instances in which we are shown Prince Kai’s viewpoint. This book offers the beginning of a quartet of books called The Lunar Chronicles.
While Cinder reflects its fairy tale origins (deceased father figure, cruel stepmother, an overworked, grimy heroine, and an impending ball with a handsome prince), the book has unexpected layers to its plot and characters. One of the main departures from its roots is the book’s science-fiction slant. Cinder is a cyborg, and references to data input and internal system alerts (such as the blinking orange light that notifies her when someone is lying) are woven fairly seamlessly into the narrative. Other futuristic mainstays—like multi-use androids and hover crafts—make their appearance throughout the book, but the heart of the story rests in its characters.
Cinder is well-known for her skill as a mechanic and despite the prejudice that is shown toward cyborgs, she has a steady business that provides her family’s only income. I use the word family loosely. Her stepmother, Adri, alternately ignores and verbally abuses her, all the while heaping any “fix-it” chores on top of Cinder’s work responsibilities. Only one of her two stepsisters shows her any affection, and Adri limits their interaction. Adri blames Cinder for the death of her husband, Garan, the man who adopted the orphaned cyborg against his wife’s wishes. Not long after traveling abroad to bring Cinder to live with them, Garan became ill with letumosis, a deadly disease that strikes seemingly without rhyme or reason and for which a cure is being desperately sought. Despite her circumstances, Cinder does not wallow in despair. Her relationship with a household droid reveals her optimistic nature, inner strength, and a sarcastic sense of humor, all of which she clearly needs as the story progresses.
Prince Kai enters the story when he brings a droid to Cinder for repair. It’s curious why he would venture from the sanctity of the palace where he has a staff to complete a seemingly simple task, but Cinder accepts his explanation even when her optobionics flash the orange light. Kai is the equivalent of a rock star sensation, but even though Cinder is a bit flustered at his appearance, she does not swoon in his presence as her sisters and many others would have done. Their first meeting sets the stage for others to come. Cinder’s reactions to the prince are every bit as complex as a “normal” teenage girl with a few added bonuses: her ability to blush was one of the human elements she lost in her transition to cyborg; instead she gets system alerts that she is overheating and needs to calm down! She remains true to her blunt, sarcastic nature, all the while falling for him, and Kai becomes more and more drawn to her, even as his responsibility to the crown demands personal sacrifices that could keep them apart.
The world of New Beijing is fraught with tension not only because of the increasing spread of the letumosis plague, but also on account of the impending threat of the Lunars. The Lunars are a race of people from the moon who are rumored to possess the ability to exert mind control. An uneasy peace has been in place for years, but the existence of a Lunar substation in Earth’s orbit and tales of the greedy and violent Queen Levana (who is believed to have murdered her own sister, husband, and niece in her quest for absolute power) keep people on edge. When Prince Kai becomes the emperor after his father succumbs to letumosis, he has to find a way to avoid war with the Lunars and to find a cure for the plague, and Cinder might just hold the key to both.
I do not normally tend toward stories featuring androids and aliens, and still Cinder was a compelling read. The beginning is a little slow, but after the first 50 pages, the stakes become a little clearer and that helps the story to pick up in pace. There are a couple of ‘mysteries’ that are pretty clear from the beginning, but the character interactions are interesting enough that it doesn’t matter. The pace slows a bit again toward the end of the book, but that made sense for the way things concluded. In the last two chapters of the book, I did feel like shaking Cinder, though, because she seemed to go a little brain-dead; however, she got it together right at the end.
The next book in the quartet, Scarlet, picks up where Cinder left off, but it has a new protagonist, and its roots originate in the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.
Buy it here:
Kindle Edition: amazon.co.uk
Audio CD: amazon.co.uk
Also see: Winter by Marissa Meyer