Published: 5th January 2012
Genre: Science Fiction, Fairy Tale, YA
Recommended Reading Age: 12+
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.
In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.
Cinder will most likely be a hit with young readers this year. A cool concept, a fairy tale re-imagining, and a 21st century cyborg cinderella, with a Star War’s like feel to it, there’s a lot to like about Cinder. I raced through it, and found it an entertaining, if light, read.
Cinder is a likeable down-to-earth heroine, practical, loyal and a gifted mechanic. A girl who get’s on with things rather than whining or weeping (if that was physically possible) about the, admittedly many, sucky things about her life and I loved that she was a cyborg, part human, part machine. Unfortunately for Cinder, medical advancements might have saved her life after a horrific childhood accident, but they also ensured that she is now no longer legally considered human. Cinder is in fact, owned by her resentful stepmother Adri, bringing a whole new twist to their historically fraught relationship.
The characters in Cinder are engaging and, on the whole, well drawn. Adri only really appears briefly in the novel, but she doesn’t completely come across as the typical evil stepmother, there are moments where she does seem to care for Cinder, fleeting as they are. I enjoyed Levana’s character the most and anticipate the later books will focus more and more on her. She comes across as a truly frightening, dangerous woman, powerful, vain and remorseless.
The romance in Cinder is chaste and very much kept in the background of the main story. This worked fine for me, since I felt Prince Kai was the weakest character of the book. Despite several chapters told from his point of view, I never felt like we learn much about him. He was kind, cute, but forgettable. The scenes between Cinder and Prince Kai, though fun, lacked that spark, but I am interested to see how Meyer builds on their relationship in the later books.
While I loved the concept of cyborgs, androids and humans living together in this futuristic world, I did have trouble with how no one seems to have a problem with how cyborgs are seen and treated. As far as I could tell, these are people whose lives have been saved due to the advanced medical technology of the time but are automatically no longer considered human because of that very technology. It seemed absurd and backwards to me and I’m not sure I really understood it. Did no one protest or fight this law? What do family members do when they find themselves ‘owning’ a loved one? What about married couples? Is that marriage now no longer legal or recognised? At what percentage do you become a cyborg? Does just having a mechanical leg fitted mean you lose all your basic human rights? Cinder is 32.6% cyborg, more human than mechanical, yet she is still considered a ‘toaster’.
Meyer never explains any of this and I think that’s the main problem I had with Cinder, it’s just plain vague on the details. The discrimination between humans and cyborgs is an uncomfortable presence throughout the book. Cyborgs are ‘volunteered’ for fatal plague experiments, routinely treated as second class citizens, Cinder works hard for her wages to go straight into Adri’s bank account because, legally, she has no right to any of it. It adds an interesting layer to a compelling story, but, disappointingly, Meyer never delves into any of it beyond the odd sad moment for Cinder.
Cinder is set in New Beijing, but you wouldn’t know it if we hadn’t been told this very early on in the book. There is no sense of eastern culture or customs that would have really given this cinderella story a richness and atmosphere it was severely lacking. Likewise we never get told much about the history of the earth, the plague that is threatening to wipe out humanity, nor are we given much to go on concerning the Lunar people, by far the most exciting aspect of Cinder.
Meyer has re-imagined a modern cinderella story that really is an enjoyable read. The basic plot is one we all know, but Meyer keeps it exciting by adding in new elements with cyborgs and the looming war with the Lunar people (my guess is that Levana is the evil Queen from Snow White). Some parts of the original cinderella story work well in its modern setting, like Cinder loosing her mechanical foot at a key moment. Other moments, such as wearing Peony’s dress and driving a converted car to the ball, are less successful.
I still wish it had been a little grittier, and had taken advantage of the different cultures to create a more vivid setting. The narrative style is pretty simple and more suited to a younger audience, but none of this hindered the fun I had reading it. I’m quite intrigued for the next books, which will feature Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White respectively. Also, don’t expect your typical wrapped-up fairy tale ending, this definitely isn’t the end of Cinder’s story, merely the beginning.