My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Date Published: January 3rd 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 390 pages
Synopsis: 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.
This is a spoiler-free review.
Cinder is the first novel in The Lunar Chronicles, a series of four novels, each loosely based on a classic fairytale. This story introduces us to the main character of the series, a talented cyborg mechanic by the name of Linh Cinder, as well as to the setting of New Beijing. Orphaned after an accident, she lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters. Despised by her stepmother Adri and stepsister Pearl, Cinder leads a life of servitude, working constantly both at home and at her repair stall in the market, and finding friendship only in her youngest stepsister Peony and an old android named Iko, whom she has repaired. However, Cinder’s life changes dramatically one day as she begins to play a key role in the government’s fight against the deadly plague that is overtaking New Beijing.
I am a massive fan of reading any sort of retelling, particularly fairytale retellings; I have found myself tending to gravitate toward them a lot over the years. However, I am always quite wary of these types of novels, especially with the sizeable upsurge of them in young adult literature recently. A reimagining of a classic tale is tricky to perfect, and while you do not want an exact copy of the original, you also do not want a retelling straying too far or going wild with strange twists and concepts that detract from the main message. An intense amount of hype surrounding a book is another factor that sometimes can make me cautious or put me off a novel. Cinder, I am very pleased to say, not only lands perfectly in that area of unique yet still faithful to the original fairytale, but also completely lives up to the hype.
Cinderella is one of my favorite stories to read retellings of. I do find that it can be difficult to reinterpret in a unique yet solid way, and it definitely tends to be either a major hit or huge miss. The plot that Meyer created for this novel, however, was spot on. She skillfully weaves sci-fi elements into this already established and well-known narrative, creating not only a work that pays homage to a timeless tale but also ends up being a very singular story in itself, and it is distinctively her own.
While this was not one of the more unpredictable novels I’ve ever read in terms of having a plethora of twists and turns that keep you guessing, it was still a remarkably enthralling read. I found myself deducing many of the plot points well before they happened, and yet I never once lost interest; I never once disconnected myself from the story.
Predictability is something that I have learned to expect from retellings, but the key piece to watch out for in a novel such as this is how the author makes up for that. Meyer does it right, and draws the reader in with every single aspect of the story. Though the plot twists are rather foreseeable fairly early on, the book remains deeply engaging until the final page.
Marissa Meyer’s writing itself was absolutely stellar. It flowed beautifully and was very easy to get into. This novel is packed with incredibly vivid descriptions and well-developed settings. I had a clear image of New Beijing in my mind the entire time I was making my way through this novel. She further brings this setting to life by creating a very realistic image of a people affect by and living in terror due to deadly illness beyond their control. The fear and paranoia was constantly palpable and allowed me to become serious immersed in this world.
On top of quality writing, and rich description and world building, another element of the novel that makes it such an engaging read is the all-star cast of characters that Meyer has created. The good characters are very easy to connect with and love, and the villains are exceedingly despicable. Cinder, in particular, stands out as an excellent protagonist; once I started reading, I very promptly connected with her and began to care about her and her story.
It is immensely intriguing and many times heartbreaking to see the story of this young cyborg girl in a world that discriminates against cyborgs. This ended up giving the story a great amount of depth and made it far more thought provoking than I had expected going into it. I completely fell in love with Cinder from page one, and this kept me on the edge of my seat, wanting to see how everything panned out for her. She is shaping up to be a strong, independent heroine and I am eager to see how she further evolves as the stories progress.
I loved the portrayal of Cinder’s friendships with Peony and Iko. Peony is an absolutely beautiful and loveable character, and I enjoyed seeing the relationship between the two of them. Iko is just fantastic and easily one of my favorite characters in the entire novel. These relationships were a perfect contrast to the difficult life that Cinder generally leads and the horrible treatment that she regularly receives.
And then there is Prince Kai. This is by far one of the best romances in a young adult novel in my recent experiences, primarily because it is not a huge, overpowering aspect of the plot. It is rather subtle and there is absolutely no insta-love. It is a much slower and realistic progression, and is something that will continue to evolve and grow throughout the series instead of all in one book. Kai is a lovely character and superb love interest, but I also appreciate the fact that Cinder has her priorities straight and remains independent.
Though we only get a relatively brief glimpse of her as a character, Queen Levana is already proving to be an utterly detestable villain. We also get to see that Levana is going to be quite a multi-dimensional villain as well, and not just someone who is in the plot simply to be antagonistic and create drama or tension. I will be interested to learn more of her backstory in future novels.
Cinder is a novel that has been on my radar for quite a while, and I am extremely glad that I finally picked it up. This is by far one of the most unique and intriguing stories that I have read in recent years, and I was immediately hooked once I began it. I very highly recommend it to everyone, particularly if you are like me and enjoy both sci-fi and retellings, because this is a spectacular mash-up of both. Not only have I already completely fallen in love with this series, but I have also become a huge fan of Marissa Meyer’s writing. I truly look forward to reading the rest of this series as well as any of her future works.