Book Review : Cinder
The Lunar Chronicles
By Marissa Meyer
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. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
Time for a true confession; I have avoided Cinder because it looked contrived and I just couldn’t stomach the idea of one more poorly written YA novel. Once again, I’m hear to tell you I was wrong! My niece and her friend said they recommended this book, not as a deep, literary novel, but really fun, and they were right.
As I’ve read the summaries for the rest of The Lunar Chronicles I am impressed with how Meyer has laid out the entire series and incorporated elements that she will need to end the chronicles. Because Meyer’s series is based on fairy tales some of the plot is apparent, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be an exciting ride. Now, I need to add the rest of the series to my reading stack.
We all know the background story of Cinderella, but Meyer focuses on how Cinder feels like an outcast. In this sense it is also a coming of age story, as Cinder works through her feelings of inadequacy to do the things she must do, even if it causes her personal embarrassment and pain. As a cyborg she is a second-class citizen and the Lunar population is feared and hated. Cinder faces prejudice from her adoptive family as well as society. Her only true friends are a robot and her one step-sister, Peony.
Each book within the novel opens with a Cinderella quote setting the tone for the section:
While her sisters were given beautiful dresses and fine slippers, Cinderella had only a filthy smock and wooden shoes. (p. 1)
From the first page the reader is drawn into the gritty reality of a cyborg :
The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw on gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean. (p. 3)
Another soapbox of mine is the quality of writing in modern novels. Meyer deftly brought me into her world. Cinder, as a cyborg, also acts as the omniscient voice in a novel because her audio interface can overhear conversations and her video feed accesses the media information. The writing is simplistic at times, but works with the complexity of the science fiction elements layered over the fairy tale.
Much of Cinder also centers around trying to solve a plague, brought to earth from Lunars who have escaped their planet. I do feel like rampant diseases have been used to much in YA novels; Maze Runner, Divergent and Matched series all have diseases. In Dilirium love is described as a disease. I wonder if novels are focusing on diseases because that is a fear we now face with things like AIDS, bird flu, ebola and the zika virus. Other generations science fiction focused on word destruction from war as a response to nuclear weapons, so disease focused books is logical.
I also love retelling of fairy tales (which is another reason I should have read this one sooner) though it is an odd version. Meyer has included fun details, like the moment when Cinder is announced at the ball had me laughing, and her step-sister crying out “Those are my boots! On her!”, felt just like the tone from Disney’s Cinderella movie. I also like the twists that move away from the expected, such as, Cinder getting caught, rather than escaping, as she loses her glass slipper *cough* dainty wired foot. Does the prince live up to your expectations in this version? I like him, because he is boyish and uncertain – and I’m holding out for him to figure things out.
3.5 – 4 out of 5 stars
If you liked this one try reading Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones and Rose Daughter by Robin McKinnley