Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on January 3rd, 2012
Shelve It: Goodreads
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.
Marissa Meyer has completely blown me away with her debut book, Cinder. Full of the familiar details we associate with Cinderella – a handsome prince, a wicked stepmother and a seemingly unattainable ball – but told in such a new and different way that the story becomes fresh and exciting!
Linh Cinder is a cyborg – a human who has been surgically repaired with mechanical parts – and this makes her both a second-class citizen and the property of her legal guardian and stepmother – Adri. Working as a mechanic in New Beijing alongside her android companion Iko, Cinder dreams of a life of freedom for her, Iko and Peony – the stepsister she loves. Her thoughts of escape quickly crumble as Peony catches the fatal plague Letumosis and Adri has Cinder’s body “volunteered” for plague research, blaming Cinder for Peony having been infected.
Cinder is a wonderful protagonist. She’s sarcastic and full of witty one-liners:
If you excuse me, I’d better go try to earn my keep so you might actually blink an eye the next time you find a convenient way to get rid of me.
She knows the treatment of cyborgs is unfair, but she doesn’t complain about it. She feels such passion that I can’t understand how anyone could question whether she was human, especially when it comes to the people she loves. She’s selfless – sacrificing her dignity and her pride to do what she knows is right, and she never takes the easy way out. She grows to care for Prince Kai, which fuels her guilt over withholding that she is a cyborg. I loved watching Cinder’s journey, and the many discoveries she makes about herself and her past along the way. I truly felt my heart ache for her with every accusation thrown at her by Adri – whether it was being blamed for her stepfather’s death or being told her emotions weren’t valid (because she’s incapable of feeling). I admired her strength with coming to terms with her past and what that will mean for her future, and her resilience in the face of multiple obstacles.
I loved watching her relationship with Prince Kai develop from mere astonishment at being in his presence, to the banter and teasing of a blooming crush. Watching Kai try harder with each of Cinder’s objections was entertaining, and his complete bafflement over her rejection to his request(s) that she accompany him to the ball was endearing. Trusting Cinder with the information she uncovered in his android was a risky move, but it was nice to see him open up honestly, without the censorship that comes with being diplomatic. I really enjoyed that Cinder didn’t spend a lot of her free time thinking about Kai’s physical appearance, and that when she did spare a minute for him, it was with concern for his well-being. It was refreshing to see a romance that had chemistry and spark, but that wasn’t all-consuming for either person involved.
I also loved the supporting characters. Iko is sassy and charming and hilarious! I laughed out loud when she wheeled in, dressed up in Adri’s pearls and lipstick, pretending she was at the ball. My heart seized up in my chest when Adri told Cinder she had left some spare parts on her bed that couldn’t be sold and thus were useless, and I cried real tears for Cinder who couldn’t. Queen Levana (and the lunars in general) was so creepy, never knowing what was hiding under her projected illusion of beauty. Her ability to manipulate a large, enraged and protesting crowd into believing she was worthy of being their empress was both impressive and frightening and knowing that everything she does has an alterior motive kept me in suspense of her next move. Dr. Erland is mysterious and slightly crazy, but you can’t help but feel drawn to him. He has this quality about him that is simultaneously both exasperating and captivating, making you soak up every word he says – it’s like he holds the secrets of the universe, but wants to leak them to you slowly instead of just blurting out what he knows. So frustratingly good!
The world-building was fantastic, and actually incorporated the entire world! After WWIV, the remaining Eartherners came together to form a united front, joining together in an alliance of peace. All that remains is getting Queen Levana of the Lunar planet to commit to the alliance – something the leaders of each area are trying to accomplish together. It was easy to picture New Beijing, a bustling city filled with new technology and old traditions, and the idea that a nuclear war lead to the destruction of life as we currently know it is completely feasible. The plague that has affected both Cinder and Kai personally is a world-wide pandemic, leaving no region untouched. Everything was just different enough that it didn’t take a lot of suspension of belief to achieve the type of world Cinder lives in, which really helped me capture Meyer’s vision.
I loved everything about this book. I did see the twist ending coming, but even that wasn’t enough to curb my excitement over hearing it revealed or the lingering suspense left with the open ending! Brilliant characters, a fast-moving plot and a completely fresh spin on a classic tale, Cinder has left me eager for more!
Disclaimer: I originally posted this review in February of 2012 on Radiant Shadows. In an effort to have a comprehensive list of all of my reviews on Pretty Little Reader, I will occasionally be reposting older reviews, usually before I review/post something about its sequel.