Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends on January 3rd 2012
Genres: Science-Fiction, Young Adult
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.
Here’s one of my biggest problems with fairy tale retellings: the female protagonists are never proactive. Grimm’s fairy tales are usually about damsels in distress having to be rescued by a prince. About girls who are nothing more than a pretty face, devoid of personality. And that was one thing I really liked about Cinder, the main protagonist wasn’t simply reacting to others but had her own agency. Marissa Meyer created a retelling of Cinderella wherein a young woman isn’t the victim of her fate but instead takes life into her own hands. That was great.
Additionally, Cinder must be one of the most original and interesting takes on the classic fairy tale. A half-human cyborg in a futuristic, plague-ravaged China? How awesome is that?! The possibilities! And really, that is the unfortunate part because this novel was full of new, fresh ideas and so much creativity but those possibilities were never explored. There was no infusion of Chinese culture at all (except for the occasional mention of red paper lanterns) and the world-building was minimal. Cinder could easily have been a standout for me, it could have blown me away, but it didn’t even come close.
The novel fall flat for a couple reasons. Perhaps my biggest problem was that Cinder is probably the most predictable book I have ever read. I’m not exaggerating: I predicted EVERY SINGLE THING that would happen within the first 50 pages. And I’m not even referring to the elements that were taken from the fairy tale but rather what the author added in herself. It was all so glaringly obvious to me that I almost thought the author was purposefully tricking me into thinking it would be this straightforward (turned out not to be the case).
For the same reason, Cinder was also quite boring. The book was fast-paced and read quickly and easily, but there was nothing that really made me want to pick it up since I knew how it was going to end anyway.
I also wasn’t the biggest fan of all the characters. I loved Iko and Peony, and what happened to them broke my heart. I liked Prince Kai as well, and I thought it was great how Marissa Meyer made him an actual character in his own story instead of just a plot device. The chapters from his point of view really added to the story. However, I never felt more towards him than simple liking. The chemistry between him and Cinder was non-existent and so I didn’t find myself rooting for them as a couple. I did appreciate, however, that the book didn’t really focus on romance a lot, despite the initial Cinderella premise.
The other characters…I wasn’t completely convinced. Cinder was fine I guess, I loved how knowledgeable she was when it came to mechanics, but she lacked personality and was slightly whiny in my opinion. True, she lives in a very difficult situation but still. I respect her but didn’t love her. In addition, Adri and especially Queen Levana were too lawfully evil, the whole setup was a little too black and white for my taste.
Since the biggest part of the tension within the story was based on politics, I wish that that element wouldn’t have been so simplified. Politics are so complex and this seemed like politics for kids in primary school, watered-down to the point of being unrealistic.
As a first instalment in a series I cannot recommend Cinder. The premise was intriguing but the world-building and plot progression let me down and made me bored. However, this is one of the most beloved series in all of YA and I hear that the next instalments are a lot better. So maybe I will give Scarlet a try eventually.