I picked up Cinder, a retelling of the classic Cinderella, by Marissa Meyer from Amazon whilst staying with my parents in Aberdeenshire back in April. I’d never heard of the series before but who can turn down the promise of a cyborg mechanic Cinderella? No one, I tell you, no one with any sense anyway! And I really liked the cover and I can’t turn away from an attractive book cover. Call me shallow.
Linh Cinder is a teenage girl living and working in New Beijing, the heart of what is known as the Eastern Commonwealth- it’s a sort of mash up of the cultures and countries of East Asia and (forgive me if I’m wrong) the Indian subcontinent. She’s a mechanic and, as previously discussed, a cyborg which means that she isn’t entirely flesh and bone but part machine too. You’d think it’d be pretty cool to be part robot, at least I certainly do, but in Cinder’s world it really isn’t.
Cyborg’s are second class citizens are not permitted to live like humans do; they have to be registered to a human and Cinder is owned by her cruel and shallow step-mother with whom she lives along with her two step-sisters. Life isn’t all bad though; she’s a mechanic, she enjoys what she does and she has the company of a robot with a seemingly flawed programming that has blessed her with a personality, called Iko.
A disease is sweeping the city of New Beijing; Letumosis. It’s wildly contagious and it takes it’s victims quickly. No one knows where it’s come from and there is no cure.
Earth is also at war. Sort of. With moon people; the Lunars. Who may or may not be magical. I’m not particularly sure as to what started the tension between both peoples but it’s there and it’s sort of steadily humming in the background of the book as it begins.
What I liked
Beginning with a meeting between our heroine, Cinder, and Prince Kai the son of the leader of the Eastern Commonwealth, the reader begins a journey which ultimately ties all of the aforementioned elements together. Throw in some allusions to the original Cinderella story as well a some elements of Snow White (there’s a wicked queen who has a fascination with mirrors, someone loses a foot instead of a shoe and there’s an interesting replacement for the pumpkin-turned-carriage) and you’ve got a fairly light, entertaining novel with some great world building.
That’s what I like about the Lunar Chronicles (I went and read the next two novels and pre-ordered the fourth); it’s not a heavy read. Sure, it could be argued that Meyer fails to address issues such as what it means to be human, or to really explain the reason for the Cyborg and Lunar hate, but I don’t think the novels set out to be that deep in the first place.
There are some fun elements such as Cinder’s companion Iko’s personality quirks (which are, of course, meant for comic relief) and ‘spotting’ the references to the original fairy tales. There’s also some interesting elements too such as the author’s choice to set the story outside of the US which is done far too rarely, and the Lunar people are a pretty cool concept even if I’m not sure why they went up to live on the moon in the first place.
Cinder is a good ramble through a sci-fi world with all of the super cool things that we like to see in a futuristic world. There’s robots, spaceships, terrible wars, MOON PEOPLE! Hover cars, fancy pants internet and portable technology. The main character isn’t a complete drip- sure she could arguably be a little stronger but then again, she you could also argue that she spent her childhood under the oppression of a spiteful stepmother in a society that considers her less than human because of a procedure that ultimately saved her life.
That Linh Cinder has any discernible personality and is good at something other than looking hot (and I mean, come on, she’s a mechanic- excellent choice there Meyer!) is a win in my book and she doesn’t spend the whole novel mooning (see what I did there?) over how she can never be with the boy that she loves. Well, there might be some discussion about cyborg/human romantic relationships but that’s allowable, what she doesn’t do is make it her single, driving thought.
What I didn’t like so much.
The book does have it’s negative points though; I did feel like a little more could have been done to explain the odd plot point here and there. Why did the Lunars move to the moon? What exactly happened for people to institutionally distrust cyborgs and why then do they continue allowing procedures to take place that transform humans into cyborgs? And why the hate between Earthens and Lunars? These are generally quite small points though, and maybe they’re not really all that central to the story. Either way, it’s a series and some of these questions may be addressed in forthcoming novels.
Also, I was none too impressed by the almost insta-love between Kai and Cinder. Or maybe I just misunderstood their interaction but I felt that it was a little hammy. For me, a person can’t go from being completely dismissive of another to gushing at the thought of them in the space of a five minute meeting. I think it’s irresponsible of YA authors to write about relationships in this way because romances are generally not built like that, I feel like it present an idealistic image that is often unachievable.
Then again, maybe I was just misinterpreting a crush, either way it can be forgiven because it isn’t really the central focus of the story. I realise this is almost completely contrary to what I said about Cinder not mooning over Kai for the whole story, I guess what I mean to say is that there is this one, single interaction that annoys me, their very first, in which Cinder very quickly develops a crush and, I just thought that based on the depth of their interaction that this was unnecessary. Even more so when you realise that it is not really in the least bit integral to the rest of the book.
So to summarise, this book is a great, light romp through a sci-fi setting that has been interlaced with fairy tale elements, so if you like those things and are look for some entertainment then I suggest you give it a try. The content isn’t deep and certainly wont cause you to question life, the universe or anything but does every book have to be thought-provoking?
The plot is somewhat predictable but then isn’t that the case with a lot of TV shows that people know and love? I don’t see this book any differently (I mean it as a compliment when I say that I would compare Cinder to a good old sci-fi or fantasy TV show) and I’m 100% convinced that Meyer wasn’t trying to be mysterious or covert about the details that she planned to reveal by the book’s conclusion. Perhaps this conclusion could have been reached a little more speedily though.
Nevertheless, I found Cinder to be a sometimes amusing, often imaginative work that provided me with enough light-hearted entertainment that I moved quickly onto book 2 and 3 and found me genuinely interested in how the plot plays out even if I think I might know already. Overall, Marissa Meyer has earned a well deserved 7.5 out of 10 for the first in her Lunar Chronicles series.
Have any of you read Cinder? What did you think of it and do you believe my review to be a fair assessment? Share your views below and please share my post across social media so I can keep on growing my little blog family.