Although this book came out in 2013, it’s part of the Lunar Chronicles, whose fourth book, Winter, was only released a few months ago. Winter came out in November and it’s had so many holds it still hasn’t made it to our shelves, so I decided to see what the fuss was about and started at the beginning of the series with Cinder, a re-telling of the Cinderella story.
The basic premise: Cinder is a cyborg, and that status relegates her to second-class citizenship; she doesn’t have the same rights as normal humans, she could be drafted at any point in the war, and her step-mother “owns” her and gets to keep all the money Cinder makes as a mechanic in New Beijing.
There’s a plague systematically murdering the people of Earth, the people of Lunar are politely threatening to invade, and Cinder ends up getting caught up in the middle of all of it.
The plot: As an incredibly gifted mechanic in New Beijing, Cinder ends up being visited by the very handsome Prince Kai—he has an android that is near and dear to him that he desperately needs fixed. She agrees, but before she can restore the robot, she’s conscripted into being a test subject to help with curing the plague—a role that no one has come back alive from.
What follows from there is a story that has taken inspiration from the classic Cinderella story, but Meyer is not afraid of subverting tropes and moving away from the well-used plot points of other Cinderella-esque stories. Readers will find this fantastical science fiction take deeply refreshing and a great example of how different a story can be from the original while still sharing a bond of similarity where it’s most important.
The assessment: This is a great book. The world is different and well-thought out. The science fiction elements play important, believable parts in the plot instead of just acting as cyberpunk window dressing for a fantasy story. The characters defy stereotypes. Prince Kai was in fact one of my favorites; most Prince types tend to live for the main character and have no real personality of their own except to be MANLY. Prince Kai struggles with a series of complex issues, from family to political intrigue to how he feels about Cinder. Their romance moves a little fast, but not so fast that it calls for a suspension of disbelief.
One of the biggest departures from the original, besides Cinder being a fairly strong character, being set in a futuristic fantasy society, and having not all her stepsisters be AWFUL people, is the introduction of The Queen. She’s amazing and one of the reasons this goes from a good book to a great book. If I were going to be a bad person, I think I’d like to have her powers and be like her.
The verdict: 4.5 stars. It’s an incredibly enjoyable read with a strong female lead and a believable male supporting character. However, the big plot twist is somewhat predictable—the hints that are dropped make it fairly obvious, and just for how nonsurprising the big surprise was I take away .5 stars. Stars are a little unfair; if it were a letter score it would still score an A.