By Marissa Meyer
Rating: 5 stars
Alas! accidental post of old review versions may have occurred! Please enjoy the new and improved version…..that doesn’t end halfway through a sentence.
CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation. Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future. This is not the fairytale you remember. But it’s one you won’t forget…
As already previously mentioned – my friends, the blogs and indeed the entire internet have been raving about this series. So, having finally made a dint on my to read pile and re-embraced my long-abiding love of Lancashire Libraries, I reserved the first three books for £1.80. That’s just 60p each, astonishing value seeing as when I was a kid it used to cost 50p for an adult to reserve a book. Only a 10p rise in twenty odd years? Bargain. Even then it’s not something I have to do often, as for popular books Lancashire Libraries have a lot of copies in circulation. But the books are clearly in very high demand and I was in a reservation queue even with all those copies floating about. Third in line for Cinder and second for Cress and Scarlet.
That said they still arrived fairly quickly and by the time I made it to the library that Monday all three had arrived. There were still reservations piled up against all of them so I made quick work of them – started Monday night, finished Wednesday morning and returned them the next Monday. Hope another lucky reader is following their adventures as we speak.
I’m doing a separate review for each of these – they deserve it because the world of Lunar Chronicles is so richly detailed – but Cinder first.
From this point on – Here there be spoilers!
From the beginning it is evident that this is no ordinary Cinderella retelling – this is Cinderella with spaceships, cyborgs and a heroine with plans of her own. She is not waiting for her Prince, she does not want to go to the ball and she is not subject to the whims of a fairy godmother. Instead she wants to get the hell out of dodge and blaze her own path doing it.
Meyer definitely gives more than a passing nod to the original tale, we do have the ball (but Cinder only attends in an attempt to save lives), the evil Stepmother (who is, in her own way, really quite pitiable) and the ugly sisters are there too (well more like ugly sister, the relationship Cinder has with Peony was a welcome and indeed very clever surprise). But at the same time this is very much Meyer’s story.
You can feel the attention to detail in the writing, the depth of thought that has gone into the world building is admirable. The very concept that Cinder would still have to use her child-sized prosthetic foot and that it would be the ‘glass slipper’ of the story is sheer brilliance. I loved that it kept cropping up as well, that Kai held onto it and Cinder saw it on his desk later in Cress. Now here is an author who knows how to plan ahead and understands the importance of well placed details. I take my hat off to her.
Another thing the internet is really raving about is the sheer diversity of the cast and I think that has a large part in what makes this series so special. We’ve got a Chinese Prince, a cyborg princess and a robotic best friend. Cinder as a cyborg is pure genius. Her entire characterisation is utterly believable. The questions it raises about Earthern Society, the cyborg draft and the fact that humans will always find a way to discriminate were both alarming and incredibly apt.
I also really enjoyed the friendship between Cinder and Iko, a cyborg and a robot, yet both so wonderfully human. When Cinder’s stepmother sells Iko I was horrified and so utterly relieved when Cinder realised they had left Iko’s personality chip. Iko could so easily have become merely a side character with brief periods of comic relief, but thanks to Meyer’s deft handling she end up being far more and probably my favourite character in the series aside from Cinder herself.
I love the level of ambiguity in the characters – nothing is cut and dried and all of them have layered motives. Kai is not free to act for himself and often has to do things that go against his nature for the good of his kingdom. Cinder is at the mercy of her genetics and cyborg enhancements. She lies, she breaks the law and at times she manipulates those around her – even before she comes into her legacy she uses Peony’s death to avoid questions from Kai.
The threat from the Lunars seems very real and you can feel a sense of danger throughout the book. Often villains in YA can be a bit transparent and you can only imagine them standing in a dark fortress, all dressed in black and rubbing their hands together with glee. Levana is certainly not that. She’s got a level of elegant menace about her and the power she wields over people’s minds is really quite disturbing. She’s a villain that you want to be beaten.
All in all I think Cinder is my favourite book out of the three currently available – I loved it. I think this in a large part due to the love I have for Cinder’s character and my admiration for how Meyer builds her tale. The fact that Cinder still has a central part throughout the following books is something I think works brilliantly, I also really like that her relationship with Kai is far from settled at the end of the book. I was really glad to see more of her in Scarlet – where she has a terrific entrance – I will be reviewing this next.