Cinder by Marissa Meyer
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 might be the most hyped book in the history of hyped YA. It came out just after the Twilight faze was winding down, but unlike the other books of that era (Divergent, City of Bones, Shadow of Blood and Bone) people are STILL talking about this as one of the best YA series out there. So I came in cautiously optimistic, wary of over-hype but still looking forward to it. But y’all, unlike so many of the others, this book lives up to the hype.
Meyer’s strong suit as an author is definitely world-building. There are so many little details about the way the world works that aren’t necessarily important to the plot, but really transport the reader to New Beijing. From technology to culture, it’s all there and it all feels real. But it doesn’t slow down the plot at make things “boring” the way many complained that Renegades did.
Speaking of New Beijing, it’s really easy for futuristic novels to come across as hokey or over the top. But this didn’t. While it’s not really clear what technological advances propelled mankind into this high-tech future, the fact that it’s so grounded in Earth’s actual history kept it feeling possible. None of the futurism was so high-tech as to seem impossible or far-fetched, but it was complicated enough to make it obvious that we are looking FAR into the future. I thought that was really cool, especially since it was still based on Earth, rather than post-planetary-settlement.
I thought it was really smart of Meyer to incorporate both androids and cyborgs into this story. While androids have seen their fair share of Sci-Fi fame, cyborgs have not really permeated the main stream outside of Doctor Who. For that reason, it’s likely that a lot of readers didn’t probably know what a cyborg is before starting in on this book. I felt like Meyer did a great job teaching that distinction without ever info-dumping. It was nice to see both sets of robotics side-by-side, even befriending one another. I also thought it was a nice touch to include the odd-personality-android-trope, which is always a fan favorite.
As far as a Cinderella re-telling goes, this is maybe one of the best I’ve seen. It included all of the elements from the original story (except the midnight chimes, which I missed), while finding completely new ways to incorporate them. In 2019 I feel that the hardest Cinderella element to make compelling is why she NEEDS to go to the ball, especially since at this point in the story she is rarely in love with Prince Charming. But Cinder’s motivations were both unique and believable. And the fact that Prince Charming is completely adorable didn’t hurt.
I liked Cinder a lot. I thought it was a nice change to see a main character who socially isn’t too sure of herself. So often our YA heroines are cheeky, butt-whooping, don’t-take-nothing-from-no-one divas, and it was good to read about someone who felt more like a real human being. I think teenage girls will relate a lot to Cinder, especially how her inner-monologue is sassier than what she’s brave enough to say out loud. Also, her awkwardness around cute boys.
My one critique of this book would be that the plot twist was oh-so-obvious. Also, it was more of a Snow White storyline at that point than Cinderella, which is kind of odd. But whatever, I’m still here for it.
I’m so happy that this book lived up to the hype! I love that this book was written in such a way that teens of all ages can enjoy, even the thirteen/fourteen year olds. I will absolutely be reading the rest of this series, and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Cinder and Prince Kai!