This was a surprise. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, this strong-minded little book, decided to pick me up, sweep me off my feet and provide me with reading pleasure non-stop. So people do still write good YA fantasy books. I do have some reservations about certain aspects but overall this was an enjoyable read.
published: Feiwel & Friends, 2012
series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
my rating: 6,5/10
first sentence: The screw through cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.
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.
I’m torn. On the one hand, this book was a fast-paced, fun read that exceeded my expectations by far. On the other hand, I am really, really pissed that the big revelation at the end is not only blatantly obvious but that it’s obvious from a very early moment on. I think it was on page 38 or so that I rolled my eyes and thought: “Oh, how very well concealed this “hint” is. I’m sure Cinder has nothing to do with that little aside about a certain person who died but whose body was never found”. Anybody with the attention span of a butterfly will know what I mean but – for the sake of those who maybe didn’t read that carefully and missed it – I won’t spoil it here. It did ruin the book for me, though.
Now that I’ve got that off my back, let me say that this story starts out with some great ideas that mix surprisingly well. A cyborg heroine who is also a mechanic, what’s not to love? And the author isn’t cheap. That is not all she offers. There is also people living on the moon, a pandemic plaguing the whole planet Earth and no cure in sight, and androids all over the place. Oh yes, there also happens to be a handsome and charming prince who invites Cinder to the ball…
Towards the middle, the author loses herself a little and the plot drifts. This middle bit could have used some editing as it didn’t further the plot very much. It does pick up again in the last third and the book is fast-paced throughout. I would even go so far as to call it very hard to put down.
My biggest problem with the plot was probably this obivous revelation I’ve mentioned. It is obvious to the reader, it is even obvious to some of the characters. Only our poor, self-conscious heroine refuses to see it until the information is served on a silver platter. For a girl who otherwise seems smart and quick, that is just really, really dumb and cost her many a sympathy point. It’s really sad when you have a potentially kick-ass heroine who keeps making bad choices. The prince drops off a faulty android which contains some vital information and Cinder decides it’s more important to build a car for herself than to fix that android. She trusts people far too easily but keeps secrets from the prince, who – if not the brightest bulb on the christmas tree – is at his worst a confused young man with a good heart.
Most of the characters are kept vague, the stepsister and stepmother are appropriately evil and self-obsessed, the prince charming and incredibly bland. There wasn’t much of a love story, which suited me just fine. If I can’t fall in love with a character, I don’t really see why the protagonist should. And other than Cinder, nobody seems to be a three-dimensional, believable person. That’s okay, though, as this is sort of a fairy tale, and I for my part, can forgive it.
While there are some great ideas in this book, many of them remain sadly unexplored. The plot takes place in New Beijing, a setting that was so little realised that it could have been any other place – I didn’t feel that Chinese touch at all. In fact, the way people talked and behaved, the decriptions of the city, reminded me very much of your generic western setting. Except for the palace which is built like ancient Chinese palaces, there is nothing to set this place apart.
The same goes for Cinder being a cyborg. Apart from having a mechanical foot and hand, she also has some pretty awesome gimmicks. A retina overlay informs her when somebody is lying, downloads the latest news from the net and we learn that a large part of her internal organs are also wired. I loved this idea and the possibilities it offers. However, we see too little of those, at least for my taste.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read with only a few hints at the original Cinderella tale, most of which were taking with a grain of salt. Cinder does not care if she has a pretty dress to wear and doesn’t even want to go to the ball. She does have a loathsome stepmother, though, and I particularly liked the idea of the lost “glass slipper”. I will be reading the second book in the Lunar Chronicles and as YA books go, this is one of the better ones. But I wasn’t overwhelmed and hope we get a second volume that is both better than this book and doesn’t end with such a cliffhanger.
THE GOOD: Great ideas and a fresh take on Cinderella. A fast-paced, fun read.
THE BAD: Oblivious main character, world-building was lacking, I would have liked more depth overall.
THE VERDICT: I would recommend this book for fans of dystopian YA novels and fairy tales alike. It’s fun, it’s quick, and it’s got a cyborg Cinderella!
RATING: 6/10 Quite good read
The Lunar Chronicles: