Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Genre: YA, fairytale retelling, science fiction, futuristic
Published on January 3, 2012
Published by Feiwell & Friends
Pages: 387
Read From: 2.11.13 - 2.14.13

Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being a cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder's brain interface has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it "a matter of national security," but Cinder suspects it's more serious than he's letting on. 
Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder's intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that's been devastating Earth for decades. Blaming Cinder for her daughter's illness, Cinder's stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an "honor" that no one has survived. 
But it doesn't take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes, because it is definitely attention-grabbing. When one sees a book with the title Cinder and a slipper on the front, one automatically thinks, Fairytale retelling. But then one notices the cyborg parts of the foot, and that gave me a, What is this about? reaction.

Characters: Cinder is a remarkably relatable protagonist. She’s not overly emotional, like most female protagonists nowadays, and while she often expresses the difficulties of living as a cyborg, and the unfairness that comes with it, she doesn’t play the victim. She bears up remarkably well against her life and does all she can to improve it. She’s also wonderfully practical, though perhaps not the best at forming ideal plans. Her attempt to escape at night without working headlights on her car was a rather important mistake, and her “disguise” for the ball was worse than slapdash. But she was still a good protagonist, and a believable mechanic. Prince Kai isn’t the most memorable prince in the string of fairytale retellings that I’ve read. I liked him well enough, but I also felt like I didn’t really get to know him very well. I won’t say that he was cardboard; that would be too harsh, and untrue. He just lacked the personality of previous princes, and he was also not a very believable prince. Kai has spent his entire life being groomed as the future emperor, and yet he completely lacks any sense of diplomacy, and seems incapable of behaving properly during an important meeting with other nation leaders - not to mention that he’s late for said meeting. While a general dislike for politics is a fine characteristic in a prince character, there’s nothing wrong with him knowing how to be diplomatic, or adhering to propriety when dealing with planetary rulers. The Author “took a page” from Ever After and made one of Cinder’s stepsisters nice, which I liked. Pearl, the mean stepsister, didn’t really stand out at all until the very end. But Adri is properly cruel; I had a lot of fun hating her. Iko was kind of cute, but I’m not really in to androids with personalities. As far as that sort of character goes, though, I did like her. Levanna, the true villainess of the story, at first genuinely frightened me. When a villainess is done properly, they can be so very scary, and in order for that to work, they can’t express anger or frustration - and if they gloat, it has to be in a below-freezing manner. This is how Levanna came across, at first. But then she began to openly show her anger and fear and hatred, and it kind of ruined her.

The Romance: Most retellings of Cinderella revolve entirely around the romance, and there is, predictably, sparks between Cinder and Kai. But the Author is taking time in developing their relationship. It isn’t “love at first sight.” In fact, the book makes it pretty clear that their feelings are friendship, and then they both gradually become smitten with the other. It’s a realistic, sweet romance, without feeling juvenile. I really liked it.

Plot: The political and economical upheaval is what takes center stage in terms of major plot, which I liked. A mysterious and deadly plague is wiping people out on Earth, and people are growing desperate for a cure. Meanwhile, the mysterious and sorceress-like queen of Lunar (the moon) wants to form a marital alliance with New Beijing, but her open cruelty and habit of brainwashing her subjects into absolute obedience deters Kai from any such pairing, and instead looks for an alternative solution. But Queen Levanna is threatening war, perhaps not directly, but certainly without question. And Earth cannot withstand her forces. The plot is as interesting as it sounds, and I enjoyed it. However, the story’s “main” twist is extremely obvious, so the time it takes for it to finally be “revealed” gets a little irritating after a while. It’s a case of “the Reader knows, so why don’t the characters?” Even so, the twist fits into the story, and maybe the Author wasn’t really trying to hide it from the Reader at all. I really liked how the Author connected the traditional parts of the Cinderella story into the plot: Cinder’s reason for going to the ball, the “glass slipper,” and even the pumpkin carriage (the latter requires some interpretation). It was all done cleverly and with purpose.

Believability: Not really applicable.

Writing Style: The writing is nothing special. The Author creates a very engaging world, that is slightly reminiscent of Firefly (in a good way), but I do wish she had taken a bit more time to explore it. However, she might do this in further installments, and I would rather learn about the world through the course of several books, than have a bunch of descriptions bog the first one down.

Content: None.

Conclusion: Like I said, the “twist” is so obvious that by the time it’s revealed, the Reader won’t blink. But at the same time, Cinder doesn’t take a long time accept that it’s true, either, so there’s no frustration on that part. Actually, Cinder is pretty quick to accept everything that she finds out, after a few moments of self-denial. The very end is somewhat abrupt, and I have to wonder where exactly the sequel is going to begin again. I hope it doesn’t skip Cinder’s escape entirely! Overall, Cinder pleasantly surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it to be very good. Cyborgs and fairytale retellings don’t go hand-in-hand; not in my mind. And cyborgs aren’t my thing. But I actually enjoyed Cinder a lot, and I look forward to Scarlet.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read (surprisingly), any age. I really would encourage fairytale retelling fans to give this a try, even if science fiction and cyborgs aren’t your thing. You may find that you like it, as I did.

Others in The Lunar Chronicles:

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