She was a cyborg, and she would never go to a ball.
Cinder is Marissa Meyer’s unique re-imagining of Cinderella, in which we find the familiar elements of the poorly treated stepdaughter and a handsome prince combined with adventure, science fiction, and a deadly plague. The main character in this book is Cinder, a cyborg and talented mechanic from New Beijing. Cinder’s troubles become far greater than slippers and pumpkins when she meets Prince Kai, and becomes wrapped up in the fight against a deadly plague, and an interplanetary struggle with the sinister Lunar people.
When a good friend recommended this to me a year ago, I was intrigued. I’ve never been much of a Disney girl, and I can’t say I get particularly excited by the prospect of being swept off my feet by a Prince. The idea of flipping this kind of fairytale on its head and replacing Cinderella with a cyborg was very appealing to a sci-fi fan like me, so when this was chosen as January’s book club pick, I couldn’t wait to find out if Marissa Meyer could win me over.
“I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”
I loved this book almost instantly. This story is so much more than just a re-imagining of Cinderella: it tells an entirely new story, filled with far more peril than the original, interwoven with familiar fairytale elements, and clever nods to its inspiration. This isn’t a hard sci-fi, and this is something I was quite happy about, but I know some more hardcore sci-fi fans might be critical of this. Instead of focusing on accurate science and large scale conflicts, this tackles sci-fi from a character-based angle, which I would say is one of the book’s strengths.
I loved the character of Cinder, and maybe even more so, the android, Iko, whose vibrant personality adds humour to the book. These characters were smart, resourceful, interesting, and I really found myself rooting for them.
I even liked the romance in this book, which, if you know me well, doesn’t happen often: I’m very cynical when it comes to romance in books. The romance in this book wasn’t overplayed; it was believable, but fun, and it didn’t take precedence over the bigger conflicts.
Cinder: “Do you think it could have a virus?”
Iko: “Maybe her programming was overwhelmed by Prince Kai’s uncanny hotness.”
There was also enough intrigue throughout most of the book to keep me going. There were characters whose motives I wasn’t quite sure of, and new mysteries began to appear towards the end, as others started to be resolved. Unfortunately, the ending didn’t surprise me. It was still a great ending, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, but I would have liked to be caught off-guard.
In terms of pacing, the first half of the book was perfect: the characters were interesting enough to carry themselves, and just meeting them and getting to know them was hugely enjoyable. However, the second half let the pacing down a little, as my mind started to piece together the mysteries quicker than the characters could act on them. I still really enjoyed the second half of the book, but I would have enjoyed it even more if the pace had been increased, if there had been a sense of urgency a little sooner. Having said that, the book never felt slow, as a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books do.
Overall, the writing was brilliant: this book was easy to read, gripping, humorous, and I found it hard to put down. Even though this is part of a bigger series, it didn’t fall into the trap of becoming just a lead-in to the following books. Cinder had its own plot, its own conflict, and some of its own resolutions, which made it a satisfying read. I would easily give the first half of this book five stars for the characters, humour and individuality, and whilst I really liked the second half of the book, it just needed an increase in pace to keep the momentum going.
Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.