Cropped image of "Cinder" book cover by Marissa Meyer.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles)

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Rating: ♥♥♥♥/5
Genre: Science fiction-fantasy
Category: Young Adult Literature

When I was recommended Cinder two years ago by an old roommate of mine, it took me longer than I expected to get my hands on it because of school and it being constantly checked out at the libraries. But by some stroke of luck, I managed to snag it a few days ago and start reading it.

I didn’t expect to finish it in less than a day and want to go onto the next book in the series. But it caught my attention and held it the entire time I read the book.

At its most basic element, Cinder is an adaptation of the Cinderella fairy tale that was brought into European mainstream culture by the Grimm brothers. It features the age-old elements of a poor orphan girl stuck with her two stepsisters and stepmother, a handsome prince who hosts a ball to find his future bride, and poor Cinderella having nothing to wear to the ball she so desperately wants to go to. After that, not much else bears a resemblance to the fairy tale, because Marissa Meyer took it and spun it completely on its head.

The biggest change is that Cinder (the main character) is a cyborg. Yep, you read that right. She has a robotic leg and hand thanks to an accident that orphaned her when she was eleven. Pretty BA, right? Except that cyborgs are hated in New Beijing, Cinder’s home, and are considered objects to be owned by others. And Adri, Cinder’s mother-in-law, owns Cinder and everything she does. She makes Cinder do all of the repair work and earn all of their money to make a meager living and support a somewhat-lavish lifestyle for her and her daughters, while Cinder has no money to replace old or broken robotic parts for herself. And all she has for companionship are the androids she fixes and Iko, Adri’s personal robotic assistant.

Also, the Black Plague’s little sister has made an epic comeback. Leutmosis threatens the entire world, and the deadly disease has no cures and no one has any resistance to it. No one, except the people who colonized the moons long ago during World War IV and have stayed there ever since. But relations between the Earth and the Lunars are strained thanks to the unstable monarchy of the Lunars, and the fact that they have magic that they can use to bewitch and sway humans to their will. Their queen, Levanna, is basically the wicked witch from Snow White, hell-bent on being the most beautiful woman in the world and winning the hand of Prince Kai, the Emperor of New Beijing.

One of my favorite parts of the story was how naturally Meyer wove the story together to make it more complex and deep. When you first start out with Cinder and Kai meeting in the marketplace, albeit Kai being disguised so no one recognizes him, you have no idea about the epic adventure that’s about to unfold. You don’t realize the epic romantic story and the dangerous political game everyone is about to get tangled up in, and boy does the storyline get tangled. Cinder has to navigate her own personal game of freedom with her stepmother and society, while Kai has to navigate the sudden death of his father due to leutmosis and becoming the new emperor. He faces threats on every side, a disease that is destroying his population by the thousands, and an impending war between Levanna’s people and Earth if he refuses her hand in marriage. It’s not a fun situation to be stuck in, and no one envies him for it. There are plenty of other twists to the story too, but I’ll let you find those out for yourself.

I also love Cinder’s spunk; she’s got a backbone (one made of metal, albeit) and skills to survive. She turns Kai down every time he offers to take her to the ball, and when she decides to go, she does it on her own terms and in true Cinder style. She loves her friends dearly and would do anything for them, and isn’t afraid of doing the right thing, even if it puts her in danger. And the cyborg element was a nice addition to explain some of why Adri is so horrible to her and what she does to her in the book, along with being just plain cool. Cinder was one of my favorite elements of the entire story, and I’m curious to see where her story takes her next.

One of the things I found I didn’t like so much was that I could call some of the plot twists ahead of time. It would spoil too much of the story for me to mention them here, and I apologize if this next paragraph gets kind of vague or difficult to understand. I could see some of the twists coming pretty early on in the book; I’ve seen them enough times in other YA and fiction novels to tell that something was up, so it took some of the fun out of the story. But while I wasn’t surprised with some of the revelations at the very end of the book, I did enjoy how Meyer wrote the ending and it had me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how the confrontation between Kai, Cinder, and Levanna went at the ball. Poor Kai, unfortunately, gets caught between the wills of two women but comes out with his own decision in the end.

Overall Conclusion

I would have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I’m eager to read the next books in the series. In the past, I’ve struggled to find YA literature I enjoy, but this is definitely one of them. While Cinder does have a somewhat cliche-romance with Kai, she has spunk and a life of her own, and I loved seeing that in her. And Kai has his own will too, which is constantly tested by his new duties as emperor and his peace negotiations with Levanna. Add in the magical and cyberpunk elements, and there’s no novel quite like Cinder out on the market. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys romance, YA literature, or fairy tale adaptations.

Interested? Purchase Cinder on Amazon!

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