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3 Apr 2012

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

A forbidden romance. A deadly plague. Earth’s fate hinges on one girl...

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.
While I did put this book forward as my top book of the Month, I did have my ups and downs with it.  With every pro, came a con. 

First, kudos to Meyer for her imagination.  A cyborg Cinderella? I loved it.  It added a bit of sci-fi to a well loved fairy tale.  Cinder's identities and heritage worked quite well, still feeling like the poor, victimised and low status Cinderella we know from the fairy tale.  As a cyborg she was of low status with her stepmother taking away any human rights from her.  Her other identity is not exactly considered poor or working class but the background would certainly be looked down upon by the people of Earth.  Let's leave it there before I spoil too much although I do have to admit the twists were predictable.  At the end of the story, Cinder seemed to be too many people in one go. 

I've seen some reviews about the criticism of the other characters.  Lots of villains all around her while Cinder remains good.  Well, to be fair that's Cinderella.  The idea was to see an abused and poorly treated girl overcome all the negative characters in her life to finally get somewhere where she would be safe, loved, and treated like a human being.  Not everyone Cinder came across was out to get her.  There was Peony, her stepsister, who saw no harm in her presence, treating her like they really were sisters.  Iko, her android best friend.  Prince Kai who treats her normally from the start, taking an instant liking to her.  And Dr Erland who replaced the fairy godmother.  If you're expecting to see Cinder meet her personal Gok Wan it doesn't exactly happen like that.  She goes to the ball alright but the grease stained gloves and wrinkled ball gown is far from the glamorous moment we can see in the fairy tale.  Dr Erland acts as her fairy godmother through helping her discover who she is and can be.  In his own way he brings out a princess in her. 

I do feel that the story was more than a retelling.  It wasn't just modernised, using the plot of the tale to find a story.  Meyer had a story in mind and Cinderella merely helped inspire some aspects.  That's what Cinder felt like.  It was a story in it's own right without following the fairy tale step by step.

The weaknesses were in the world building.  We have a futuristic New Beijing with plagues, past wars, new celebrations and monarchs.  Meyer could have done more with it and really bring out a future culture, taking Chinese traditions and using them for her setting.  I didn't get a strong sense of the culture that I was reading about, wanting to know more about how people were living.  The rules, the customs, the celebrations.  I know there are characters with an important story to tell but Meyer lost an opportunity to really have fun with her world-building and get imaginative. 

Prince Kai was the strongest aspect for me.  I loved him and his own little plot.  He wasn't just a stereotypical fairy tale prince who is just there to whisk the poor heroine away and fight her battles for her.  He starts out in the story as a young boy who is slowly watching his father die and every second the emperor's life fades away the closer Kai gets to becoming emperor.  And that scares him.  He knows he'll be left with a country to rule, peace to keep, and negotiations to continue with the threatening Lunar race, specifically Queen Levana.  He shows his naivety but determination to do right by his people.  And he's easily lost and troubled by it.  What will he do? How can he do it? Meyer does well to show that Kai is, deep down, just a young boy with no idea how to rule. 

Cinder is fleshed out more, becoming more than a kindly servant girl.  She has an identity as a mechanic, skilled with her own business.  She provides for her unfair stepmother through her income, seeing her own money being taken away by Adri (the stepmother) and used for food, bills, etc.  Cinder has a voice, speaking up when she feels she is being unfairly treated and taking action to help herself or the prince.  I love that she's an active character, moving the story through her own actions and decisions rather than just letting the story and events come to her. 

When the story ended I wanted more.  There's still more to come with Cinder.  Where will she go? Will she stop Levana? Will Kai forgive her? Is there a relationship there? I'll definitely get the sequel to see the next set of events.  I can't wait!


5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. I've debated whether to read this and I think I will!

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  2. It's a good read. :) Ends with a real cliffhanger though! I'm quite impatient for the sequel now!

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  3. Great review, Robin. I have this book on my TBR list, and while you point out some weaknesses, these don't seem at all to be show-stoppers. It sounds like the intriguing story it promises to be--especially since you say it's not just a re-telling of the Cinderella story. I understand it also echoes the story behind the anime series Sailor Moon, but I'll let my daughter decide that one for me. :)

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  4. I didn't read your review. LOL. I have this book on my list and I want to read it, but I hate any kind of spoilers. ;0)

    Jen from http://falling4fiction.blogspot.com/

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  5. The weaknesses really didn't put me off the book. I still liked the book and I'm going to be rushing for the sequel. Couldn't tell you much about the Sailor Moon connections, Colin haha. I've only heard of the show, never watched it. :)

    Jen, I hope you enjoy the book! Go get your hands on it! I try not to put spoilers in the reviews but if I have for this one, so sorry.

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