Cinder: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, science-fiction, fractured fairy tale, robots, young adult, I heart Fiewel and Friends
Rating: 4.67 out of 5 stars
Summary: Cinder is the best mechanic in all of New Beijing, and a cyborg to boot, living a thankless life of servitude to her guardian Adri. When Prince Kai shows up at her booth one day with a broken android, Cinder’s life is thrown in turmoil. Her sister Peony catches the deadly blue fever, and Cinder is volunteered to test plague antidotes as punishment, learning life altering things about her own destiny in the process.
This debut novel from author Marissa Meyer is scheduled to be the first of four in a series titled The Lunar Chronicles, with the remaining books scheduled between 2013 and 2015. The novels themselves are rumored to contain other fairy tale retellings in addition to Cinder’s journey, from Little Red Riding Hood in Scarlet, to Rapunzel in Cress, and Snow White in Winter. Since Cinder leaves off on such an obvious cliffhanger, I’m curious to see how she interweaves Cinder’s plot with the other heroines’ stories. If only I didn’t have to wait another year to find out. Patience is not my strong suit.
Unlike other fractured fairy tales, Meyer thinks far outside the box, setting her tale in a futuristic Asia known as New Beijing, in which cyborgs are second class citizens with few freedoms. Due to the ramifications of a 4th World War, a Commonwealth has been created between several nations, in order to secure long lasting peace for the world. Unfortunately, the Lunars, a race who diverged from the first human colonies on the moon are threatening this peace, seeking a royal marriage with an Earthen to take over the planet. It’s not a perfect world, but at least its not boring.
The main problem in this world is the outbreak of Letumosis (AKA the plague) brought to Earth inadvertently by Lunar shells escaping persecution due to their non-magical abilities. Think Sqibs in Harry Potter but with more murder. This plague, also known as the blue fever results in death for the sufferer in a number of days and thus far has no known cure. This has resulted in the government organizing a Cyborg Draft, for which cyborg volunteers are accepted to test plague antidotes. If there’s one thing this book is not shy about, it’s death.
Titular character Cinder has a lot of helpful abilities as a result of her cyborg nature. She has an identification sensor which allows her to read others ID chips, can be alerted to lying based on minute biological giveaways – change in breathing, heart rate, etc, and the power to reduce or increase noise around her. It is important to remember that while she has robotic parts, she is still human. She has all five of her senses and experiences emotions the same as anyone else, except for those of a giddy teenage girl, she’s a tough female lead for a 16 year old.
In contrast to the human cyborgs in this world are the completely robotic androids who populate the novel. One such android is Cinder’s sassy sidekick Iko, who likes shoes, jewelry, and pretending to be a human woman. Unlike cyborg Cinder, she has no senses and her personality is dictated by a personality chip. Like they do in Twilight.
The major villain, putting aside the secondary villain Adri, who is Cinder’s evil guardian/step-mother, is the Lunar Queen Levana. The Lunars are characterized as a race of greedy, cold, and calculating beings with extrasensory abilities. These abilities include mind-control and the ability to glamor oneself to alter their appearance. Levana is rumored to be the worst of all Lunars, glamoring herself into a beautiful being and murdering all other competition so she may hold the throne. She’s like a magical British monarch.
While Levana is more of a fun evil villain (you know what I mean fellow Slytherins), Adri and her evil daughter Pearl are pure evil, making Cinder’s life miserable for no reason other than a distaste for her robotic elements. For example, making Cinder feel guilty for her sister Peony’s illness, or pretending she can go to the ball held every year to celebrate the ending of WWIV, not to mention volunteering her to die by signing her up for the antidote trials. Her daughter Peony may be evil, ruining the only nice things Cinder owns, but at least she doesn’t try to kill her. You can’t get any more evil than that.
As a whole, not too much is lifted from the classic tale of Cinderella. Besides being named Cinder, having one evil stepsister (Pearl), an evil step-mother (Adri), a life that revolves around doing chores and making money for the family, and going to a ball with a handsome prince, the majority of the plot is new, wholly created around the small idea of a girl living a partial life and held under the unfair rules of society. Despite my extreme love for fractured fairy tales, I can appreciate Meyer moving away from a strict, only slightly alter the fairy tale formula. Just because there’s not a heavy reliance on the fairy tale itself makes Cinder no less enjoyable and the story no less entertaining. If anything, the creativity enhances the tale. Not to mention the robots. Yay robots!
So why didn’t I give this a five star review then? I have this problem, it’s called I read too many books. This is a problem because for the majority of the stuff I read (with the exception of A Song of Ice and Fire) I can generally figure out early on where the plot is going. The same can be said of Cinder. The big giant plot twists that affected Cinder on an emotional level didn’t affect me in much the same way because I anticipated them pages ago. I know, I’m a literary buzz kill, but I can’t help it.
-Brand new fractured-fairytale to enjoy
-Don’t read that many reworkings of Cinderella, this one is top notch
-Cinder and her world is fully fleshed out/realized
-Love the idea of a new species evolved from humanity (Lunars ftw!)
-Team Iko; love her sassy robot personality and her penchant for wearing jewelry
-Twists are a little too predictable, saw them coming a mile away
I’m kind of in love with the publisher who brought us this novel, Fiewel and Friends, who also published The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Like this childrens novel has a prequel short story on the Tor website, The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland For a Little While, Cinder has a prequel called Glitches, which details her meeting her new step-family. It can also be purchased as a $0.99 eBook if you prefer imitation books to computer screens.