Late last year, I heard about the upcoming release of Cinder, Marissa Meyer’s first YA book as well as the first book in the Lunar Chronicles. I was able to read a short excerpt online and was intrigued with the beginning, and vowed to keep an eye out for it.
Big disclaimers though: I love young adult lit, I love fairy tale retellings, and I have a soft heart towards the name “Kai”, due to a couple, ah, interesting story lines my friends and I built back in high school.
So, yes, Cinder. I finally bought it last week, and promptly sat down to read it one fine afternoon. And I barely got up until about ten in the evening, after I read the last lines.
A retelling with a twist
Ha, of course retellings all need a nice intriguing twist. Well, this one was sure to be interesting for geeks out there: set in a futuristic, dystopian Beijing (New Beijing, to be precise), with a menacing race on the moon threatening the “Earthens”, Cinder is not your usual downtrodden woman: actually, she’s a cyborg.
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
Engrossing escapist fiction
Frankly, I’m more of a fantasy than sci-fi girl, but this was entirely too delicious to pass up. It is definitely futuristic, in a slightly steampunky way, and not utterly disconnected from the here and now–it’s a world that I can definitely meld with my own, but different enough to be magical.
Oh, did I say magical? That’s frowned upon in that society, when the Lunars’ “magic” has some very dire effects and capabilities on Earthens. The book isn’t deeply technical, and non-SF readers like me won’t get lost in all the technical jargon, but it gives enough interesting tidbits to feed the imagination and let you fill in the blanks.
Cinder is refreshing and relatable–a heroine who works hard, has grease on her forehead (while meeting the Prince), and is intrinsically good–but not afraid to get into a shouting match with her dominating stepmother Adri or try to bash someone in with a wrench.
The secondary characters are nicely fleshed out too–yes, even Adri–and some of them are quite endearing. I especially loved Iko, Cinder’s companion android and essential sidekick (although technically, she’s Adri’s). Kai is not just a pretty face, and while I might prefer a bit more fire to my heroes, well, as the heir, he’s plenty fiery enough (a few facepalm moments there, too).
The story can be rather predictable–I know we all know the Cinderella story, but I guessed one of the mysteries presented in the book fairly early on. I don’t feel that it detracts from the experience, but people who like complete shocker endings–wait, what am I saying? You’re reading a retelling. You’re certainly not expecting a shocker.
After the ball
After putting down the book, my immediate thought was, when is the next one coming out?! I’m shamelessly impatient, and my trivia-hungry brain wanted to know more and more about Cinder’s world and what happens next. “What happens next” is probably expected with a book that is part of a longer series; but oh, all those interesting, intriguing, tantalizing glimpses of the technology is exciting my brain and coming up with all sorts of theories. Like, this Lunar’s gift, is it something like the precursor to the Force? Roughly how many years in the future is this world set, where few people remember gasoline-run cars but Europe is still called Europe? And how is Singapore “far” from New Beijing? Where exactly is New Beijing–is it still in, uh, Current Beijing?
Ahem. Pardon me while my geeky self runs away with all the possibilities.
Cinder is definitely worth a read if you like either retellings or YA lit, and most especially if you like both. Hardcode SF readers may find it a bit too vague, but I’m sure it will still be an enjoyable, light read. The book itself is of moderate length and engrossing, and well worth the money I spent on it. If reading the excerpt intrigued you even a little, give it a shot.