Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

Posted by Simcha 6:04 PM, under | 7 comments

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.

I've read a lot of fairytale retellings and Cinders has to be one of the most unique ones that I've come across so far. In this version of Cinderella our protagonist is an orphaned cyborg who lives with her adopted mother and two stepsisters in the post apocalyptic city of Beijing. Cinders is a gifted mechanic who supports her family by taking in work at the weekly market. Very few people know that Cinder is really a cyborg and it's a secret she does her best to keep since cyborgs are viewed with such contempt.

When the prince stops by Cinder's booth one day with an android that requires repair, Cinder finds herself unexpectedly affected by the handsome young man and is glad that he can't tell that her body is made up of metal and wire. But Cinder's excitement about meeting the prince is short-lived when later, the same day, her step-sister falls victim to the plague and Cinder's life is turned upside down. Blamed by her stepmother for her sister's illness, Cinder is handed over to the Royal medical team to be a test subject for experimental treatments for the plague virus.

Cinder knows that no cyborg has survived these medical experiments and she doesn't expect to get out alive either, until something strange happens that makes Cinder suddenly very valuable. And now not only is Cinder not going to die but she has the prince vying for her attention and trying to convince her to be his date at the upcoming ball. Though even if her mother had not already forbidden her from going,  Cinder knows that the ball is no place for a lowly, non-human mechanic, so she repeatedly refuses. But the sudden death of the king throws the kingdom into mourning and the arrival of the eerily beautiful and terrifying Luna Queen will force Cinder to make some difficult choices.

I really enjoyed reading this book and appreciated the author's unusual take on the traditional Cinderella story. Like Cinderella, Cinder is at the mercy of an uncaring step-mother who treats her as a personal slave. Being a cyborg, Cinder is seen by her mother and stepsister (only one of whom is unpleasant) as a subhuman creature incapable of real feelings and emotions and so they have no qualms about treating her however they see fit. But Cinder does feel, and the emotions that she experiences most frequently are confusion about her own place in the world and frustration about being treated like a machine while feeling like a human. Cinder is a sympathetic character who readers will quickly come to root for. Unlike the original Cinderella, Cinder does stand up for herself at times and eventually begins to take actions towards freeing herself. I really liked that rather then pining her hopes on a prince to save her Cinder decides to save herself, even if it means losing the prince.

While the majority of the story is told from Cinder's perspective occasionally the narration is given over to Kai, allowing us to see events from his point of view. Despite this shared POV I didn't feel that I got to know and understand Kai as well as I did Cinder. While he seemed charming and kind I was never quite clear as to why Kai was so drawn to Cinder in particular. He never mentions being attracted to her looks and their brief conversations are unremarkable so I couldn't' understand why he was pursuing her so adamantly. I would have liked a deeper insight into Kai and perhaps a closer look at his life in the palace in order to understand what it was that drew him to Cinder. As it was, the romance fell kind of flat because there didn't seem to be anything behind it. On the other hand I could certainly understand how Cinder would be flattered by Kai's attention and might believe herself to be in love, especially when she is so starved for any kind of affection.

A couple of other small issues I had with the story:

- There is no explanation as to what a cyborg is (I had to look it up on the Internet) or how Cinder can be so human when she is made out of machine parts. Part of this involves that mystery of Cinder's origins but I thought that at least some technical explanation should have been provided for how this was possible.

- A futuristic Beijing sounds like an interesting setting for a story but unfortunately we learn very little about the world or it's culture. I would have also liked to have learned more about the Luna people who lives on the moon and are ruled by the Lune Queen's mind control. So a bit more world building would have been nice.

- I thought it was strange that Prince Kai was so inadequately prepared for rulership when he was likely being trained for it all of his life. And when his father became sick the training would have been intensified. And yet, Kai seems oddly naive and clueless in dealing with his responsibilities and court intrigues.

After a few clues are thrown out early on it becomes pretty clear in which direction the story is headed (and not because it's fairy tale retelling) but I still really enjoyed the journey. The ending was not one that I would expect of a fairy tale but it left me eager to find out what happens next. I look forward to the next installment of Meyer's Luna Chronicles.


Oh, I have seen so many reviews of this book and its awesomeness lately, so I want to read it. Thank you for pointing out the issues you had with it. I really love the cover!

I'm reading this one now. He did mention that she was beautiful at least once (I just read that part.. lol). I would also like to know the background as to how the world turned out as it did as well as the Lunars. Since it is the first, perhaps we will learn soon! :D

Aarti: I've been curious as to what others thought abt the book but I didn't want to read the reviews until I wrote my own. I wonder if any one had the same issues I did.

Melissa: Oh, in that case I stand corrected. I just didn't get the sense that it was Cinder's looks that had Kai so interested. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book once you finish.

It is such a different take, isn't it? And you and I have read quite a few versions, right? What's most appealing to me though is that Cinder decides to save herself even if it means losing the prince. That alone makes me really want to read this now.

Sounds good, but yes I agree that Kai would have been trained all his life to become the next king. He should not be naive

Sounds good, but I know I'll be as disappointed by the lack of world-building as you were. Which makes me wonder if maybe I just shouldn't read it at all.
I agree that it's weird that, in a story about a cyborg, they give no explanation for what it actually is.

Stephanie: Yes, I really liked that Cinder still remains an intelligent and rational girl even though she has a crush on the prince, which is usually not the case in romances.

Blodeuedd: It was just a small issues but one which niggled at me.

Audrey: Despite the flaws I think you would probably enjoy this book. If you have the opportunity, you should give it a try.

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