Cinder: it’s the book you didn’t know you needed. Given half a chance, it’ll charm you with a mixture of science fiction and fairy tale, the blending of an old story with new elements and a quirky cyperpunk sensibility. Cinder is a clever tale, and promises intrigue, adventure, depth, and romance. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can’t wait for the next in the Lunar Chronicles series.
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.
Let’s get this out of the way to start: Cinder is not just the traditional Cinderella fairy tale dressed up and placed in the future – it is more. The author deftly balanced the epic and immediate storylines, elevating the complexity level near to that of a fine high fantasy. Add to that engaging characters and a worthy villain, and you’ve got it made.
Our immediate heroine, Cinder, is plucky, determined, and loyal. She’s also been modified – she’s part machine. She’s a mechanic with a bit of an attitude, and she has the luck (?) to fall right into adventure. What ensues is an entertaining, exciting, and slightly mad.
In Cinder, author Marissa Meyer pulls from many places: fascination with the far future, our present, and her characters confront the ‘big’ themes humanity faces: disease, loss, the sacrifice of few for the many, and the fate of empire. At the same time, it’s about the forbidden hope of one girl and boy.
The setting is lush, both strange and familiar, in a rebuilt Beijing of mystery, science, control, cyborgs, androids and more. One of the story’s strengths is its complexity – the play of interplanetary politics, a man made ruler too young, anti-cyborg discrimination, all mixed with the threat of imminent danger.
Of course, it’s not all deep AND immediate. There are a couple of story props to hurdle over – the knowing scientist, the trusted advisor who devises plots within plots, the ‘personality’ imbued in one special android (Star Wars, anyone?). And yet, with Cinder, these bits seem like tribute to the great science fiction of the past, and not tired replays. All in all, Cinder is a charming meld of sci-fi and fairy tale, as well as a satisfyingly complex young adult novel with aspirations to political intrigue and stardom (no pun intended). I shall eagerly recommend it to… everyone.
Recommended for: I said it already, didn’t I? Everyone. Cinder releases on January 3, 2012 from Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan).