November 21, 2011

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This cover. This cover is in the running for my favorite cover of the coming year! I love it that much. And I love the title. And, even more than both of those put together, I love the premise of a sci-fi/cyberpunk retelling of Cinderella with a cyborg as the main character. You should have seen my face when I first found out about Cinder. It's like Marissa Meyer asked me for my list of all that is good and then slapped them together into this book. Add to that the fact that it's the first in a quartet (oh, how I love quartets, see this one, and this one, oh, and this one over here), and the name of the series is the Lunar Chronicles. I don't know . . . it kind of seemed like this book and I were a match made in heaven. I've been reading sci-fi for as long as I can remember, and I feel like we don't get enough of it these days in young adult fiction. So I would have been on board for that aspect of the book alone. But a sci-fi/fairy tale mashup? Fuggedabout it. And so it was with much relief that I started it and found out it was legitimate on both counts.

Linh Cinder is a mechanic and a cyborg. Orphaned as a child in a terrible accident, her life was saved when doctors intervened, replacing her missing hand and foot with metal ones. Now she works long hours in her stall at the market in New Beijing, and she goes home to a loveless household headed by her evil stepmother. There's certainly no love lost between these two. But while her older stepsister Pearl takes after her mother in every respect, her younger stepsister Peony is as innocent and sweet as Pearl and her stepmother Adri are cynical and conniving. Unfortunately, Cinder also has the question of class working against her. Cyborgs are second-class citizens in every way. Looked down on, and often outright loathed, by the people of New Beijing, cyborgs are the first to be offered up for medical testing and the last to be invited to social events such as, oh, say--a ball. Incredibly, our girl Cinder is headed for both, though she has no idea yet. Then one day the emperor's son Prince Kai shows up at her stall with an android in need of repair. The emperor himself is dying of the deadly plague letumosis, which has been decimating the population for the past decade. And before she knows it, Cinder is caught up in  both the fight against the disease and an unlikely friendship with a young man who has his own set of problems.

Cinder is quite a serious book, both in the sense that it takes itself seriously and that it deals with serious issues, such as death, disease, class conflict, and war. I think I was expecting something lighter, but the whole taking-itself-seriously and the fascinating world building quickly set me at ease. I loved the attention to detail with which Ms. Meyer depicted the grimness of Cinder's life and her world. She's a mechanic and an outcast. She wears castoff coveralls and a worn-out work belt in place of the flouncy dresses and jewels other girls her age are flaunting. And her outlook matches her clothes. Cinder is a realist, and that is my favorite thing about her. She knows the way things work. And mechanics with steel appendages do not make good with emperors' sons. No matter how charming they may be. As a result, there is very little of the lovelorn teenager about this girl. As much as she slowly allows herself to enjoy the prince's company, not once does she fool herself into forgetting the horror that would blossom on his face were he to discover what she is. Instead, she reserves the majority of her emotional energy for fixing up an old car she finds in the junkyard, harboring the long-shot hope that it just might serve as an escape vehicle when the time comes that she can no longer stand her abysmal home life. Then when the plague strikes close by, Cinder taps already flagging reserves of strength to help and support the ones who are stricken. She's tough and pragmatic. We like Cinder, yes we do. Then there's Kai. Prince Kaito. What you need to know about Kai is he's . . . very cute actually. Determined to do right by his own obligations, he won me over as he did Cinder for being more than he seemed. At the same time, this is the aspect of the novel that needed more development, in my humble opinion. I liked that the story took its time, but with all that time, there wasn't actually much of it devoted to these two developing their relationship. What was there was good. I just needed a little more. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be, I wish that the relationships between characters had benefited from the skill applied to the world building and the awesomely creeptastic villain. There's quite a buildup by the end (the end is possibly the best part). But just when things finally get going, it ends. On one big, fat doozy of a cliffhanger. Which is fine. I'm not opposed to cliffhangers, per se. But I did expect just a hint more in the way of resolution depth for such a slow cycling climax. I was left wanting. My needs aside, I thought the characters deserved to have it out. I realize there are three more books in the series, and there is clearly more to come. I just could have done with a little more emotional payoff to keep me believing, if you will. That said, I loved each of Marissa Meyer's clever sci-fi tips of the hat to the elements of the original fairy tale. Word is the next books will incorporate more fairy tales, including Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. Color me intrigued (and hopeful) for more development in future installments.

Cinder is due out January 3rd.

Linkage
Bibliopunkk Review
The Book Lantern Review
Fluidity of Time Review
Karin's Book Nook Review
Nice Girls Read Books Review

13 comments:

  1. ooh, I've got this one. But, a cliffhanger? I don't know...

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  2. Your entire first paragraph sums up my thoughts exactly - take every element possible that I would DIE see put together, and here we have it.

    My expectations were perhaps a bit too high though, because I was actually let down just a little. I enjoyed it overall - but didn't LOVE it.

    And the cliffhanger definitely left me wanting, it felt more like a cut-off than a cliffhanger! I'm also very intrigued to see how the new fairy tales will incorporate into the quartet. Does this mean new main characters every book? How then, will we get satisfaction for the original characters?

    We shall see!

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  3. I adored this book! I cannot wait for the sequels! I'm totally looking forward to seeing what Marissa Meyer has in store for us!

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  4. I'm so excited for this book. Like you, Angie, it feels like everything I want in a book. I may even forgive Marissa for stealing my hero's name. :-(

    But that cover! Not with you there. Love the font, hate the dead flesh in the drag queen red patent pumps.

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  5. I CANNOT wait to read this book. The cover, the twist in the story, and the fact that it deals with serious issues (we teens can handle it, really!) is a complete win.

    Great review!

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  6. Emily, I know. I didn't realize there would be one. Kinda thought it would wrap the traditional story line up, you know? But we'll see.

    Allison, I know exactly how you feel. Something didn't quite come together overall. I share your concern about the characters. I don't know how she could possibly leave Cinder and Kai where they are. Ack!

    Laura, I'm glad. I wonder how large of a role these characters will play.

    Diana, oh my goodness. What is with all of the Kai's popping out of the woodwork lately. Yours was the first I heard about (admittedly very early on). And now there's this one and the dude from MATCHED. Something in the water?

    Had to laugh over the drag queen comment. I honestly didn't see that until now. Thanks for that. ;) I like the hint of cyborg innards, though...

    Rida, *grin* you totally can. Hope you love it!

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  7. I definitely needed more emotional payoff as well.

    So I'm guessing the next book won't follow Cinder? That's what it sounds like though her and Kai may make some appearances. That's too bad. :(

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  8. Don't mind me, just eavesdropping on Twitter :)

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  9. My understanding is the next book is a different fairy tale, but will be linked with the same characters playing secondaries...

    Angie, have you heard of Alethea Kontis's new Enchanted? think it might be just up your alley. It's a series posited on the idea that all the fairy tales happened to a single family, and they are the "Sunday's Child..." family. Kontis is a well known short story writer and picture book author, but this is her first novel.

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  10. Cinder sounds right up my alley, straight down to the cover and the character (I love a realist down to my bones). ALL OF IT.

    But I don't love cliffhangers.

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  11. Argh, everyone is raving about this one. I can't wait to get my hands on it.

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  12. I want this book!!!!

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  13. I enjoyed this one somewhat but it felt a bit flat to me. I can't quite put my finger on why as it delivered exactly what the book blurb and imagery portrayed. I agree with you oon your comment about the relationship between Kai and Cinder. I didn't quite feel the true connection there. I think that had more to do with the fact that there wasn't as much focus on him independent of others (his father, the Lunar queen, Torin, Cinder, the Doctor) so we never really got to know him outside of his reactions to others expectations.

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