Synopsis via: 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.
My two centsCinderella. Evil stepmother. Step sisters. New Beijing. Cyborg. Wait, we are talking about Cinderella, right?
No, not at all. Kudos to Marissa Meyer for cooking up this imaginative new take on the classic fairytale Cinderella. We all know it -- a beautiful girl whose father dies and is left at the hands of her cruel stepmother and two stepsisters. With the help of a fairy godmother, Cinderella is transformed; she meets the prince, turns back to her non-glamorous self, hides out yet is eventually found by the Prince ... and they live happily ever after.
Except in this case Cinderella is Cinder Linh, who was an orphan taken in by an inventor during his travels to Europe. Unfortunately the inventor dies and she left in the care of her unfeeling stepmother, who has two daughters. The setting is a futuristic world where humans still rule yet are under siege by aliens, held abay only because of intergalactic treaties. Cinder is actually a cyborg, a second-class citizen in this day; she is quickly put to work by her stepmother to earn her keep -- she is a brilliant mechanic. One day, a disguised Prince Kai, the heir to the throne of New Beijing, shows up in her shop, with a top secret task.
Uh-ohsWhen I first started it, I was expecting it to be closer to the Cinderella story but it was a nice surprise to find that Meyer had merely taken elements of it and created something creative and innovative! The beginning was fine -- I think I was still in a bit of awe that the story was so creative -- but maybe a quarter into it, I felt like I knew what the big reveal would be, and it started to go downhill for me.
So much material, so outlandish, built-up anticipation, so much promise... but sadly, the world building, the plot is rather predictable, and the characters (or sets of characters) aren't quite fleshed out. I know this is a high standard to judge this against, but I keep thinking back to Tolkien's Middle Earth and feel it actually exists. Or the fact that I would know what an elf looks like, or what dwarves hate, or their complicated histories. I don't question Middle Earth and its inhabitants because Tolkien created them so vividly.
I had more questions in my mind and there are some strange illogical little twists drove me a little batty. There wasn't sufficient elaboration to sate my curiosity about this whole world -- it felt "unstable" to me. I am hoping that the books that follow will flesh out the characters and the setting a little more.
For example, New Beijing: Am I the only one expecting some more Asian flavour in the setting, the customs, the food, the language, etc? The Lunars: More on the back story please and why their strange powers. Cinder, while brilliant as a mechanic, seems to be really stupid: she seems to be in the habit of spreading the deadly plague and despite her sister falling ill, does it once again (read the book, you'll see what I mean).
This feels like a first draft of a wonderful idea. It would make a great introduction for younger readers (say young teens to teenagers) to classics like Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien or His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. But it doesn't have enough meat for me to rave about it.
And lastly, Cinder Linh? I'm going to sound like such a nitpicker, but I know I am going to get a lot of flak for this review anyway. So I'll say it: wasn't the character's name Ella?
Verdict: A inventive sci-fi treatment of the classic fairytale of Cinderella, this fell flat in terms of unfleshed out world building, characters and a rather predictable plot. I would recommend it for younger readers who want something fresh and fun!
Special thanks to Kelley of A Novel Read for a copy of this book through her giveaway during Sci-Fi Month! I will be passing on this book to spread some bookish love!