A Cyborg Searching for Happily Ever After: A Review of Cinder
Cinder: Marissa Meyer
Review by Jacquelyn Phillips
Everyone knows the story of Cinderella: the evil stepmother, the handsome prince and the glass slipper. However, Marissa Meyer morphs these traditional tropes into something unique. Once you’ve begun to read Cinder, the first book of the Lunar Chronicles, you will find it difficult to go about your everyday tasks. This novel will take over your life, but it will be well worth the lack of sleep, or the write-up you’ll receive at work for being late three days in a row. It’s no wonder that Cinder made the New York Best-Seller’s List.
After flipping beyond the dedication page, we are immediately introduced to the city of New Beijing in a futuristic time complete with androids, hover crafts, and advanced medical technology. Our female protagonist, Linh Cinder, is a sixteen-year-old mechanic with a mysterious past and a disheartening present. As a Cyborg—part human, part machine—she struggles to fit in with her society. Unlike the androids that are programmed for specific uses and occupations, Cinder is capable of utilizing her free will. Yet, unlike humans who can show a vast array of emotions, Cinder has the inability to blush or cry. She can physically feel the emotions, but to her evil stepmother and stepsister, she doesn’t appear human at all. It seems that nothing is wrong with her life, but Cinder’s stable world begins to slowly crumble around her.
Once readers come to understand Cinder, we meet our male protagonist, Prince Kai. He’s your typical celebrity heartthrob having to hide from the spotlight beneath a ragged old cloak in a crowded marketplace (much like Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin). Despite his calm and flirty disposition, his life is in utter turmoil: the threat of a fifth world war rests heavily atop his shoulders; the Queen of the Lunars (a society living on the moon) will only sign a peace treaty if Kai will marry her; his father—the current emperor of New Beijing—is on his deathbed; and a plague called Leutmosis has become an epidemic killing hundreds of thousands of members within the Commonwealth or those who are not royalty living in the city. Meyer’s imagination is beyond brilliant, interweaving political tension with the common wants of a young man—in particular, finding true love and picking the woman who he’d like to betroth.
Aside from the novel’s surprising plot elements and shocking character developments, the writing itself is extraordinary. Unlike many young adult books currently on the market, Cinder is written in third person. However, Meyer allows her readers to get into Cinder’s mind—they feel the emotions her peers are unable to see—therefore satisfying the craving readers have for a first person perspective. Her dialog is quick and witty, transporting the reader straight into the middle of the conversation. For instance, toward the end of the book when Cinder is in jail, she hears someone conversing with the guard outside. She hopes it is Kai who has come to rescue her, but instead is faced with her doctor, Dr. Erland. These two share witty banter throughout the novel, resembling the conversation a young girl might have with her father. Meyer writes:
“He ignored her, his gaze sweeping down Cinder’s form—the white jumper, bulky and loose over her slender frame, the metal hand dinged and scratched from her fall, the multicolored wires that dangled from the cuffed pant leg.
‘You’ve lost your foot.’
‘Yeah, I noticed. How’s Kai?’
‘What? Aren’t you going to ask how I am?’
‘You look fine,’ she said. ‘Better than usual, actually.’ It was true—the fluorescent light of the cell took ten years off his features. Or more likely, she realized, it was the lingering effects from using his Lunar gift on the guard. ‘But how is he?’
‘Confused, I think.’ The doctor shrugged. ‘I do believe he was a bit smitten with you. To find out you were, well…It was a lot to take in, I’m sure.’”
Meyer’s true talent for building tension from the first page to the last is another one of the book’s highlights. There is the constant wonder if Kai will ever discover Cinder’s true identity, if Cinder will be able to find a cure for Leutmosis, or if the Lunar Queen will soon become Emperor of New Beijing. Just when you think you can handle the variety of plot shifts, Meyer makes sure to change paths, always keeping her readers on their toes. Be forewarned, the ending is not something you can anticipate; it took me by complete surprise, leaving me wanting more.
The only downfall, in my opinion, is that there is a lot of blood drawing throughout the book. Although it isn’t gruesome, it’s not for the faint of heart—especially those who are queasy when it comes to needles. I did have to put the book down for a moment to take a breath and regain composure because Meyer makes it easy for the imagination to run wild. This includes imagining exactly what it looks like when the medical androids giant needle pricks the inner elbow of Cinder over and over again. I was able to push through it because I needed to know what came next in the novel, but this did slow my pace.
I did still manage to finish it in a week.
The second book of the series, Scarlet, has already made its way onto my bookshelf, and I eagerly await the chance to open up the pages and delve back into New Beijing.
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Author Bio: Marissa Meyer lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and three cats. She’s a fan of most things geeky (Sailor Moon, Firefly, color-coordinating her bookshelf . . .), and has been in love with fairy tales since she was given a small book of them when she was a child. She may or may not be a cyborg. Cinder is her first novel. For more on Marissa Meyer, visit her website: http://www.marissameyer.com.