Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2012)
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Fairy Tale Retelling
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
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. (via Goodreads)
“She was 36.28 percent not human.”
Let us begin with some history: I came across The Lunar Chronicles late last year on Tumblr when some blogger I follow gushed about there being a black princess present in the then-recent release, Winter. I’d been so disengaged with all things in the book world that I had no clue what the big deal was surrounding this series. So, naturally, when she explained it to me, I just had to see what it was all about… to get to the black princess at the end. Besides, you don’t have to twist my arm to read a retelling of Cinderella, especially when said retelling takes place in Asia and is said to contain a myriad of minority characters in the forefront for a change.
Now… on with the review!
There is a reason I give myself some time for reflection after I finish a book before posting a review. Cinder was the perfect reminder of that reason. My immediate reaction after finishing this book was HolyHotDamnBestBookEver, and I had anticipated writing up some dramatic post where I gushed about just how amazing this book was. I wanted to shove it in the face of the world and say, “See, Universe? You’ve got this one right. The hype was well-deserved.” But here’s a bit of perspective: Cinder was only the second book I’d read in the new year after enduring a year of being exposed to books that didn’t meet my standards and one– seemingly– never ending reading slump. So, I allowed myself to take a few steps back, enjoyed some other books for a better comparison, and here is the verdict: Cinder was aiight… but it wasn’t spectacular.
As always, let’s talk about what went right for me. One thing you’re sure to learn about me here is that I am such a sucker for epigraphs. The incorporation of the original Cinderella story as a sort of preface for each section of the book was something simple that definitely made my day (it really is the little things). So, Brava!
Some of the characters were also my favorite. I loved Cinder. She was everything I needed her to be– badass without being overbearing, a possessor of some good sense, and just an all-around pleasant main character to have to follow for an entire book. I was rooting for her 100% of the time. I felt her pains and her joys. And the whole human vs. cyborg vs. android conundrum really made me think about my favorite question of all time: What does it truly mean to be “human”? I. Ate. It. Up. Iko was also a pearl among swine, and I really hope she’s a constant throughout the series because YAAAS. That is all.
Basically, I was sold from the get go, and I blew through this with an unprecedented speed. The writing was so engaging and kept me coming back for more. I needed to see how it ended. I needed to know just how true to the origin story this book was going to be. Really, I needed to know if it was going to be like Wicked in that it gives a different perspective of the beloved tale we all know and loved. I was so here for the completely different take on Cinderella as well. So many retellings rely so heavily on the origin story that they fall short. This book didn’t do that. In fact, it felt like a completely different entity with mere undertones of the old Grimm story (probably because it was). Which, of course, had me wondering why it had to be marketed as a retelling at all…
Now, on to my disappointments! I think Meyer may have bitten off a tad bit more than she could chew. There wasn’t enough exploration. I know what you’re thinking, “But, Morgan, this is only the first book.” I’m aware. However, that does not excuse the fact that Meyer never really dives into her own world. We’re in New Beijing, and there aren’t any substantive descriptions other than the generic “here are some cherry blossoms, and Oh look a palace!” It doesn’t feel like any actual Chinese traditions or customs are being explored. More like… “We’re going to call it New Beijing but really it might as well be post-World War III America.” It was kind of a cop out and made the book seem as though it was just tossing in diversity for diversity’s sake.
That being said, the characters themselves were a generic standard mess as well. It is my understanding that country borders are a bit skewed in this new world, so New Beijing could very well encompass all of Asia and some other bits. Meaning… there should have been a bit of diversity among the characters portrayed, but there doesn’t really seem to be. I will say, though, that I am forever grateful that Meyer never busts out that offensive ass “almond-shaped eyes” line. I might have burned the book on the spot, otherwise.
Also sorta kinda not really SPOILER ALERT! (If Cinder is at least part Lunar, she has to look different from everyone in New Beijing, right?! Can I get some clear descriptors as to what this girl looks like? To my knowledge, she only just started being able to appear as she wanted to others, but do you expect me to believe that she’s been altering her appearance all this time to appear more Asian and fit in with everyone else around her?)
Second offense? All of the big plot points were hella predictable (and obvious after a certain point), yet I still had to watch everyone fumble around for the answer that was deadass right in front of their faces. And it was painful af. Can we never ever ever drag something like that out again? EVER.
Third and final offense? It just stopped. I’d gone into this thinking that each book in this series, while a continuation of the overarching story line, would be complete. I WAS WRONG. So horribly wrong. This cliffhanger had me on edge and I’m soooo bad at finishing series in a timely manner (or at all, really). I probably won’t ever finish Scarlet [/sobs dramatically]. I don’t like books that can’t technically stand on its own. Hell, even George R.R. Martin ends A Game of Thrones. You know there’s so much more coming your way, but you can rest easy knowing that this book is finished and you’ve exhausted everything out of it. I didn’t get that with Cinder. Instead, this book felt more like a “preface,” and I was left standing at the edge of a cliff, wind blowing dramatically through my hair as I stared off toward the distant horizon and wondered if I really had what it took to find out how this story ends.
Let’s Conclude This
Cinder was an enjoyable story that seemed to be trying to tackle so much in one go that it lost the ability to explore every idea fully (hopefully this becomes a non-issue as the series continues). I stand by a firm 3 Star Rating for this one because it still managed to keep me up all night ;)