“Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.”
A futuristic retelling of the beloved fairy tale Cinderella – but what’s different from the other hundreds of adaptations? Cyborgs, androids, Luna’s who live on the moon with the ability to control minds, diverse characters, and all set in a future where peace on earth has been achieved. Which is pretty unusual for a novel set in the future (or from what I’ve come across).
Cinder is a 16 year old cyborg living in New Beijing with no memories of her childhood or her real parents. Instead she lives with Lihn Adri, her adoptive mother. Who, of course, treats Cinder like a second class citizen because she’s a cyborg. It wouldn’t be a Cinderella story if she didn’t have an evil stepmother, would it? The only threat to her world is the deadly Letumosis plague that’s ripping its way through every country on earth. Until she is thrown from her ordinary life and into the center of a power struggle with the deadly queen of Luna.
Quick warning this review contains spoilers.
I read this book during Easter break of 2015 and I’m still in love with it. I’ve already done a reread of this series that was in preparation for the final installment in The Lunar Chronicles series – Winter. Cinder is one of my favourite Young Adult books. I’m a sucker for anything to do with fairy tales but I had never read anything that put such a spin on it. Meyer manages to create a whole new world around her characters with engaging technological advancements that only serve to enhance her story-telling. Portscreens, Hovers, Spaceships, Androids – this is very clearly the future.
And of course Cyborgs. Cinder is a gifted mechanic who is shunned because of her metal leg, arm, cybernetic eye and the computer in her brain. I love Meyer’s twist on the character, Cinder is not the character we know, she is not sugar and spice and all things nice, feeding the mice while she works around the house believing in the goodness of everyone; not that this is a bad thing to be. Cinder is sarcastic and independent, with a spine made of steel (literally). “I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.” Cinder is one of the reasons I love these books so much, her character is flawed and realistic, and grows so much just through the first book. She goes from someone who just wanted to get away to risking her own life to save Kai’s.
The rest of the characters are equally as compelling. Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth, who soon becomes the Emperor, is someone who only ever wants to do what is right for his people, is kind and open and blushes whenever he talks to Cinder. Yet he can be satirical, sassy and hot tempered – mainly when it comes to dealing with the Levana. The Luna Queen who is determined to become the Empress of the Commonwealth and marriage to a psychotic Moon Queen is not really on Kai’s to do list. Cinder and Kai’s compatibility as romantic interests is evident. They both show their selflessness throughout the novel: Kai always putting his people first and Cinder’s use of the antidote she is given for Letumosis. Their sarcasm and sass makes for some very amusing moments while still feeling genuine. This only increases as the series progresses – but that’s stepping into a different book review.
Iko, Cinder’s android with a faulty personality chip, is one of her only friends and provides bounds of comic relief in the novel.
“Cinder twisted up her lips. “Do you think it could have a virus?”
“Maybe her programming was overwhelmed by Prince Kai’s uncanny hotness.”
She is both a Buttons and a Fairy Godmother, one that you get surprisingly attached to considering she is a computer.
Even the evil Queen Levana is a fascinating addition to the tale with her ability to manipulate the Bio-Electricity of Humans and Luna’s alike. Meaning that they see what she wants to them to see, and do what she wants them to do. She can even trick people into loving her. Her intimidating abillity and her desire for power is only the tip of the iceberg with Levana.
The plot is just as captivating as the characters, taking the well known Cinderella story and twisting it just enough to make it seem like new. Cinderella doesn’t just lose her shoe on the steps of the palace but her own foot. The pumpkin is a discarded orange car that Cinder originally fixes up to try and escape her stepmothers’ influence.
Meyer ties these well-known moments into her own plot. When Cinder is sold to a government research program that is trying to find the cure to the plague ravaging the world, it suddenly is not a sugary sweet adaptation. Cyborgs are either selected or sold into a cyborg draft because they are seen as worth less than “whole” people. We are thrown from the story we know into one where we aren’t sure what will happen.
Though as soon as (or maybe even earlier) the Letumosis plague disappears from Cinder’s bloodstream during testing it is clear that she is not completely human – even less than she was considered so before. Her reveal at the ball is heartbreaking, for this character we have come to love is now not only a shunned cyborg but a Luna to boot. Kai’s declaration that “You’re even more painful to look at than she is” when she accidentally sets off her glamour (the Luna ability), while trying to stop Kai from declaring a marriage alliance with Luna, is realistic and I felt Cinder’s pain and shock at his words.
The big reveal at the end of the novel that Cinder is in fact the lost Luna Princess Selene, who Kai has been looking for to help overthrow Levana from her deadly rule, was not shocking. As much as I love this book something within gave plot point away. It was an idea I had when the idea of a lost princess was first presented – a girl who’s supposed to be dead and Cinder happens to has no memories of her youth? That was not a coincidence, and it felt good to be right. I do like guessing things correctly when reading books with mysteries but who doesn’t?
Overall, I loved this book (as if it wasn’t obvious before). Cinder got me hooked on Meyer’s world and the ending prepped me for an entirely new Cinder in the sequel.
“Soon, the whole world would be searching for her–Linh Cinder.
A deformed cyborg with a missing foot.
A Lunar with a stolen identity.
A mechanic with no one to run to, nowhere to go.
But they will be looking for a ghost.”
I ordered the second book Scarlet straight away.
The fairy tale elements were handled brilliantly and Meyer created characters that I’m pretty sure still hold a piece of my heart. Cinder is a fast paced novel that I would recommend to lovers of fairy tales, Young Adult fiction and Science-Fiction. This series I’m sure will be a favourite of mine for years to come.