Cinder by Marissa Meyer

CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past to protect Earth’s future.

This is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles. I bought the kindle edition in 2012 but only read the book last week, and I’m unsure why I procrastinated. Perhaps I bought the book at a time when I’d felt burnt out reading Young Adult books.

I imagined this would be more faithful to the Cinderella fairytale in its retelling, but was pleasantly surprised in the balance the author applied in following or departing from elements of the fairytale. 

I liked Cinder as a character and was curious to find out more about how she became a cyborg. Not only does she have the archetypal evil step mum to deal with, but most people are prejudiced against cyborgs; in The Commonwealth, they have limited rights.

As if life weren’t hard enough, this futuristic world is being ravaged by a terrible disease called Letumosis. Although this disease is nothing like Covid19, it did – naturally – make me start thinking about our current global pandemic. Anyway, Letumosis hasn’t got a cure yet, it’s a fast-acting disease, and the fatality rate is 100%. Although humour is interspersed throughout the dialogue, the reader’s journey with Cinder is an emotional one. 

Unlike the fairytale, romance is not the main point of this book. Cinder’s developing crush on Prince Kai is understated. She’s a 16-year-old girl who knows that romance for a cyborg is almost impossible – and that’s without adding royalty into the mix. 

Cinder’s side-kicks in this story are an improbable mad scientist, and an even more improbable, charismatic, android named Iko. Thanks to her faulty personality chip, Iko is more human than some humans.

The book is action-packed, suspenseful, fun and emotional. I’ve now read the next book in the series – Scarle – and get the sense that the author gains even more confidence in further developing the world-building and tech. 

 The book ends on a cliffhanger, so you’ll not know what happens next until you pick up Scarlet – which is a loose retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Marissa Meyer has written a fun retelling of a classic fairytale. Her characters are well developed, the pacing flows well – I found it generally fast going with an appropriate slow down here and there. I’d recommend this for all fans of YA fiction, particularly if they’re also fans of space opera and retellings.

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