REVIEW: “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer

“Cinder” by Marissa Meyer is a futuristic take on a classic fairy tale and a book I had temporarily put down to finish the Harry Potter series first. Having finished the series, I decided it was time to start something new, and I’m glad I chose “Cinder.”

**All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise stated. This review in particular contains a spoiler-free section and a section in which I run rampant with no regard for spoiler alerts.

As a fan of the ABC show “Once Upon A Time,” it should come as no surprise that I loved “Cinder.” I expected to enjoy it as well, but I didn’t really think I’d like it as much as I did.

A few months ago (in January, I believe), I entered a giveaway to win a paperback copy of one of my all-time favorite books, I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (which I highly recommend). I didn’t realize I had actually won two books until a while before the package with them arrived, when I was finalizing details with the giveaway host (shoutout to Willa, aka WillasRamblings). That book was “Winter,” the fourth and final installment of The Lunar Chronicles.

Prior to receiving the book, I knew virtually nothing about it. But I read the blurb on the back of the book, realized it was part of a series, and looked it up on GoodReads. I checked “Cinder” out of the library a few months later, at the same time as I checked out “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which I was just reading for the first time. I read up to page ten, I think, before I fell asleep that night. From there, I wound up prioritizing Harry Potter and didn’t pick the book back up until recently. I’m glad I finally did, but I really should’ve started reading it sooner.

If it hadn’t been for the interesting blurb and stunningly beautiful cover, I don’t think I’d have clung on to this book as much as I did.

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.

The idea of a cyborg and a prince and intergalactic struggle all being compiled into this book lured me in and I just had to read it.

As a person who writes and reads a lot of fan fiction, the first chapter of “Cinder” easily sounded like something straight off of Wattpad. It was slightly disappointing for me, because my research on GoodReads had given me rather high expectations, but it wasn’t bad so I continued to give it a chance.

It only got better.

The allusions to Cinderella’s story, the tragedy and death, Cinder’s quick wit, and Prince Kai’s swoon-worthy (albeit generic) charm combined with the unique plot made this book (and soon, series) a favorite of mine. The characters’ personalities and additions to the plot also added to the overall charm of “Cinder.”

Cinder herself is very sassy, sarcastic, and a pretty badass heroine. I love the fact that she’s a mechanic (the best of the best, in fact, in New Beijing), because it really gives a big fuck you to gender roles and stereotypes. And she’s a cyborg. How fucking cool is that? She’s smart, knows what she wants, and knows what she’s doing. Even still, she does have her faults and insecurities. I find it particularly intriguing how she switches between not wanting to disappoint people and longing to meet everyone’s expectations to not giving a shit what people think of her, but it’s also something I resonate with.

Iko is an adorable little android. Though not human, she displays a lot of humanlike qualities – so often that I had to remind myself she was an android whenever she was moving on treads or her sensor changed color. She reminds me a lot of a younger sister or cousin you have that likes to play dress up and pretend to be a princess. I think she sort of represents that “little girl” in all of us.

Peony… God, Peony. Like Iko, I think Peony is supposed to represent the little girl in us who’s slightly aged into the years in which puberty is just settling in. She’s exactly how you’d picture a stereotypical fourteen-year-old girl: spontaneous and boy-crazy but still slightly naive to the evil of the world. Her friendship with Cinder is my favorite, I think, because she’s the closest thing Cinder has to a sister aside from Iko. She was the only one in Adri’s family to accept her for who she was.

Prince Kai is pretty much your typical YA male lead: charming, kind, compassionate, cheeky and no doubt good-looking. And of course he takes a liking to Cinder. One can only expect such. As heir to the throne of the Eastern Commonwealth, it’s no surprise that Kai is nervous. But his coronation comes far sooner than he’d like. And the reason is heart-breaking.

Okay, I’ll admit it. Dr. Erland kind of made me a bit nervous. I had several theories regarding his intentions and not all of them were pure. But I liked him. I liked his dry sense of humor and ability to return Cinder’s sarcasm with shots of his own. I didn’t expect much of him though. I really hope to see him show up in the other books. Once their relationship sort of developed, I was really hoping for him to grow into more of a father figure to Cinder, since she never had one. Maybe in “Scarlet.”

I was rather disappointed with the lack of exposition. While a chapter or two of exposition would likely have bored me to death or would have just felt exhausting, it wouldn’t have hurt to include more background and setting (including more use of Asian culture) woven into the storyline. I mean, come on. There’s very minimal talk about the culture in the Eastern Commonwealth or aftermath of World War IV or this renewed, futuristic version of the United Nations or the history of Luna and how that whole thing came to be. There are far too many unanswered questions to count, and I’m hoping many of them will be answered in the next three books.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book far more than I expected, although there were some things (one of the biggest reveals in the book) that I had already guessed. It was an excellent book and I’ve already started on “Scarlet,” the second installment of The Lunar Chronicles.

Rating: ★★★★ (4.5, really, but I’m rounding down to four out of five stars)

Recommend? Definitely. Especially if you’re fan of the TV show “Once Upon A Time.”

Soundtrack: “When Will My Life Begin?” from Tangled because of Cinder’s longing for freedom. Wrong book though, huh? (Oh, irony.)

And now, onto the non-spoiler-free section. Readers beware because SPOILERS AHEAD.

Normally, I don’t do spoiler-free sections and then a section with spoilers. The review is either spoiler-free or not. But I have more to talk about for this book. So… don’t read if you don’t want to see spoilers.

Cinder meeting Prince Kai within those first few pages made me want to ram my head against a wall because of freaking course she meets him within such a small amount of time.

I’m used to happy endings. Despite having now read a lot of books that only end in tragedy, I expected happy endings. I did not expect the emperor to die just before the anecdote could be brought down from Luna. I did not expect Peony to die just as Cinder was attempting to pour the anecdote into her mouth. That was just plain CRUEL.

I did, however, expect Cinder to be Princess Selene. I just knew it. In the third person narration of Cinder thinking about Luna and Lunars and Queen Levana and Princess Selene, I knew this was a bout of not-so-subtle foreshadowing. It could’ve been much more subtle but its placing and Cinder’s sudden delving so deeply into the topic was a dead giveaway. Then Prince Kai’s bringing her up along with his search for her and so on… Well, it was predictable.

But like I said, still a lovely book overall. I’ve already started “Scarlet,” and I can’t wait to read the rest.


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