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Cinder: Book One in the Lunar Chronicles

Cinder - Marissa Meyer This review and others are posted at Inspiring Insomnia.

Cinder is part of my personal “Series Catch-Up” challenge. As many raves as I’ve heard about this book, I was skeptical. A cyborg? A cyborg mechanic, no less? I wasn’t sure if or how I would connect with this story. And honestly, before reading Cinder, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a good definition of cyborg. I probably would have said, “It’s something like a robot, right?” I needn’t have worried, though, because Cinder was a 5 star book for me. As a point of reference, the last two times I rated a book with 5 stars were The Winner’s Curse in October 2013 and Not a Drop to Drink in July 2013. (I think I need to be a bit more generous with my stars.)

One thing that occurred to me after reading Cinder is how tricky writing a fairy-tale retelling must be. Sure, the author has the opportunity to use some popular and beloved plot points. But exactly how much should be used? Just as important, which elements of the fairy tale should be scrapped? And at what point does a retelling seem more like a copy than an original story? I thought Marissa Meyer did a fantastic job retelling Cinderella, placing the main character, a cyborg named Cinder, in a futuristic Beijing. This Cinder has an evil adoptive mother and sister (rather than a stepmother and stepsister), she has attention and the affection of a handsome prince, and she has a secret identity. Best of all, rather then Cinderella’s glass slipper, we have Cinder’s robotic foot. I thought this was such a clever touch, and Meyer worked it into the story in a sweetly familiar but totally fresh way. But she didn’t overdo it. In other words, there are no pumpkins here.

Being a cyborg makes Cinder a second-class citizen, at best. She is fairly accepting of her status, even though her adoptive mother and sister make clear to her that she’s not wanted in the family. Cinder’s only sources of support are her younger sister and her personal droid. But things start to turn around when Prince Kai asks her to repair his droid. Kai flirts with Cinder, and Cinder flirts right back, even though she’s sure Kai would want nothing to do with her if he knew she was not completely human. Meyer does a fantastic job portraying the relationship between Cinder and Kai. This is no insta-love, but rather a slow-burning attraction with some misunderstandings and misconceptions on both ends. Kinda like most real-life relationships. One of those misunderstandings leads Kai to do something to Cinder that seems terrible on its surface. Yet, he remains sympathetic because it’s easy to understand the reasons that led to his decision. This also highlights the fact that Cinder is not another paint-by-numbers romance.