Fairy tales. They’re my thing. Give me princes and princesses in disguise, young people turned into animals, magic cloaks and lettuce that turned you into a donkey. It’s all gravy. I especially love when someone takes a fairy tale, something that is ingrained in our public consciousness, and makes of it something unique and unexpected. This is why I was so excited over the prospect of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. A futuristic Cinderella set against the backdrop of interstellar intrigue? Count me in.
Linh Cinder is a cyborg, living in New Beijing under the iron thumb of her “stepmother” Adri. She’s the best mechanic in town, and one day, none other than Prince Kai, son of the reigning Emperor, stops by her booth asking for her help. This starts a chain of events that leads Cinder down a path she never imagined. Her beloved stepsister Peony comes down with the horrible Letumosis disease, a pandemic that has ravaged the world. Her stepmother volunteers Cinder for a governmental experiment program that drafts cyborgs and injects them with the disease in order to search for a cure. Add to this the oncoming storm of Queen Levana, the Luna ruler, who comes to Earth in the wake of the Emperor’s death in order to form an alliance with Kai. But Queen Levana has evil lurking beneath her beautiful visage, and the new Emperor-to-be is not fooled. With each twist and turn, Cinder learns more about herself and her mysterious past and falls just a little bit more for Kai with every encounter.
I’m not sure what I was really expecting when I opened Cinder. I knew the basic plot line, but what I was really interested in was the fairy tale element. It turns out, that element is secondary to the true nature of the book, a high-kicking science fiction fantasy. The world that Meyer has created is fully realized and perfect for the story she wants to tell. Cinder is an interesting character. She has your typical teenage neuroses, but they manifest in atypical ways. She struggles with being a cyborg, with feeling inferior and unwanted. But she has strength in her too, and asserts herself when needed. This is no passive fairy tale princess. Meyer’s story does have some bumps: the “surprise” ending is perfectly evident from the beginning. And the ending comes in a too-soon rush, certainly setting up the action for the next in the series. But the overall effect is one of great fun and excitement. I practically devoured this book, and I’m anxious for the sequel. If this is what Meyer does with her first time at bat, I can only expect greater things to come with time and experience.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
2012, Feiwel and Friends
2012, Feiwel and Friends