Series: Lunar Chronicles, #1
Author: Marissa Meyer
Pages: 390 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: January 3, 2012
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.
I absolutely loved that this was set in futuristic China rather than the US like so many other novels are. The author's descriptions of New Bejing are wonderful. We get plenty of little details that made it easy to imagine. There's androids, hover vehicles, littered streets, netscreens, and holographic fires. The Emperor's palace is an amazing mash-up of sleek futuristic technology and ancient Chinese design. Everything is just super imaginative, but not too out there.
The characters also had a lot more depth than the fairytale. Cinder is not only mistreated by her stepmother, but she's also looked down upon by those in society who know she is a cyborg. Cinder tries to blend in as much as possible and earns her keep as a mechanic. Her stepsister, Pearl, is cruel towards Cinder, but her younger sister, Peony isn't. Even though that strays from the original, I loved that Cinder had at least one person who cared for her. Cinder loves her little sister very much, and I felt so awful when her one ally is taken away by med-droids after contracting the plague. At that point Cinder's life as she knows it changes forever.
Cinder now has to deal with her stepmother's backlash, since she blames Cinder for her youngest daughter's illness as well as her husband's death. It's no secret that Adri is disgusted by Cinder and wants her gone. Cinder also gets sold off to become a lab rat in order to find a cure for the plague, but her test results reveal a lot of unknown things about her heritage. There's a bit of a mystery surrounding that, but it was very predictable. However, that didn't keep me from enjoying it.
In addition to the new technology and the swiftly spreading disease, Cinder also covers some of the politics of the time. The moon is now inhabited by Lunars and a peace treaty is needed between them and Earth. However, the Lunar queen, Levada, is a horrible woman! She wants what she wants, and she wants it now! She'll stop at nothing to gain power and take control of Earth, but Prince Kai does his best to not allow it. Kai has a huge burden to carry, but he still manages to be incredibly charming. Unfortunately, Cinder makes sure to keep him at a steel arm's length.
Cinder is a highly imaginative retelling of Cinderella! It keeps just enough of the original premise in tact to make it recognizable, but it also has plenty of unique features to set it apart. It's also full of characters that you'll both love and hate, and maybe love to hate! This book is full of twists and turns for our heroine, but she handles them to the best of her ability. The ending has left me wanting more! Damn that cliffhanger!