Cinder by Marissa Meyer (proof) - 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. From Goodreads.
I've had a proof copy of Cinder by Marissa Meyer since before it was published, and although it sounded really interesting, it's taken me until now to read it. This series has been raved about far and wide, but I'm not a huge fan of sci-fi, and a retelling of Cinderella where she's a cyborg mechanic... it made me nervous. But as I set up the Retelling Reading Challenge 2016 for the sole purpose of finally getting down to reading these books. And I really wish I hadn't waited so long; Cinder was bloody amazing!
Cinder is a mechanic in New Beijing, and all of her earnings go straight to her lazy stepmother. She was in an accident when she was 11, and the only way to save her was to make her a cyborg, which, by law, makes her the property of her stepmother. She has no rights to own anything. When Prince Kai, heir to the Eastern Commonwealth, stops by her booth in disguise, asking for help fixing his android, and soon after her youngest and favourite stepsister catches the plague, her life is changed forever. She is soon sent off to the palace by her stepmother to be involved in the cyborg experiments to find a cure - experiments involving injecting her with the plague, with only one real outcome. Only she doesn't die. Meanwhile, Prince Kai is thrust into politics when his father, the Emperor, dies from the plague, and must continue to try to form an alliance with Queen Levana, the evil queen of Luna, who controls her subjects through magical brainwashing. But the only alliance she will agree to is marriage to the Prince, to become Empress. But Prince Kai has bumped into Cinder a couple of times at the palace, and he seems to have more than a casual interest in her.
Oh my god, this book was incredible! There are a few elements of the original Cinderella story within Cinder - she slaves away for her stepmother, there is a pumpkin coloured "carriage" of some kind, there's a ball and a prince - but there is so much of this novel that is new! Although the elements of the original fairytale story are there, and some of them you expect to appear in someway, you never know how they're going to appear, or how Cinder will get from one moment to the next. Cinder is so gripping, and I was completely absorbed in this story.
There was an element of this story that I guessed at as soon as it was mentioned, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the story. Although it's sci-fi-esque with androids and cyborgs, and an humanoid aliens from the moon, it felt a lot like a high fantasy to me, with all the royal and political intrigue and manoeuvring. Though the story focused more on Cinder and her story, we did get some chapters from Prince Kai's perspective, so we knew what was going on inside the palace walls and with Queen Levana.
I want to rave, and rave, and rave about this book, but I'm really not sure if there's more I can talk about plot-wise without spoiling the story. So on to the characters. Cinder is wonderful. She is a whole lot spunkier than the Cinderella we've all been brought up with. She argues and stands up to her stepmother, even when it's likely to get her into trouble. She's no walkover. I love that this story took the element original element of her slavery and made it into something different, something that also challenges gender roles. Cinder has to work, because her stepmother needs the money, and she doesn't work. But she's not slaving away for hours doing chores, she has an actual job and it's in something she's not only good at, but something she enjoys! Cinder is also pretty damn clever and resourceful, and she's just brilliant.
Prince Kai was really interesting. The romance is a slow burner in Cinder; they're attracted to each other, but there are other things going on in each others' lives. Not only is Kai having to deal with the sudden death of his father, but also the fact that Queen Levana decides to make her way to Earth the day after, to show give her "condolences" in person, and be there for the coronation. I loved how Kai had to deal with politics of trying to keep the Queen of a stronger planet happy so that another war is started, but at the same time, doesn't want to give his planet over to the Queen on a plate by marrying her. She is a threat, but it's difficult to find a way around the threat without marriage or war - a war they can't win. I really, really love political intrigue, so this side of things was right up my alley.
Queen Levana is the best kind of villain. Oh my god, is she sadistic. She glamours everyone into seeing her as beautiful, and has all the people of Luna worshipping her. There's a sign of uprising? Well, just fiddle with their minds and make them love you instead. Or kill them. She's a complete dictator who strives for power, and only has her throne by killing her sister and niece. She's vicious and cruel, and wonderfully, wonderfully evil. I'm really looking forward to seeing what other abominable things she'll be behind in future books.
I absolutely loved Cinder, and I am so excited to read the second book in The Lunar Chronicles, Scarlet. If you've not yet read Cinder, don't leave it as long as I did. Pick this book up now!
Thank you to Puffin for the proof copy.
Published: 5th January 2012
Marrisa Meyer's Website