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Cinder: a Fairy Tale with a Twist of Science Fiction

– Posted in: YA Book Reviews

Now, Something Different

I like to think of a new year as a time to try new things and set goals. In that spirit, I thought I’d switch things up a bit and try a new process for my book reviews. So, if the format looks different, it is.

Cinder (The Luna Chronicles #1)

I bought Marissa Meyer’s young adult novel Cinder a few years back when it first came out. I kept putting off reading it because every time I thought about it, I talked myself out of another Cinderella story. In hindsight, I wished I’d read it earlier.

Why? because the book is delightful, fun, and about as far away as you can get from a typical Cinderella story.

Cinder is a cyborg, a mechanic, and a little snarky. The story is set in a future world. Add Prince Kai, throw in a plague with no cure, a plot to take over the earth, and wicked Queen Levana of Luna. Yep, people have settled on the moon. What you have is a fun, a well paced story with enough twists and turns to keep most readers happy. I almost forgot to mention, the stepmother and two stepsisters are there too.

The Book’s Strengths

Even skeptics like me, who groan at yet another Cinderella story, will find that Meyer spins new story from the old and gives us a fresh and intriguing journey. Meyer is a strong, gifted writer, who weaves an excellent story.

Most updated Cinderella stories create a strong female character who takes charge of her life. Those stories are far more appropriate for our time than a sweet, submissive, compliant girl who becomes a princess because she beautiful and the ideal woman of three hundred years ago. Cinder takes retelling several steps forward. Meyer’s science fiction world gives readers a gripping and fast paced story with political as well as social issues key to the plot.

I originally bought the book because of the cyborg element, which I thought, correctly, would be fun. Cinderella and cyborg were such a contrast that I was intrigued. Meyer delivers on a story that has echoes of the fairy tale and yet is new. Some aspects of the tale are shifted but similar enough to recognize. For example, instead of people looking down on Cinder because she’s not part of the upper class, society considers cyborgs as second classes citizen. They are not simply looked down; they are also feared.

CHARACTERS:

CINDER is a fully developed, complex character. She’s a good mechanic, a nice twist away from girl sitting in the ashes. She’s a little insecure but has courage as well as gumption.

IKO: There’s no fairy godmother, but there is a delightful android, IKO, who has a fantastic personality and watches over Cinder. I loved her personality, a glitch in her programing.

KAI: is a very young prince, who typically wants to have a more normal life, but we all know that’s not possible. I didn’t feel he was as developed as other characters, but we do get to know him and his problems because part of the story is told from his point of view.

QUEEN LEVANA: She’s queen of Luna and wants to take over earth. No one is fooled by her beauty or her charm. All the leaders of earth want to keep her on Luna, but her aim, one way or another, is to marry KAI and become queen of the Eastern Kingdom.

SETTING:

The setting is New Beijing, which has somehow evolved into a monarchy. Meyer created a complex, detailed, and believable world. The story would have kept me reading, but the setting added an extra zing and more enjoyment. The other three books develop the setting even more as Cinder goes to space, France, Africa and Luna (the moon). The setting has a delicious feel of future, science fiction, and familiarity, which I liked.

I was sometimes surprised about events in the story, which I always like.

A Couple Weaknesses

Overall, I enjoyed this story. It’s a fun read and has a few surprises that as a reader I loved. However, there are a couple things a few readers might not like.

SERIES VS SERIAL

It’s not a series. Cinder is the start of a serial, which for me was okay. I like the cliffhanger aspect leading into the next book. However, some readers might not like this. Since all four books are available, there’s no waiting period for the next installment.

So, as you would expect, Cinder ends abruptly with a cliff hanger. I was excited to move on to the next book, Scarlet. To complete this story, you have to read all four books.

PREDICTABILITY

Although the story is fresh and the world new, there are predictable twists in the story. I debated about adding this because fairy tales by their nature are predictable. Many predictable parts of the story are a result of knowing the tale. Other times, I think Meyer was going for a twist and surprise, but I figured things out early on. Having said that I didn’t find this a big problem.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves fairy tales, science fiction, and a rip roaring story.

You might also enjoy:

“Scarlet: Continuing the Lunar Chronicles”

“Cress: the Girl with Lots of Hair”

“Winter: The Lunar Chronicles Finale”

The Usual Reminders

If you’ve read Cinder, what do you think?

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