Hey everyone! This week, I will be reviewing book one of the Lunar Chronicles series, ‘Cinder’ by Marissa Meyer. Though this book was released in 2012, I read it recently, on discovering it buried in one of the bookshelves at my home. An older cousin must have read it and left it here a long time ago. I know I’m about eight years late to the party, but wasn’t Cinderella late to the ball too?
This book stands on the threshold of young-adult science fiction, and fantasy, with an interesting combination of elements – consider it a futuristic retelling of the classic Cinderella. There’s cyborgs, advanced surgical and medical practices, androids and ‘netscreens’, as well as the concept of an empire, palace, and arranged political marriages.
When I initially heard that this book was a retelling of a fairy-tale, I was ready to carefully set the book down and recklessly smash my face into the nearest wall.
Why you might ask? Last winter, I read a series by Sarah J Maas, called, ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses.’ What started out as a relatively simple retelling of the tale of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’, with Maas’ characteristic ‘fae’ or faeries and magic, ended after two more books and a holiday novella, a steaming mess of all the YA tropes and clichés that I detest.
If you want to know exactly what tropes and clichés I’m talking about, check out any of my pieces from this past October, where I discuss my problems with YA literature. Now, onto the synopsis of Cinder: “Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, 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.”
Let’s talk about the background.
First of all, I loved that this book was set in a futuristic version of Beijing – not that I’ve ever been to Beijing, but it was quite nice to see some Asian representation. I did really enjoy that the form of government wasn’t the “usual European-style” monarchy.
Second of all, the futurism felt very … real, to say the least. It did, at a point, seem likely that humans would live on the Moon, or that there would be more World Wars. Or that countries in different regions of the world would unite after, in forms of government such as ‘the Commonwealth’, similar to the League of Nations and the United Nations after World Wars 1 and 2 respectively.
Furthermore, this book’s world is plagued by a pandemic – the letumosis plague, a disease brought by Lunars, the species who live on the moon. It was interesting to read these parallels considering the ongoing Covid -19 pandemic.
Next, let’s talk about the characters. So, as I’ve mentioned before, it has unfortunately become a trend in recent years, with the sudden saturation of the YA genre and market, for main characters/ protagonists to have virtually no personality. Linh-Cinder, or just Cinder, has personality and depth, which gives this novel even more appeal. She’s a cyborg, and a smart girl, a mechanic who can fix virtually anything.
I loved Prince Kaito or Kai, and the fact that he wasn’t just a ‘lovesick boy’ but a ruler thinking of his people, yet still ruling with his heart over his head. We see this contrast mainly with his royal adviser, Torin.
From this point on, this review will contain spoilers, so if you’d like to read the book before reading my thoughts, then go do that right away!
My Favourite Character:
One of my favorite characters in this book was Dr. Erland. He was an interesting character to read because initially, I couldn’t gauge whether he would end up being good or evil.
And I think the greyness added a lot of tension to the story. One moment, I was thinking, “he’s going to exploit Cinder for her DNA to make a cure”, and the next I was thinking “no, he’s just a nice guy trying to save lives” and then suddenly “he seems evil!” all the way up until we find out that he is indeed, a Lunar.
The fact that Cinder would turn out to be a Lunar – more specifically, the lost Lunar princess, was something I expected from the moment they introduced that subplot and story, but I still found the reveal to be satisfying and pleasant, because of the writing style and the way the characters were fabricated.
Further, I liked that Pearl and Peony – the stepsisters – had different, distinct personalities and that both weren’t just cartoonish villains like Disney has led me to believe. Adri, Cinder’s stepmother, on the other hand, was a little weak, as an antagonist. I’m hoping that the Queen Levana turns out to be a formidable villain and not just a mock-villainous character that is defeated very easily.
The series contains more futuristic retellings of fairy-tales, such as Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. Overall, I was hooked by this book and I can’t wait to read the rest of them!
Signing off for this week.
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