Cinder is written by Marissa Meyer. It was published in 2012 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles. Meyer’s website can be found here.
“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. Because there is something unusual about Cinder, something that others would kill for.”
This book is the perfect blend of science fiction and fairytale. The recognizable elements of the Cinderella fairy tale made me enjoy the science fiction elements even more as I looked forward to how Meyer would adapt the former to the latter. The science fiction element is also just plain good for YA, and it also reads slightly dystopian.
While the mystery behind Cinder is glaringly obvious, it doesn’t take away too much from the plot as a whole. In fact, it probably adds a little to the overall tension and anticipation of the novel as a whole. A lot of the thrill comes from wondering when, and where, Cinder will find out what the reader already knows, and what her reaction will be.
I also enjoyed the small bits of political shenanigans that went on, especially Kai’s decision at the end to give up Cinder in return for the peace of his empire. Granted, that peace won’t last very long, but Kai at least is thinking like a ruler and not a love-struck teenager.
This is definitely not a strict adaptation of Cinderella, but it doesn’t need to be. Meyer is simply using the fairy tale as a framework for her science fiction world, and she does it admirably.
However, I honestly think this book would have been better as a stand-alone novel. The threat of the plague itself is enough of a tension-builder to sustain the plot without the added arc of the Lunars, and Cinderella’s cyborg status would have allowed for the much-used YA theme of “accept yourself as you are” to be front and center. I suppose, though, that a stand-alone would have been more generic since I can picture what it would be like.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Genre: Science Fiction, Fairy Tale, Young Adult
Cinder’s eye caught on something—a dark spot below Peony’s collarbone, visible just above the collar of her shirt. “Hold still,” she said, reaching forward.
Peony did the opposite, panicking and swiping at phantoms on her chest. “What? What is it? A bug? A spider?”
“I said, hold still!” Cinder grabbed Peony by the wrist, swiped at the spot—and froze.
Dropping Peony’s arm, she stumbled back.
“What? What is it?” Peony tugged on her shirt, trying to see, but then spotted another spot on the back of her hand.
She looked up at Cinder, blood draining from her face. “A…a rash?” she said. “From the car?”
Cinder gulped and neared her with hesitant footsteps, holding her breath. She reached again for Peony’s collarbone and pulled the fabric of her shirt down, revealing the entire spot in the moonlight. A splotch of red, rimmed with bruise purple.
Her fingers trembled. She pulled way, meeting Peony’s gaze.
“You were eleven when you had your operation, correct?”
The question was not what she’d been expecting. “Yes…”
“And before that, you don’t remember anything?”
“Nothing. What does this have to do with—”
“But your adoptive parents? Surely they must have told you something about your childhood? Your background?”
Her right palm began to sweat. “My stepfather died not long after the accident, and Adri doesn’t like to talk about it, if she even knows anything. Adopting me wasn’t exactly her idea.”
“Do you know anything about your biological parents?”
Cinder is a very good start to a quartet of science fiction-adapted fairy tales. The fairy tale elements mesh well with Meyer’s world, and are tweaked just enough so that they are both plausible for the world and recognizable to the reader. I think a stand-alone Cinder would have been fantastic, but series Cinder is quite good as is.
You can buy this here: Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles