Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Note: Tomorrow we're happy to be hosting Marissa Meyer as part of her blog tour for Cinder.  She's been kind enough to hand over a deleted scene from an earlier draft for us all to read.  She and her publisher also provided us with a copy of Cinder to give away and after you read this review, you'll probably want it.

 

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)
Marissa Meyer

Feiwel & Friends
387 pages
YA / Twisted Faerie Tales / Robots

I gave it nearly a week.  I thought by now my fannish glee and adoration towards Marissa Meyer’s Cinder would have died down a little.  It hasn’t.  I’m just as likely to start flailing like the crazy fangirl I am whenever I think about this book as though I finished it mere moments before.  So you’ve been warned: the following review is full of hyperbole, over-exaggerations and nonsense because there aren’t quite words to describe how frackking awesome this book is.

Cinder is about a teenage cyborg girl mechanic, who encounters the prince of her commonwealth at the same time he’s faced with marrying the evil queen of the moon people to save his people from a devastating plague.

Yeah, you read that right.  Teenage cyborg girl mechanic and moon people.  If you have anything bad to say about Cinder, your argument will be invalid because there are CYBORGS and MOON PEOPLE.

You do remember my warning about the hyperbole and the nonsense, right?

So a more reasonable explanation of the plot: Cinder is a 16-year-old mechanic, who works on computers, androids and various electronics to earn money for her step-mother, who really wishes Cinder didn’t exist in the first place.  Cinder happs to also be a cyborg with a robotic leg, hand, and some pretty nifty hardware in her head.  She lives in the Eastern Commonwealth, a country formed in east Asia after the fourth World War, where a plague is currently spreading across the population.  Meanwhile, Prince Kai – the future Emperor of the Commonwealth – is watching his father die of the plague and trying to avoid out right war with the Lunars.  The Lunars are, of course, the people on the moon, most of whom have developed the ability to manipulate bioelectricity to project images and feelings on everyone else.  This, of course, makes it difficult to deal with them.

Cinder is everything I could want in a book (even if it hadn't had the cyborgs or the moon people).  It’s a complex world built quickly, efficiently and vividly that Meyer fills in with three-dimensional characters that seem like real people (even the cyborg ones).  Then she throws in a complex plot with a lot of balls in the air that fits together seamlessly without ever becoming convoluted.  There are hints of the state of a larger world.  Characters interact naturally and motivations are clear without ever being contrived.  It’s like you can clearly see the characters thinking when you’re not even seeing the characters!

While on the surface, Cinder looks like a twisted retelling of the Cinderella faerie tale, that’s not really all that true.  Other than having a bitchy step-mother and a snotty step-sister, being dirty all the time, a ball taking place, and there being a prince involved, the narrative structure of the Cinderella story isn't directly put into the Cinder world.  Instead Meyer takes the faerie tale as a bit of a jumping off point, using similar themes of abandonment, alienation and dreams of freedom to create a much larger, more complex story about cyborgs and moon people.  The faerie tale is imbedded into the story, but with so many new elements (and missing certain other ones like a faerie godmother) that it becomes a totally different story.

My vague attempt to describe something else I liked without spoilers:  The twist I thought was going to be the twist wasn’t actually the twist.  I’m very happy about this because the thing I originally thought was the twist was telegraphed so early on that it lost all of its shock value by the time my suspisions were confirmed and all the pieces were in place.  But then other things happened and the book set up for the sequel and I was grinning like an idiot. 

The moon people remain cursory elements to the larger story, so there’s still a lot about them unknown.  Their queen is a bit of a melodramatic mustache-twirler of a bad guy, but it fits with the tone of the story.  Cinder isn’t a straight retelling of the Cinderella tale, but it still has moments where it feels like a faerie tale, so a Maleficent-type witchy character fits in well.

If you don’t mind, let me return to an adolescent girl for one moment – I heart Prince Kai.  All male leads should be as adorable and charming as Prince Kai.  Then I wouldn’t want to kick them in the face, but rather doodle their names in the margins of my notebooks.  /adolescent girl moment

Above all I adored Cinder.  Despite having no idea of where she came from, living with a hateful woman who blamed her for the death of her husband and being forced to watch her own little world fall apart, she remained strong-willed, determined and above all, smart.  Her friendly helpful android friend Iko was a wonderful form of comic relief as well as a source of terrifying relief as the book moved to its conclusion.  Even though Iko is clearly described, I kept imagining her looking like Wall-E and that made me happy too.

So there.  Add that to all the hype Cinder has been receiving and take it as you will.  For the first time in a long time, I believe all the hype is well deserved.  I went into this book with high expectations and more excitement than I should have with a tiny voice saying in my head that there’s no way I’d get out without being disappointed in some way.  That tiny voice can shut up because this book is awesome and it was wrong.  Somehow Marissa Meyer far surpassed my expectations and gave me something I didn’t even realize I wanted.  Now I have to figure out my battle plan on how to get the sequel before it comes out in 2013…

A+

Cyborgs and moon people

Fast paced story telling in a future world with fantasy elements; wonderfully developed, fully realized characters, who are fun to spend time with; takes the heart of the Cinderella tale and stuffs it into the body of a robot

 

After harassing both the author and her publisher through Twitter and email, I received an advanced copy of this book.  While I did not promise anyone glowing praise, that’s what they’re getting.  Deal with it.  (In other words, the publisher gave me this book in return for an honest review, good or bad.  This one just happens to be good because the book deserved it.)