4.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
As the title suggests, this is a modern retelling of the classic fairytale Cinderella. Luckily, the story is retold in an exciting, feminist-friendly update to the sexist base of the traditional Cinderella. Cinder takes place in a dystopian future where cyborgs, androids, and hovercraft are part of everyday life and a war is on the horizon with the seemingly magical beings who live on the moon (the Lunars). The character Cinder is a fiesty adopted cyborg who is trying to make enough money as a mechanic to leave her oppressive homelife in Little Beijing. All the characters (including a prince, of course) are written so well you feel as if you have actually met them in real life. Cinder is a strong female character who turns the fairy tale on its head and refuses to be rescued. This is a great book for people of all ages – my sixty-one year old dad adores this series and can’t wait for the next book in the series. It’s definitely a good read for just about anyone!
This book explores many issues existing in the imaginary dystopian society such as plague, a caste-like system, impending war, and advancing technology. In this world, there is an alien race called Lunars inhabiting the moon, and there is an epidemic on Earth of a plague that originated with the Lunars. This creates an underlying tension that elevates the importance of Cinder’s story. The exposition of this strange alternate universe is so masterfully integrated into the story that the reader does not to ask a lot of questions, but rather accepts the world and its people as they are, leaving the reader to enjoy the rich story and characters. The Lunars add depth to the story by acting as a challenge to society as Meyer has created it. They have special psychic-like powers, and there are hints of nefarious deeds throughout their history of interaction with the humans.
Because the world is described so fully, I was puzzled throughout that no explanation was given for why cyborgs are shunned in the Earth/Little Beijing society. Cinder is an orphan who was adopted by an inventor after she was in a horrible accident and required many mechanical implants to survive, making her a cyborg with no memory of her former life. The status of cyborgs is an essential part of the story. The fact that cyborgs are a lower class in society is very clear but there is no clue as to why. This is a small complaint, but nonetheless, it bothered me throughout the book. However, it is not enough to deduct any more than half a star from this fabulous book.
For fans of fairy tales, amidst this strange world are the standard characters of Cinderella – an “evil” stepmother, stepsisters, a prince, a missing “shoe,” and a misfit girl who is just trying to get through a difficult life. There is even a “fairy godmother” found in an unlikely person. However, unlike many retellings of fairy tales, these characters are not forced and are so well integrated into the story I didn’t even recognize some of them until after finishing the book, which was a pleasant realization. In addition, there are some new aspects to the fairytale, because Meyer focuses not only on the characters, but also on the society as a whole. Not only is Cinder at battle with her own obstacles on the family level, but there is an entirely new and much scarier enemy in the Lunars and their threats to the future of society. I look forward to reading more from Marissa Meyer, including the second book in the saga, Scarlet.
Comparisons to Other Authors:
The writing style and brilliant imagination are similar to Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games trilogy. These are not books that require a dictionary to understand, but they instead demand a hungry mind that is willing to delve into imaginary worlds. The characters are also strong like those in The Hunger Games and similarly, both authors do not shy away from addressing major societal issues in their dystopian versions of the future. This book is also similar to some books by Lois McMaster Bujold, especially the Miles Vorkosigan series, in which science fiction is enhanced by brilliant multi-dimensional characters.