I’ll admit that this book has been on my To Be Read shelf for several months, but I finally got around to reading it now that I’ve graduated and my serious reading is over. Cinder has been very hyped in the book community and I was worried that it was going to be another The Fault in Our Stars—a book that everyone says is amazing, but that I just found all right. I’m happy to say that Cinder, while perhaps not mind-blowing, meets expectations.
Cinder, in the vein of hundreds of other YA novels, is a retelling of a fairy tale. Its special spin on the genre is that it melds the traditions of Cinderella with science fiction. Cinder Linh is not your ‘usual’ Cinderella in that she’s a mechanic and, oh yeah, a cyborg. Her right hand and left leg were replaced when she was eleven with metal limbs and soon after she was adopted into the Linh family. Her adopted father died from a deadly plague that’s been spreading across the world and left her with a new mother and two sisters. It’s a familiar set-up.
However, with the help of an android named Iko, Cinder has been planning her escape from New Beijing and saving up from her work as a mechanic in the market. It seems as if her dreams are within reach when Prince Kai commissions her to fix his android, but it starts to fall apart when her sister, Peony, is infected with the plague. Cinder is drafted as a research subject to help find a cure, and the results shock everyone.
This book, the first in a series known as the Lunar Chronicles, builds the world nicely and establishes a post-WWIV society in which the world is organized and united. The Eastern Commonwealth and New Beijing in particular nicely blend the Eastern/Western culture and government, but the bits and pieces of other societies within this world are enticing and I hope to find more in the sequels. The Lunars, a different race of being that live on the moon, play a significant role and are introduced in Cinder and will be further developed in the rest of the series. The world-building is quick and effective and works with the slick plot to help develop characters.
Cinder’s place in this society as a cyborg and how it’s affected her self-esteem and worth is developed nicely. Her relationship with her sister Peony, while it could have been developed further, is a good development on the usual ‘evil stepsister’ moves of the story. One of the best additions of Cinder to the mythos that inspired it is the ongoing flirtation and romance between Prince Kai and Cinder. They’re introduced to each other early on in the novel, meet throughout, and their relationship grows with the story—giving new nuance to the characters and their archetypes. The world-building and technology development are some of the shining moments of the novel.
However, this book suffers from First Book Syndrome. Since it’s the first book in a series that was developed during a single National Novel Writing Month the book doesn’t stand well on its own. There are too many hanging storylines and hints to future novels, and many of the characters are undeveloped. This falls in line with the traditional fairy tale, which is all about plots and lessons and not about three dimensional characters. While Cinder and Prince Kai are developed well enough, many of the supporting characters and the surrounding world feel lackluster. If a little more time had been spent developing these people instead of using them to further the protagonist without regard to their individuality the story would be better off. It’s not the best Cinderella adaptation I’ve read, but it’s not the worst either.
If you’re looking for a new, fast-paced series to read through, an original fairy tale retelling, or a book with a science-minded female protagonist then Cinder should find its way onto your to read list. Much of the hype is well-deserved, and I can promise that I’ll be reading my way through the rest of the series in due time. Pick up a copy of Cinder today and stay up till midnight reading.