Marissa Meyer’s debut novel, Cinder, quickly became a book that I could not put down. In fact, I became so attached to the characters and the story that I ended up reading the entire 387 page book in just one day. Cinder is a modern day Cinderella tale that blends science fiction with fantasy, creating a whimsical yet bleak dystopian society aptly named New Beijing, which formed following the end of the Fourth World War. Adding to the science fiction aspect of the story, Cinder is cyborg, a lower class citizen in the ranks of New Beijing’s caste system, with a mechanical leg who suffered a traumatic event early on in her childhood, just before she turned 11. An event of which, Cinder has no recollection of. All she is aware of is that her father saved her life and soon after lost his own, leaving Cinder to live with her evil stepmother Adri, evil stepsister Pearl, loving stepsister Peony, and their hilarious android Iko who has an affinity for wearing jewelry.
Times are tough in New Beijing, as the entire county is becoming infected with a very deadly virus called Letumosis. There is no known cure for the disease, also referred to as the plague, which hits suddenly and quickly progresses through the four stages of the disease before finally resulting in death. Prince Kai’s father, the current Emperor, becomes infected with the disease along with Cinder’s stepsister Peony, before a cure can be discovered. Once Peony’s illness is discovered and she is brought to the hospital to be placed in quarantine, Adril decides that the entire misfortune is somehow Cinder’s fault and as her legal guardian, she volunteers Cinder to join the Cyborg Draft and to become a test subject at the hospital. They inject her with the disease, but miraculously, Cinder’s immune system seems to fight off the virus and her body is clear within a matter of hours. She develops an interesting relationship to her less than truthful doctor, becomes more closely involved with Prince Kai, and learns some very shocking information about her past in the process of her volunteered research. And of course, in true Cinderella fashion, the book spends many pages building up the excitement of big celebratory ball that is being held by Prince Kai in his castle during the final chapters.
Just when it seemed that their world couldn’t possibly face any other hardships, a race of humans who left planet Earth to inhabit the moon, called The Lunars, show up to negotiate a marriage to Prince Kai in exchange for continued peace between the colonies. While Prince Kai detests Queen Levana, he is faced with the difficult decision of marrying her in an effort to protect his people. Queen Levana is shockingly beautiful due to a false facade that she is able to project to the people on Earth. One line that I particularly loved in the novel conveyed the notion that truth cannot be hidden from mirrors. Which is why The Lunars demanded that all mirrors be removed from the premises before they arrived on Earth. In addition, any prior communication with Earth had always been done with a shield so they’re able to avoid revealing their true forms.
I really enjoyed this fractured fairytale. Cinderella has never been one of my favorite fairytale princesses because she has always seemed slightly useless, but Meyer turns cyborg Cinder into a memorable heroine. The book was full of foreshadowing which enabled me to figure out the plot twists early on, but despite being able to tell what was coming, I was still excited for all of the big reveals. As I mentioned before, I ended up reading the entire book in one day because I had to watch the next series of events unfold. I also liked how the beginnings of each section were prefaced with a quote from Cinderella which previewed the upcoming portion of the story which was about to be retold. I’m very fond of the books cover art as well. The artist made Cinder’s skin translucent so that you can see her mechanical leg which translates the fragility of the glass slipper into the fragility of her artificial limb. She’s depicted wearing a striking red pump which pops against the shadowy background, and the title font is the perfect choice.
Cinder ends with a major cliffhanger, but luckily, the new paperback version of the book includes a bunch of extras that any book lover would appreciate. There was an added short story called Glitches which brings us back into Cinder’s past before the events in the book occurred, an in depth interview with Marissa Meyer, twelve discussion questions which would be very interesting to discuss whether you are hosting a Cinder book club or simply pondering them on your own, and a seven page preview of Meyer’s next book. Cinder is the first book in a four book series called “The Lunar Chronicles,” that Meyer will be releasing between 2012-2015. Her second book, Scarlet, which twists and retells Little Red Riding Hood, will be available in bookstores nationwide this Tuesday February 5th. Following that, Rapunzel’s story will be reimagined in Cress, and Snow White’s in Winter. I am very much looking forward to continuing on with the series and discovering how each of the fairytales retellings will intertwine and relate to The Lunars.