Cinder by Marissa Meyer
* I read an ARC provided to me by the publisher.
I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. Retold fairytales are becoming a very popular subgenre, but this popularity doesn’t necessarily reflect a great deal of quality writing or storytelling. Cinder, the first volume of the expected four volume series, The Lunar Chronicles, is the exception to this general mediocrity. Meyer’s characters are fresh and her storytelling keeps the reader intrigued. I almost wonder why this needed to refer to the original Cinderella at all.
Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella, but there’s no Disney here. The eponymous heroine is a cyborg living in virtual slavery in New Beijing with only her own robot sidekick for company or affection. She works as a mechanic to pay the bills for her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Interplanetary subterfuge brings her into contact with Prince Charming (named Kai) initially. They hit it off (natch), but Cinder has bigger problems to worry about. A plague ravages the country, and Cinder’s sweet stepsister (one of them is good in this retelling) contracts the terminal illness. As luck would have it, Cinder herself holds the cure to this disease, but doesn’t find this out until her stepmother donates Cinder to scientists researching possible cures. For every other cyborg, this has meant a death sentence. For Cinder, it means saving her sister’s life. Why is Cinder so different?
This novel is like purely textual manga. Meyer’s writing is so vivid that it’s easy to visualize the events unfolding. While the beginning is a leeeetle (very little) bumpy, as the novel progressed, I found myself becoming more and more engrossed. I cared very much about this cyborg, and was frustrated when the novel ended. It felt like the good stuff was just getting started. That said, the novel is enjoyable to read throughout. Is it Literature? No. (At any rate, not yet. We’ll see how I feel by vol. 4). But it’s still good storytelling. And I appreciated that Cinderella has more to do with her life than worry about chasing after some prince. Cinder’s relationship with Kai is much more complicated than a meet-cute followed by happily ever after. There’s also more at stake than a mere payday.
If you liked Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl series, you will probably like this as well. (And if you haven’t read Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl series, and you like YA fairytale-ish stuff that’s good, go read those books!) Cinder is a quick read and plenty of fun. I am charmed by Meyer’s originality; it’s so unexpected in any retelling of a familiar story. Check this out and let me know what you think.