Marissa Meyer‘s Cinder is one of those books that I probably wouldn’t have picked up without my friends pushing it on me. I was on a long fantasy streak populated by books like The Name of the Wind, Dragonflight, Down the Mysterly River, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I hadn’t planned on going back to YA fiction for a little while. Sometimes, though, books have a way of imposing themselves on me and latching on, changing the course of my reading for the better.
Cinder lives in New Beijing, which is in the Eastern Commonwealth, one of the few remaining nations on Earth, consolidated after the fourth world war. She’s one of the best mechanics around, due largely to being a cyborg. However, she’s a cyborg with no memory of her past, and who exists under the iron thumb of her stepmother, Adri; she also must endure the taunts and condescension of her stepsister, Pearl, though she has a wonderful relationship with her only friend: Peony, her younger stepsister. A terrible plague is sweeping over the globe; it is a disease which works quickly and without discrimination. Millions have died, and the king now has it. Despite the desperate circumstances under which everyone lives, the annual ball is coming up, and society is all aflutter with preparations. At the same time, an exterior threat is looming: the sinister Lunar queen—who is rumored to be able to control people with just a thought—wants an alliance with Earth, but her aims at peace may only be a front for something more dangerous. All of a sudden, seemingly by chance, Kai brings an android to Cinder’s shop for her to repair, and her life begins to change. Kai is no normal customer—he’s the crown prince of the Eastern Commonwealth. From this point, Cinder enters a new world, learns some terrible secrets, and endures bitter tragedy.
This is a highly imaginative, immensely enjoyable retelling of the traditional tale of Cinderella. One of the best parts of this was trying to predict what was going to happen. We all know the story, so how is it going to play out in this richly imagined and attentively detailed world? I loved it completely. The characters were well-drawn and filled with interesting quirks, and the conflict felt real. Cinder is a strong character who—as we all do—must find her place in a world that is not always hospitable to us. There is a deeper plot at work beyond Cinder’s own story, which I look forward to seeing fleshed out during the forthcoming quartet.
For a taste of the story, read “Glitches” the prequel story which lays the groundwork for Cinder.