Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, Marissa Meyer’s debut, is a science fiction romance that is both clearly inspired by the tale of Cinderella and clearly for teenage readers. In this future world, androids are as common as pets, while cyborgs are ostracized and loathed. The descendants of the humans who colonized the Moon have evolved into Lunars with their own culture, their own leadership, and their own magic powers. While a plague ravages Earth and tensions mount between the Eastern Commonwealth and the Lunars, Crown Prince Kaito urgently seeks out a mechanic to repair his broken android. The best mechanic in New Beijing is the sixteen-year-old Lihn Cinder, a cyborg.

Predictably clichéd
Any book that uses one of the most well-known fairy tales of all time as inspiration does risk being predictable. The reader expects that Cinder will be forced to live a life of drudgery by her despicable stepmother yet somehow fall in love with the prince and escape to his ball in the end. I didn’t read it to find out if she’d make it to the ball; that was pretty much given. It’s the unique spin this type of book gives to the familiar tale that keeps me reading. Unfortunately, even in its unique spin, I found Cinder to be pretty predictable. The big reveal at the very end of the book was so heavily foreshadowed that I predicted it after reading about a quarter of the book.

Many of the problems Cinder faces feel very common to teenage romance, to the point of being cliché. (I hesitate to call it young adult romance, because that suggests a level of maturity. Cinder does not act like an adult, even a young one.) She has predictably low self-esteem—moping to herself about her “metal monstrosities” and “mousy hair”—and a skewed sense of interpersonal ethics. He won’t like me if he knows the truth, so I’ll just lie to him. Yeah, that always turns out great.

Unexciting characters
Prince Kai is the cookie cutter Prince Charming. He’s nice, likable, and, of course, rich and powerful. Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to him. He’s a flat character, there to fill the role of Cinder’s love interest. As for Cinder… well, she’s more pitiable than likable, and it’s difficult even to have much sympathy for a protagonist who behaves as stupidly as she does. Many of the challenges Cinder has to face as the plot thickens are problems she herself causes with her foolish behavior or, even more frustratingly, nonexistent problems that she only imagines.

Beyond these two, there aren’t any characters of significance. Cinder has her horrid stepmother and two stepsisters, one horrid and one nice. She also has a cute, occasionally clever android. Prince Kai has an adviser. There’s a doctor around who’s trying to research a cure for the plague, and the Lunar Queen shows up to force the Emperor into a marriage treaty. None of these characters, however, receive more than minimal development or characterization; they’re simply props to fill the background.

A fun read
Despite my complaints, I really did enjoy reading Cinder. I breezed through it quickly; it’s neither a long nor deep book by any means. I’ve read a number of Cinderella-based stories over the years—it’s always been my favorite fairy tale—and this one was certainly unique. I don’t think I’ve ever read another science fiction Cinderella, and I’ve definitely never read one where the oppressed heroine is a cyborg. The novelty of that alone was enough to carry me through the book, and I had a lot of fun reading it. I might not read the rest of the series, though. It was the lure of my favorite fairy tale, retold, that pulled me in, but while the series continues to follow Cinder, each book is based on a different tale. Scarlet is based on Red Riding Hood. Cress, expected in 2014, is inspired by the tale of Rapunzel, and Winter (2015) will feature Snow White.

Why should you read this book?
If the familiar tropes commonly found in young adult books don’t bother you or you have a particular taste for science fiction flavored teenage romance, you’d likely enjoy Cinder—especially if fairy tale inspired books are your thing. Otherwise, only pick up this book if you’re looking for a cotton candy read. It’s not very intelligent, but it is quick and fun.

About Rebecca van Velzen

Rebecca van Velzen
Rebecca, a 25-year-old from Arizona, is a born bibliophile and wordsmith. She began “reading” books out loud at 1 ½ years old, and was really reading and writing by the age of 3. By age 12, she knew she wanted to be an author. Since high school, she has been the go-to girl for all her friends’ essay editing needs. When Rebecca isn’t busy at work or editing articles for RD, she enjoys Skyping with Stephan, planning for their wedding, and reading fantasy and occasionally science fiction. She also sometimes plays video games. She currently works providing relay calls for deaf and hard of hearing people.

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  1. For all the positive reviews of this book that I’ve seen, I haven’t had much more than a passing interest at best. I think that most of the tropes WOULD bother me, because as much as familiar comfort reading is great, flat characters and shallow plots tend to be met with boredom and a bit of scorn, when I encounter them. Unless there’s something else in it that really blows me away, anyway.

  2. Rebecca Politzer

    I’m glad someone else doesn’t love Lhin Cinder. everyone goes on about how smart and kind she is but her world-view is far to black and white(Lunars are all evil, no acceptations,, the people who made her a cyborg were deranged monsters, not doctor’s desperate to save an 11 year old girl, Dr. Erland is a evil mad scientist not someone trying to cure a horrible always fatal disease) and makes stupid decisions in the book. Her skills as a mechanic are more an informed trait that an actual one as we only really see her fix two things in the entire book and iko figures out whats wrong in one.
    I also hate when science(and scientists) are portrayed as evil, especially in a technologically advanced world and this book borders on that trope. Peony’s death didn’t effect me even though i liked her because the whole thing felt like a soap opera and rather forced and unnecessary and the big twist was so predicable. I still like the book despite it’s flaws but only gave it three stars

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