Review: Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
My rating: {★★★★☆}

Young Adult Fantasy Fairy Tale Retelling
Published January 3rd 2012

Source : Borrowed
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I buddy read Cinder with a close friend and although a little slower than my usual style of reading I did find that it was definitely enjoyable and we were able to analyse and dissect stuff together while we were reading.

Di's rating: {★★★★☆} 3.5 stars rounded up
Alissa's Rating: {★★★☆☆}

This was a book that I/we really wanted to love - there's just so much HYPE surrounding this series and yet it was easy to tell that Cinder was Meyer's debut. That being said there was still a lot to enjoy about this book.

There's something to be said for fairy tale re-tellings. I love them, and there's a reason that these fairy tales have stood the test of time and are being retold and fractured and re-imagined by so many authors - there's just something about them that works. In saying this there's obviously going to be an air of predictability surrounding the story. You have DEFINITELY seen this one before. HOWEVER, Meyer managed to come up with something that not only works - it's also entertaining. It's not mind blowing, but it's entertaining.

Meyer has created a world here that's not only sci-fi but also dystopian and it's set post fourth world war. Unfortunately the world building was seriously lacking here and is the one thing that was really off putting about the whole book.

(note from Di) I didn't even realise that we were in an Asian setting until what, halfway through the book??? Maybe the allusion to Chinese names and you know, New BEIJING should have clued me in, however I'm going to blame the world building!

There's a few serious transgressions when it comes to world building and in our eyes, Meyer committed a lot of them.

1. Not explaining WHY things are happening.
Why are cyborgs considered as less and discriminated against so harshly? Who are these Lunar people? How did they end up on the moon? We don't know!

2. Creating a version of a real life ethnic group that doesn't go beyond one dimension
If you're going to base your story on a culture as rich as China's, I'd expect it to be done sooooo much better. A few mentions of Chinese food and a nod to Asian sounding names does NOT give you a multi faceted culture. What is their history? What is their culture? We don't even know! It is a world entirely unexplored.

3. Not giving a strong sense of place
Not only was the history missing, but the entire book I never once felt like I was 'there'. I don't know what it looked like, felt like, sounded like. You could have at least given me that.

Unfortunately our lead romantic character was also poorly developed and a lot relied heavily upon his being perceived as 'Prince Charming'. His character was flat and fairly unbelievable (he's next in line for Emperor and yet seems to not know how to run his country?). We do however have high hopes for his development in future books!

The problems sound big, but in actual fact they are pretty typical debut author problems and this series holds so much potential. The book is fast paced and engaging with a strong willed and passionate main character and some really great antagonists here (the step-mother Adri was handled really well and the evil Queen Levana is showing fantastic evil promise). It's a fun re-telling and overall we are both looking forward to the second book.


Spoilers Ahead! Proceed at your own Risk!


What parallels did we draw between Cinder and Cinderella?

A: The pumpkin/orange car was a key parallel between the fairy tale and the retelling because it was right at the beginning and set the reader up to expect plenty of throw backs to the story we grew up with. That one mention of the orange car hooked me in to invest myself in the story.

D: The step mother and the step sisters rang true to Cinderella as well.

A: The step mother's obsession with money ( or lack thereof) and blaming it on Cinder was so true to the original and one of the truest parallels between the 2 stories. I can just see Angelica Houston (from Ever After) in a little apartment in New Beijing forcing Cinder to hand over her new foot. Even though she was a pretty minor character in Cinder I thought that Adri was one of the best developed characters.

Every Cinderella story also has one sister more sympathetic to the heroine than the other and Marissa Meyer carried that forward with perfection.

D: That's very true. I really enjoyed how horrible Adri (the step-mother) was and how Meyer built and developed her character. P.S. Ever After is one of my favourite movies of all time!

While the step-sisters were great and really close to the original we did both complain about the lack of development or explanation of the relationship that we saw on page between Peony and Cinder. Peony was more sympathetic and she was the 'nice' sister however I unfortunately wasn't attached to her at all and didn't feel any real emotion when she died.

A: True. The relationship development was nonexistent and Meyer relied on our ability to imagine a history between those two characters but given the book was as short as it I'm willing to overlook that.

D: I'm not so sure that I am... So what did you think of The Queen. Is she a villain worthy of Cinderella? In fact, of the entire series?

A: I want to read more about the Queen before I pass judgement. I feel like up to this point she is too much of a mystery to know what to think but I am getting a vibe of the Queen from Snow White and if Meyer continues down that track I think she will be the perfect villain.

D: I agree. What I do enjoy and what I'm really looking forward to with the rest of the series is that I can see Meyer's foreshadowing - but only because I know about the rest of the series and the fairy tale re-tellings to expect. There's Rapunzel, Snow White and obviously Little Red Riding Hood (coming up next!).

A: Yes! I'm looking forward to seeing how she incorporates all those characters into one story and whether she can do it in a way that makes sense to the story - not just milking the fairy tale premise.

D: Considering what I've heard about the series by all rights it should get better from here on in! Sooooo.... Is there a Scarlet buddy read in our future?

A: I'm ready when you are! I've been saving it for you

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)→

Recent Reads:

The Broken Destiny
Adulthood Is a Myth: A
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
Throne of Jade
Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary
Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child
Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween
Amanzimtoti: The Ridge
The Curse of the Bruel Coven
Buzz Books 2016: Young Adult Fall/Winter
The Crown
A Court of Mist and Fury
Cruel Crown
A Court of Thorns and Roses

Di's favorite books »