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Summary: In the distant future, sixteen-year-old Cinder is a mechanic in the city of New Beijing. Like Cinderella of the old tales, she’s got a pretty nasty stepmother, but that’s not the worst of her problems. She’s also a cyborg in a society that deems anyone with robotic parts less than human. With no friends but one of her stepsisters and a sassy android, she’s surprised when No. 1 bachelor Prince Kai takes an interest in her after she agrees to take on a repair job for him. However, Cinder knows that he would hate her if he found out about her artificial limbs, and besides, with a deadly disease ravaging the city and a moon queen threatening war, both prince and cyborg have got bigger things to worry about.
Review: When I read the sample chapter months ago, I was enthralled with the concept of Cinder. I’m a sucker for retellings of Cinderella, and one that took place in futuristic China seemed too good to pass up. I really, really wanted to love this book, but unfortunately, it fell short of my expectations in a number of places that I’ll touch upon.
First of all, I have to say that I really did love the main character. Here we have a snarky, tech-savvy chick who is just as tough as her metal parts. She reminded me of a futuristic Rosie the Riveter, and I loved her for it.
I wish I could have loved her prince just as much. Kai is apparently supposed to have the sort of charm and good looks that turns girls to mush on the spot, but I never felt that his supposed charisma translated to the page. Some guys can be endearingly adorkable, but despite Kai’s well-meaning nature, he just came across as oblivious, awkward, and unrealistically naive.
As for world-building, Meyer creates an interesting “lived-in” technological world complete with rust, wires, and concrete. Cinder’s cyborg implements in particular are fascinating, among them a retina projector that sounded similar to the inside of the Iron Man helmet and a literal “hollow leg” where Cinder stores her tools and other important items. The Chinese setting felt very Western, however – but I suppose centuries in the future, who knows what the cultures of the world will be like. There is also a fascinating race of moon colonists who create some problems for the Earthlings.
The plot definitely had potential, but I often had a nagging feeling that I was “missing something.” Just like Cinder’s own too-small metal foot, some things just didn’t seem to fit as far as the society’s reaction to the plague and the cyborgs went. Furthermore, the way information was continuously hidden from characters was frustrating. The number of times that Kai almost discovers that Cinder is a cyborg is agonizing. In addition, a key character knows much of the “spoilers” for the book, but only seems to impart them to Cinder in a way that keeps pace with the plot. Also irritating is the fact that not much is resolved by the end of the book. Apparently this story will be spread over several sequels.
In short: Cinder is a creative and entertaining read that I finished within a summer day. While the plot, prince, and unresolved ending did frustrate me, I’d still recommend it – but perhaps you should wait until the three planned sequels have also been released.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Something similar: Extras by Scott Westerfeld has a very similar feel. For an evocative fantasy story inspired by Cinderella, try The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry.
Cover & Title: Cinder, of course, is a fitting title. Though the cover is not accurate to the book, the classic high heel plus a mechanical leg does capture the feel of the story. But I would have dearly loved an illustration of a tough-looking Cinder in mechanic’s garb. Calling all fan artists…
Where I got the book: Shelves of the local library.