(Because I abhor spoilers myself, I will try to keep the details and bulk of the story a secret!)
Cinder is a sci-fi retelling of the fairy-tale Cinderella. The story is set in futuristic Beijing where Cinder works at a booth in the square fixing mechanics at her Stepmother's command. Her skills in this area bring her to the attention of Prince Kai, the Emperor's son, who needs her to repair his old android. As Cinder unexpectedly runs into him more she begins to discover more about the kingdom and an impending danger from the evil Lunar's. At the same time a lethal disease is picking off random people on the planet, leaving the Emperor's research team racing to find a cure. As Cinder becomes involved in these situations she soon discovers there is more to her than meets the eye. Having resigned herself long ago to her insignificant status, what she learns will change everything about her.
I received this book for Christmas from a friend who had read it and knew how much I adored the original Cinderella story. In fact, I am the ultimate Cinderella expert. Okay, self-made expert anyway. I had seen this series here and there for a little while but hadn't had a chance to read what they were about. You see, I don't visit libraries or book stores anymore. Sad, I know. What is sadder is how I rarely read anymore.
The fact of the matter is, I probably never would have picked it for myself to read anyway. Although the story may sound intriguing, I normally do not go for the modern sci-fi/fantasy fad fiction. I usually find them lacking some really important depth and ultimately leaving me feeling less entertained and more embarrassed for the person who thought they could write.
I actually started reading the first chapter right after my cousin gave it to me. I was immediately intrigued by the cyborg Cinderella twist and as always, eager to see how it measured up to what I love most about the classic tale.
Tell-tale Signs of the Classic
The author, Marissa Meyer, included a few key elements of the Cinderella story that we all know and respect, such as the main characters: the lowly servant girl status, her stepmother and stepsisters, the Prince, and then of course: the ball, the glass slipper, and her ending desperation. While reading there were times when the realization of how these elements fit in was like a puzzle piece sliding into place. It made me smile when Cinderella losing her glass slipper became Cinder losing her cyborg foot. But as unique as it was, I don't think an old, musty automobile was the replacement I would have chosen for the magical pumpkin carriage.
My Favorite Points
What I like most about this adaptation was the Oriental overtones. I suppose like Meyer, I have always been a fan of Asian cultures. Although I never watched anime cartoons or read the comics, I love the differences of the food, the traditions, and the exotic landscapes. Frankly, I love learning about different cultures in general.
One thing that drew me into this story was how relatable the character of Cinder was to myself. No, I am not a tortured servant girl, or a cyborg, or even small and flat-chested. I spent my younger years playing in, and later working some, in a mechanic shop, and even if I am not mechanically inclined, nuts and bolts, grease and grime, are as familiar to me as home. The fact that Cinder wasn't afraid to get dirty made her real, although what she did to her dress was verging on sacrilege.
As for depth, I kind of regard the easy style of the book as popcorn. Fun and enjoyable, but not enough for a steady diet. Which is a shame, because a story like this could really pull people in but give them a lot to chew on or think about. People these days need all the stretching of the mind they can get.
Morality and Worldview
What I didn't like about this book was the use of profanity, however light. I understand that in this era the bounds of what you should say and do have been stripped down and their basis taken away, and that your average teen will say more than this in an average given day. But this doesn't make it right. Foul language doesn't make a story more intense or engaging. The intensity of a moment is neither heightened nor lessened by such and to include it is bad taste. Only after reading it did I discover that it is labeled Young Adult Fiction which makes my opinion even more resolute. Teens get enough trash from our culture, they don't need any more.
There were a few humanistic points to the story, such as how cyborgs are treated, as well as Lunar shells (readers will understand), but this was not how our heroine felt, neither was it portrayed as right, therefore it was not glamorized or promoted. However it did bring up some interesting questions I would like to ask its readers, such as what makes a human worthy of respect? Or what makes a being truly human? Could an android, if it had a unique enough personality, be regarded as human? Addressing these may become a post of their own. What do you think?
There are one or two slightly off-color remarks I personally wouldn't have added but all in all, the book was cleaner than I expected from a modern day read.
In this day and age I am hardly ever worried that the heroine will be too weak. On the contrary, my worry is that she will be too independent so that she will not need anyone. A character in a story that is so self-confident that she doesn't need anyone is hard to feel for because what can anyone do for her? I felt Cinder's self-sufficiency was well-balanced. She was not weak, neither was she too strong.
I am hoping to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series soon. I must say I am hooked. I've always been a fairy-tale fan, and I don't know how many times I have tried my own adaptations of them as well. It is fun seeing how others recreate the stories we love. Granted, sometimes I am not so pleased. Cinder's story was fun and enjoyable, and I can't wait to see how it turns out. Having read an excerpt in the back of the book about Scarlet, I am wondering if book two will be darker or contain a more liberal worldview than the first. Meyer has hinted at a lot of mystery in this first book and we'll see just what comes to play in the next one's and whether my review of them will be as positive. I hope so!
Before I can say whether or not I recommend this series, I will have to read the rest.
Come back soon! And let me know what you think!