Review: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Fiewel & Friends
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 387 (hardcover)
Release Date: January 3 2012
Source: Purchased.
Rating:4 out of 5 stars.

Blurb (from Amazon.co.uk)

A forbidden romance.

A deadly plague.

Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…

CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.

This is not the fairytale you remember. But it’s one you won’t forget.

Review (full review posted on Goodreads.com)

I was looking forward to reading this book, but it’s even better than the blurb makes it sound. It’s better than I expected it to be.

I don’t normally like retellings, because most of them aren’t very original. How can you be original, when you’re basically re-working someone else’s work and passing it off as your own? (*cough*fanfiction*cough*) (I don’t actually have a problem with fanfiction, only fanfiction that then gets published and tries to pass itself off as original fiction.)

But Cinder, to me, is highly original. It’s an interesting book. Half of it is predictable because it’s a re-worked Cinderella myth – so you know there’s going to be a handsome prince, an evil stepmother, and ball and a missing shoe. You know roughly how it’s going to go down. The Cinderella myth is so well recognised that we can put those elements to the back of our minds and start identifying elements that don’t belong. This is where the book becomes predictable: in the foreshadowing.

The original part of the book is in its protagonist, Cinder. She’s a cyborg, in case the cover and blurb didn’t clue you in. I have a not-so-secret confession: I FREAKING LOVE CYBORGS. I love the whole question of whether the transformation is voluntary or not and how one comes to terms with that. Cinder struggles with her identity all throughout the novel. She struggles with a past she doesn’t remember and a future she doesn’t want. I loved reading about her. Normally I don’t like books written in third person POV – I feel more intimate and involved in first person. And I admit, the point of view changes did at first make me suspicious. They are necessary, of course: it’s limited POV from Cinder, and when Cinder’s not there to make an observation we still need to know what’s going on. It’s well handled, and although at first I felt a bit jerked around, I soon adjusted and got on with enjoying the story.

Enjoying the story is really what it’s all about. Forget how predictable it is –it is really only predictable because of foreshadowing – and readers need foreshadowing so authors don’t just suddenly throw the big information out – and you’ll really enjoy how beautiful the prose, the characterisation, the worldbuilding and the originality is. Meyer is a master, and certainly more capable than her more famous name-sharer. She’s taken an age-old fairy story and really made it her own in stunning style.

Prince Kai makes it to my shelf of awesome YA male love interests. He’s so genuine and unassuming. He’s swoon-worthy and, despite being royalty, very realistic. I consider myself a republican, but I’d follow his monarchy any day… That’s not meant to sound as dirty as it does, I mean it quite literally.

The worldbuilding is one of a kind. I even asked a question about something that I should have waited and found out for myself, because it did get addressed. I really enjoyed finding out about this world, and how it came to be, and what the fuck the Lunars were.

My ONE teeny tiny problem with the book is something very small. I like to have emotional reactions to books. When a book makes me cry, you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be a 5 star ratings. I didn’t have the emotional reaction I should have had when something in particular happened to a particular character. I was saddened, yes, even though this was a character I didn’t particularly like. This is because I had grown attached to this character through Cinder. However, in places I laughed out loud, especially when Adri had her stepmother’s comeuppance at the ball.

Did I mention how much I loved Iko? She was surprisingly well-written for an android. I want one!

Back to Cinder! She’s awesome. Did I mention that? I mean… REALLY awesome. She’s totally one of the most capable and independent YA heroines I’ve ever read. She gives as good as she gets, and despite being the Cinderella character, doesn’t weakly let her stepmother walk all over her. Sure, there’s a relationship dynamic that you can’t ignore which often leads to Cinder being less well off, but that’s conflict, right? That’s part of the Cinderella myth. Poor, downtrodden, dressed-in-rags Cinderella goes to the ball and dances with the prince, much to the chagrin of the stepmother.

I am for sure looking forward to the next three books in this series. I want to see how masterfully Meyer handles the other three myths, and how they intertwine with Cinder’s story and the Lunar Chronicles.

Advertisements

Cinderella: Gothic Terror Disguised as Romance

image

I have to say, I enjoyed Cinderella a lot more than I enjoyed Snow White. It’s very similar, in that they both start off as domestic slaves, and both have very sweet tempers and kind natures. Disney sure came a long way in the dozen years between releasing both movies. Which is good, because they released ten films theatrically between the two Princess films (including, but not limited to, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi). Cinders was originally a coppery red-head, but for some reason they changed and made her blonde.

the Gothic King

The first thing that struck me, besides the fact that Cinders could actually talk to her Princess-requisite animal friends, was the portrayal of the King. The King wants his only son the Prince to get married and have babies, god damn it! There is no Queen. We see a collection of pictures of the King and the Prince enjoying their lives as the Prince grows up, and the King sleeps along in his enormous bed (which I know some royal and other VIP couples sleep in separate beds anyway), but the absence of a mother figure for the Prince struck me as rather important.

image

He even dreams of having blonde grandchildren. It's so creepy!

The King has extreme bi-polar in comical measures. He swings between happy to furious to sobbing to furious. He throws things around and destroys his belongings in a child-like tantrum. And his main objective is to get grandchildren. It freaks me out no end. I’ve even convinced myself that Cinderella is a Gothic story masquerading as a romance, because the King is so set on having grandchildren that he would probably sweep aside the Prince and take his place in the matrimony bed to ensure he gets descendants with the pretty, innocent girl! It grossed me out.

Domestic Princess-in-waiting

I like Cinderella a lot. She’s pretty, graceful, kind, and caring – even though her foul-tempered stepsisters declare that “It’s not like YOU care!” when she asks them if they slept well. Cinders doesn’t complain about anything: she just takes it as her lot in life. Much like Snow White. The difference between the two heroines is twofold:

  1. While Snow White was more than happy to pick up a dustpan and broom and clean the dwarves’ house, Cinderella probably would not do the majority of the housework if she wasn’t forced to.
  2. Cinderella comes from a wealthy family and her father marries a high-ranking lady (a Baroness, if I remember other versions correctly), but she herself is not a Princess.

Cinderella is surprisingly strong-willed, and presents a convincing argument as to why she should be allowed to attend the ball. The evil stepmother never intended to allow her to attend though. I can’t exactly figure out why. I think it is a mixture of habit in making Cinders’ life as difficult as possible, not wanting her to enjoy anything, and jealousy out of her beauty and that she might be a rival for her own daughters. I say this because the step-mother tells Cinderella to re-do a chore that she’s already done.

image

This talking animal thing is going too far.

Or, you know, it could be because Cinderella is locked away in a tall tower by a tyrant. Sounds pretty Gothic to me.

Domesticity Prevents Selfishness

Part of me thinks that Cinderella’s lovely personality is partly due to being forced to be a house servant. All that hard work, in comparison to her spoiled step-sisters who fight all the time and incredibly vain and selfish. Cinders is nothing like them, and I can’t help but wonder if it is due to her deplorable upbringing. I also get the feeling that Cinders is less of a passive victim than her previous Princess counterpart, Snow White, because she actively pursues her own destiny. She does, however, need help in doing that, which is surprisingly feminist for a film released in 1950.

image

At this point I realised 'Bippity-Boppity-Boo" was a song from Cinderella. Well played, Disney. Well played.

Also, in the version we watched, my partner (who patiently watches my Disney with me and permits himself to be a sounding-board for my thoughts) and I both didn’t notice if the Fairy Godmother told Cinders the magic wore off at midnight. Plot hole, anyone?

image

I have the best idea! Let's get to know each other before we fall in love!

One of the other things I liked a lot was that even though the Prince was clearly smitten with her from the first moment he saw her, they actually took time out to have a private chat and get to know each other, which gives Cinderella +10 points as a romance in my eyes. Yay for personalities!

PS – did anyone else LOVE Cinderella’s pink dress that her step-sisters ripped apart? I thought it was gorgeous!

image

I just destroyed my only connection to my dead mother!