In the course of my pleasure reading recently, besides finishing Inheritance (which I liked and disliked at the same time) and re-reading Pride and Prejudice, I blasted through Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.
It was a very enjoyable read–maybe partly because my brain was fried, but also because it was a good book. Nothing at the tip-top of literature or anything, but for literature of its time it is quite good. The story is also compelling. A basic summary is as follows: Cinder is a cyborg (human with some metal limbs, wiring, and other mechanical/electrical parts) who lives with her stepmother Adri and two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony. She works as a mechanic and is the only source of income for the family. Although she was adopted by Adri’s husband Garan, not long after he died of letumosis (the deadly, incurable plague going around) Adri began to treat Cinder as a servant. Everything begins to change when Prince Kai comes to get his android fixed…..
Well-written, unique plot. Good for when you feel brain-dead or just want to sit down and read something fun. 4 out of 5 stars.
Read further for a more detailed review, but beware of spoilers
Everything starts when Crown Prince Kaito comes to her mechanic booth in the market to get his android fixed. Despite her protestations of immunity, Cinder, like every other girl in New Beijing, is swayed by his charms. Soon after, her stepsister Peony contracts letumosis and is carted away to a hospital. Adri blames Cinder for Peony’s illness and signs her up for the Cyborg Draft–a lottery wherein cyborgs are selected to be used as test subjects in the search for a letumosis antidote. Cinder resists, of course, but to no avail. When the palace doctor determines that she is a perfect candidate for the testing, he wastes no time in getting started. However, it turns out that Cinder is special. She is injected with the disease, but in a matter of minutes it disappears from her body. The doctor pays her to keep testing her.
Coming to the palace so often brings Cinder into contact with Prince Kai–not to mention the fact that she still has to fix his android–and with a great political flurry. Queen Levana, notorious ruler of the Lunars (evolved humans that live on the moon who can manipulate the electricity in one’s body to various effects–including suppressing the protests of her own oppressed people), seeks to take over the world in the guise of making peace with its rulers. Her only offer of peace is to marry Prince Kai–but both Kai and his father resist. Resistance gets harder after the king dies from letumosis. Levana comes to visit the day after he dies, to be present for Kai’s coronation and continue to pressure him into marriage.
Kai, however, stands firm, especially as he has a hope. A slim one, to be sure, but a hope nonetheless: Levana, cruel as she was, burned down a building in order to kill her niece Princess Selene, the only person standing in her path to the throne. There are rumors that the princess survived, and Kai’s android (the one Cinder needs to fix) had gathered information for him. Unfortunately, it broke down before it could tell him, and so he brought it to Cinder to fix. Cinder eventually fixes it, and finds that it has been sabotaged so that someone else could access the information that the android has.
Things become progressively worse when Cinder finds out that she is a Lunar–and Queen Levana recognizes her as one. After Peony dies, Cinder decides to run away using an old antique car that she’s been refurbishing for that very purpose. However, just as she is getting ready to leave, when everyone is distracted at the annual Peace Festival ball, someone accesses the direct-access card that she kept from Kai’s android. The person on the other end of the connection reveals that she works for Queen Levana, and that the Lunar ruler knows what the android knows, and is searching for Princess Selene, and plans to kill Kai once she has no more use for him.
Thus, instead of escaping, Cinder heads for the ball, to tell Kai everything. But, nothing goes quite as planned. Including that Kai finds out what Cinder has been trying to hide the whole time: that she is a cyborg, and a Lunar.
Levana uses these things to her advantage and, failing to kill Cinder, uses her as leverage. Kai must either marry her to save Cinder, or hand over Cinder to save his people. Being an emperor, he does the latter, and imprisons Cinder. While she is in prison, the palace doctor (Dr. Erland) comes to visit her, with new cyborg prosthetics and an explanation. Cinder is not only a Lunar, but Princess Selene. Only she can stop Levana–and to do that she must escape. And as she prepares to do so, the book ends.
Although I liked the book, there were a few things that I thought fell a bit flat. One was the fact that as soon as there was mention of rumors about Princess Selene, I knew that she was Cinder–maybe I’ve just read too many books so I’m good at predicting things. The other thing I thought was Cinder’s character didn’t seem all that deep. I think she could have developed more. We understand that she feels out of place because she’s an orphan and a cyborg, but we don’t know much about her besides the fact that she’s headstrong, resourceful, caring, and likes Prince Kai. Maybe that’s all we need to know, and maybe we don’t know her because she doesn’t really know herself. And maybe, if she’s featured in other books, she’ll develop more.
For a little more background on Cinder, check out the short story Glitches.
Overall, the book was very well written, and story itself is very exciting: I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.