Okay, I'm going to level with you. This is a cyborg Cinderella story. There's just no mincing around the simple fact that the most economical way to describe Marissa Meyer's YA novel Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) is to admit that it's "a cyborg Cinderella story." When a friend handed me this galley and described it as such, I winced. I say it even now and I wince. (The cover sure doesn't help here, either. It's dreadful.) But wince away, because Cinder is much better than such a simplistic summary would suggest, delivering a strong heroine, an interesting futuristic world, and a plot that weaves in subtle-but-not-too-contrived nods to the original Cinderella story.

Linh Cinder is a gifted mechanic working a stall at the market in New Beijing, the capitol city of the Commonwealth. She also happens to be a teenage orphan and a cyborg. An accident at the age of eleven killed her parents, wiped out Cinder's memory, and left her as a part human, part robot creation, with both flowing blood and electronic wiring. Following that accident, Cinder was taken on as a ward to the Linh family by Linh Garan, but unfortunately Lihn Garan died right after this act of kindness and as a result, Cinder's been treated like a servant by Garan's wife Linh Adri and her two daughters, Pearl and Peony (well, by Adri and Pearl -- Peony is Cinder's only human friend and actually seems like a decent sort, if a bit silly). Since Cinder is a cyborg, she is a second-class citizen in everyone's eyes and she's actually considered the property of Linh Adri, so all income earned by Cinder in her market stall goes straight in to her wicked stepmother's pockets. Additionally, as a cyborg, Cinder could be drafted in to become a test subject for the government's research to find a cure to Leutmosis, a disease that has been ravaging the country for over a decade. It's luck alone that has kept her name from being called up, though Cinder is aware that the only reason Linh Adri hasn't "volunteered" Cinder for the draft testing is because they need her income from the market stall.

The novel opens with Cinder working in the market (well, sitting in her stall while dealing with her own too-small robotic foot that hasn't been upgraded since she was eleven) when an unlikely client shows up -- Prince Kai, the eighteen-year-old prince that will very soon become Emperor. Cinder recognizes him immediately (beyond her computer identification, her stepsisters are obsessed with the prince, along with practically every other single female in the Commonwealth), but he's dressed to blend in and is seeking the services of the mechanic Linh Cinder, of whom he's heard excellent things. Surprised to find that the teenage girl before him is the famed mechanic, the prince shifts in to pleasant bantering with Cinder as he requests that she fix his tutor android without wiping its memory. Cinder can tell that this isn't simply a sentimental request to restore the tutor droid, but takes on the job and says she will try to have it completed before the upcoming festival in two weeks. Naturally, things happen that delay this critical fix, though this doesn't stop Cinder and the Prince from running in to each other repeatedly. Prince Kai's father dies and he must prepare himself to become Emperor... which primarily means preparing himself to face down with the Lunar Queen, the power-hungry ruler of the strangely evolved race that lives on the moon. Cinder's beloved stepsister Peony contracts leutmosis after going out on an errand with Cinder and, blaming this tragedy on Cinder, Lihn Adri volunteers Cinder for the cyborg draft. Cinder does not die, but instead becomes a very interesting test subject to a rather interesting research doctor at the palace and I'll stop there before I summarize too much, but just accept that (in Cinderella style), there's a coach and a dress and a ball. Of course, this book is only the beginning of Cinder's story. Indeed, this series is slated to feature four books and while I can't quite conceive of what, exactly, will possibly occupy our time for long enough to take four books, I'm very interested to see what the next book has in store.

By far, the best thing to recommend this story is Cinder herself, a resourceful heroine who's been trampled upon for most of her life and will find herself in somewhat impossible situations... yet rises to great challenges to do what she can for those who care. She doesn't have much self-confidence, but is convinced that if she (with Iko in tow) can just get out of the Commonwealth and start somewhere new, like Europe, then she might have a short at a decent life, free from Linh Adri's control. Iko feels a little like an over-the-top Disney sidekick, with her vibrant personality and her own robotic crush on the prince. I wasn't terribly sold on Prince Kai's interest in Cinder, though I appreciate that they have multiple meetings, so it's not just a one-shot deal where he sees this slightly dirty mechanic and becomes smitten just because she's not some palace girl throwing herself in his path. The Lunar Queen is rather evil for evil's sake, so I'm looking forward to future books where we'll inevitably gain more information about the Lunar race. So yes, indeed, it's Cinder carrying the story, and yet I didn't mind that all too much. I'll definitely be reading the next installment to see what happens to Cinder and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for deeper character development for those in the cast beyond Cinder.

Please note: this review is based off an ARC.


Ellen Lynn said...

Great review. I found you through Bookblogs (you don't seem to log in there much). I stopped reading your review at the first paragraph because you had me sold. It's frustrating when a book is undersold by its description, but far better than when it's over sold! Anyway, I like how you cut through the cover and even the potential negativity at the word "cyborg" connected to Cinderella. I'm curious and it's because of you!


Ellen Lynn said...

OMG - just read your header. Barely one line in I knew it was Persuasion! That is without a doubt my favorite JA. Not that I don't love them all. I do! How could I not, but there's something about Anne and Frederick's romance being re-kindled that is so...fresh and new. Few of tread this story line and only someone as amazing as Jane Austen could make romance re-kindle. Your quote is one of the best moments ever!
I'm betting you also own the 1995 movie, yes? That's one of my go to movies when I just need something.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful review.

I just spent hours going through a huge selection of your backlog. Your combination of choosing interesting books to review as well as the quality of the reviews themselves has me bookmarking this blog!

scatteredpaper said...

Ellen Lynn -- Thanks so much for posting! I'm glad that you enjoyed my review of Cinder. I haven't been over to bookblogs in a while, but I should make a point of doing so. And I'm glad that you enjoy that particular Persuasion moment as much as I do. That movie is, indeed, a real favorite. =)

Joonscribble -- Thanks SO much! I'm so flattered! I'm glad you enjoy. I do, indeed, tend to review a real hodgepodge of books, so I'm glad that they appeal to you, too!

Linh Cinder said...

Intresting post . I was wondering , out of curiosity , what your opinion is on the covers of Scarlet and Cress

Linh Cinder said...

im not sure if i sucseaded on posteing this or not but i was wondering , out of curiosity , whats your opinion on the covers of Scarlet and Cress