The screw through cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean.
Tossing the screwdriver onto the table, Cinder gripped her heel and yanked the foot from its socket. A spark singed her fingertips and she jerked away, leaving the foot to dangle from a tangle of red and yellow wires.
She slumped back with a relieved groan. A sense of release hovered at the end of those wires— freedom. Having loathed the too- small foot for four years, she swore to never put the piece of junk back on again. She just hoped Iko would be back soon with its replacement. (Meyer, p. 3)
Cinder isn’t your modern day Cinderella tale—in fact, Cinder has a secret that only a few people in her community of New Beijing know: She’s a cyborg. But being a cyborg has afforded Cinder with a job. She is the best mechanic in all of New Beijing at the age of 17 years old. Adopted by a scientist and inventor from Europe, Cinder is left to fend for herself after her father’s death, stuck with her stepmother, Adri, and two sisters, Peony and Pearl.
If you follow my tweets at all, you would know that I was initially ANNOYED to the max with this book. Like, maxed out in my annoyance. The book starts too quicky into it’s futuristic jargon. Dates are labeled “T.E”, terms like “cyborg”, “netscreen”, “portscreen”, “android”, etc. are used within the first chapter. In my opinon, it was a little stereotypically science fiction. Meyer did little to clarify many things. We don’t even get a description of Cinder’s appearance, which I need when I read a book. The only background we get is that it’s in the future and in China.
Cinder meets the prince, Kaito aka. Kai, when he comes to her booth at the market to get his android fixed. Kai jokes that there is some top secret information on the android, but Cinder, who has a computer interface implanted in her brain, can tell that he is lying and there actually IS top secret information on the android. We are also introduced to the Plague aka. letumosis aka. The Blue Plague in this chapter. Prince Kai is nice and I think it was cool of Meyer to have Cinder meet him early, but througout the whole novel, the dialogue with him is terrible. She gave him a terrible, sarcastic sense of humor that is so far from royal it’s not funny. It read a little bit like, “I want to inject some humor in my novel, but I am not sure how to do it, so I’ll do bad sarcasm.” I guess, for a teen novel, it might be funny because their sense of humor is developing, but as an adult reading it, I wasn’t too keen.
After meeting the prince and seeing a neighboring stall be burned down to avoid the plague, Cinder goes home and we meet her family for the first time. Typical to Cinderella, Adri the stepmother, is awful. Pearl, the eldest step sister is also a piece of work and rather underdeveloped. Peony, the youngest at 14, is actually friends of Cinder. She is prince crazy and follows Cinder to the junk yard the night after the run in with the prince to talk about the experience. It is here Peony contracts the blue plague. In an act of malice, Adri banishes Cinder to the palace’s research facility to look for a cure for the plague where Cinder is sure to die. She blames Cinder for infecting Peony, even though we learn Cinder has never been or will never be infected due to either her cyborness or something else—her mysterious past.
But she doesn’t die. At this point in the book, perspectives shift. We get Dr. Erland’s perspective. Apparently, he’s been accused of only wanting young women as his research subjects. I thought he was a creep, but it actually makes a lot of sense when the book ends. We also get Kai’s perspective as he deals with the death of his father and become emperor. I am not crazy about the name Kai…..it reminded me of Matched, I guess? I just feel that Ky/Kai/Ki is an easy fall back for a futuristic name. Oh well. Kai is also dealing with a peace agreement with the Lunar colony on the Moon. They are made out to have some biological magic control something and are really cruel and trick you into thinking they are prettier than they are.
The story then starts to develop a little more. Queen Levana comes to earth to propose a peace treaty to Kai in exchange for him marrying her. Cinder learns of her heritage and is warned NOT to be around the castle. Kai and Cinder develop a weird little thing. Cinder figures out what the android is hiding…..and it is information that made me go, “Holy crap! I think she might be a princess!” That’s when I wanted to keep reading. I cannot confirm or deny the accuracy of my assumption, but the rest of the book was a really easy point once I was hooked in on that story element. I would say if you are selling this to someone or a student, capitalize on the fact that there is a big mystery that needs to be solved. It’s also interesting to see the Cyborgness of Cinder and how she hides that from Kai and deals with being an outcast.
Overall, the ending was really disappointing. It was a total cliff hanger. I’m also almost positive that there isn’t a second book. I think the second book, Scarlet, is a companion novel, but it does not feature Cinder as the main character. Scarlet has to do with little red riding hood and the newest book, Cress, deals with Rapunzel. I am actually sure you meet Cress in Cinder because they discuss a girl with impossibly long hair and she is trapped in a satellite. I will finish reading this series simply to see what becomes of Levana and Cinder and Kai, but it wasn’t my best read of the year. Actually, I guess it was the best and worst because it’s the only book I have read. This probably isn’t a book I’d readily volunteer to people to read, but if a kid needs a book suggestion, I would suggest it to them.
Why I liked it:
Once I got to the “Is Cinder the hidden Princess?” revelation, I had to keep reading!
Why my kids like it:
The updated Cinderella tale in conjunction with the trendy science fiction/dystopian feel make it a hot hit.
Quick and Dirty, 160 Character Review:
Retell of Cinderella in the future. Little exposition and a lot of sci-fi jargon. Once is I had my “OMG” moment, I had to finish reading.
Happy Reading in the New Year!