PUBLICATION DATE: JANUARY 3, 2012
.K. Chesterton said this of fairytales: “Fairytales are more than true; not because they tell us that the dragon exists, but that they tell us the dragon can be beaten.”
In Cinder the strength of a fairytale undergirds the story that Meyer sets down, but she has made this tale all her own. If you’re looking for a faithful word-for-word retelling of Cinderella in this book, you will be disappointed. However, if you are looking for a tantalizing story complete with cyborgs, a plague, not-quite-human residents of the moon, and heroes that come in the most unusual shapes, Cinder should be at the top of your ‘to read’ pile.
Meyer’s tale is set in the distant future of Earth, which I really liked as it set it apart from the way fairytales start with ‘once upon a time’. It’s a future where those that have colonized Earth’s moon are a distinct nation of people called Lunars, and Earth is fragmented into kingdoms rather than countries. It’s a world where the markets of New Beijing have bakers selling the most delicious confections in booths beside cyborg Mechanics there to repair your androids and comboards.
It’s also a hurting world, where a plague disease called Letumosis, is tearing families apart. It strikes with without warning, and no one is immune. Sixteen year old Cinder, Meyer’s cyborg mechanic main character, knows first-hand what this plague is capable of doing to families. With the death of her adoptive father, she falls from the status of daughter, to possession. Her stepmother, Adri, works her all day long doing odd jobs around the house and sends her to the market to work in a family owned booth.
Meyer adroitly weaves echoes of the original Cinderella like this all through the tale, and adds some delightful twists, like making Cinder’s younger stepsister Peony, one of Cinder’s only friends.
Prince Kai, in disguise, brings his android to Cinder at the market place because of her reputation for being able to fix impossibly broken things. Cinder’s cybernetics punch through the Prince’s disguise, but he can’t tell that she is a cyborg. Cinder doesn’t want him to know she is less-than-human. After all, what is the harm in keeping one secret from a Prince she is not going to see again? All through the scene their banter is bright and Cinder’s compassion shines, as she learns that Prince Kai’s mother and father have both been struck with the plague.
Several chapters later, Prince Kai becomes Emperor Kai, his father succumbing to the dreaded plague. Then, Peony catches the disease and is whisked away, making Cinder’s life unbearable. Her stepmother, full of grief and anger, “volunteers” Cinder for plague cure testing as she is “only a cyborg” and not a real person.
This wonderful warp between bright fairytale and the darker Grimm style tale makes Cinder such a rich read. Meyer has a fantastic cast of characters in her story, too. These are not typical fairytale players.
The Lunar Queen, Levana, is a superb dragon of a villain. She is beautiful, clever, ruthless, and holds immense power to sway people to her point of view. Emperor Kai and New Beijing are in her crosshairs as her next conquest. And she holds a terrible weapon to batter at his resolve; Queen Levana has a cure for Letumosis.
Cinder, having been found to possess an immunity to plague, works with the enigmatic Dr. Erland to find a cure. She endures all the needles and the testing, desperate to save Peony.
While talking with Erland, Cinder begins to discover that she is not who she thought she was. Emperor Kai, notified of her immunity, and still wanting his android to be repaired, continues to pop up in Cinder’s life. He is unaware of what she really is, and Cinder, is unable to reveal her mechanical nature to her second friend.
As time begins running out for her sister, Cinder is pulled and pushed between a young Emperor who values her friendship, a world that has no great love for “her kind”, and a Lunar Queen understands how terrible a threat Cinder could be to her plans.
The only part of Cinder that was a disappointment was the ending.
While the book is set up as the first in a series, the ballroom sequence, the reveals, and the end of Cinder are rushed. Everything spills and tumbles over itself for the last seven chapters of the book.
However, I am now part of the happy throng of readers, waiting for Scarlet which releases in 2013.