Oh. Just another Cinderella retelling.
“Just another Cinderella retelling.”
“JUST another Cinderella retelling.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I thought when I first came across this book. Slipper on the cover? The word “cinder” in the title? No thanks. I’m good. I know what that’s going to be about. Right?
This is not “just another Cinderella retelling.” It’s so much more. Don’t be fooled by the name, or the cover. While yes, it still is as much a retelling as it’s advertised to be, it doesn’t deserve the criticism that automatically comes with it.
Allow me to show you why you should give Cinder a chance.
★ ★ ★ ★
Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother.
Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it “a matter of national security,” but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on.
Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived.
But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.
Cinder was an impressive debut. Marissa Meyer sparks an old story to life in a new and thrilling way. I can’t say it was breathtaking; I wish I could have said it was twisting and turning and unpredictable. It wasn’t. And that’s the only reason why I’m not giving it five stars. The writing was impeccable, the characters were fantastic, the dialogue was smooth. But the plot failed. Just a bit.
As a retelling of Cinderella, the story seems simple and straightforward enough. A common girl with two not-so-commonly cruel stepsisters and an awful stepmother, a ball, a bit of “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”-ing (whatever that means), a ball, a glass slipper, and of course, Prince Charming—we all know the story. So how different could Cinder be? It turns out things get a lot more interesting when you throw in a cyborg mechanic, a Lunar race, and a “Big Picture” that’s way bigger than it looks at first glance. I was impressed with Meyer’s creativity in her additions to the fairy tale, and in what she chose to disregard. It was unexpected. Somehow, through that, she created a story that stood on its own and even left me with a little bit of delightful confusion at how things would play out—which, considering the fact that as a retelling, there isn’t much newness or special surprises to add, was no small accomplishment.
That doesn’t mean, though, that it wasn’t predictable. It was. Removing the retelling aspect of the story, yes, the plot was original and unpredictable. Like it or not, though, Cinder is a retelling, and there’s a large portion, then, of the story that simply isn’t going to be new. It isn’t going to leave you guessing, and it isn’t going to leave you reeling. And in a way, that’s part of Cinder’s charm. When it was predictable, it gave you the pleasure of predicting and being right; when it didn’t leave you guessing, it still left you curious and invested and delighted. The plot may have felt a bit slow, but it wasn’t supposed to be fast. It wasn’t written to be a plot-centered book. It was written with a emphasis on characterization, not pace, and to be honest, that didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of the work at all. In fact, my favorite part about Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles in general was that focus that it had on its characters and their development (which was written so, so well).
As a side note, if you’re worried about the plot, the next three books in the series expand it to a much more palpable level of complexity, so have no doubt Cinder was just setting the stage for a fantastic climax!
The writing, though, was phenomenal, and a breath of fresh air after the short sentences and choppiness of The Selection. I was very, very impressed. Meyer wove a beautiful tale with her words alone, and I literally basked in the glow of it. It’s certainly not anything of the caliber of Jane Austen or even McKinley, but it’s not supposed to be. I’m just so grateful it wasn’t traditional, mind-numbing YA. Meyer’s skills in writing extend to world-building, as well, the job of which is only second (in the realm of YA) to the legendary Leigh Bardugo’s Ketterdam from Six of Crows and Victoria Aveyard’s Norta from her fabulous Red Queen. I found New Beijing a world easy to learn and easy to transition into. I felt comfortable envisioning it, like I’d been there before. And I’ve never read a science-fiction book before. Ever. Meyer throws quite a heavy amount of new information at the reader from just the first few chapters, but it never gets confusing or overwhelming. She simply immerses you into her world as if it’s the most natural thing in the world; and, shockingly, that’s exactly what it feels like.
As if that wasn’t enough, Meyer’s dialogue was flawless and her characters breathed life. Nothing seemed out of place in their conversations or personalities. It all seemed impossibly real. I could understand the “why’s” of the characters and their motives—their angles—where they were coming from and what made them that way. And it felt effortless. It was the writing itself that made it that way. Meyer gave the right amount of information at the right time, and it all blended together beautifully. It just made sense.
The romance was light and believable. I didn’t feel cheated out of high expectations with it, and I didn’t feel like it was the driving force of the book. Because it wasn’t. And I so appreciated that. Instead, it was appropriately light with just a touch of swoon. I wholeheartedly love those special two characters together, and Meyer did a splendid job blooming their relationship slowly, realistically, and sweetly.
To say I enjoyed Cinder would be an understatement. I ate it up. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t intensely brilliant, but it was good. So good. And I’m very, very happy to continue this series into whatever depths it will take me.
Is it okay for me to read?
Language • • • • •
Some mild profanity: a few uses of d**n and h**l. Characters use “Stars” as a curse word.
Violence • • • • •
A plague is central to the plot, and some scenes of the dying are described, though not graphically. A war is threatened by the queen of the moon. Some action.
Sensuality • • • • •
Light romance. Characters kiss on one occasion. Some mild innuendo.
Substances • • • • •
For more about my content ratings and what they mean, click here.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s review!