Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Cinder: Marissa Meyer, December 14—22, 2015
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Cinder is a refreshing twist on the classic Cinderella fairytale. The first in the Lunar Chronicles sequence, it blends fantasy with science fiction and presents us with a futuristic cyborg mechanic living in New Beijing.
All of the hallmarks are there: she is downtrodden, despised by her stepmother and stepsister and denied permission to attend the prince’s ball. And she has a detachable foot.
Meyer’s huge challenge is to carry an extremely well-known story for an entire novel in way that sustains interest and tension, and she does. The ‘Cinderella‘ element is just one storyline, blended with new ones that are much more urgent.
First, an highly contagious plague is spreading through the Commonwealth, and the race for its cure is a huge concern. A running theme in many of the storylines, but none so much as this, is the definition of humanity. Should cyborgs be sacrificed to find this cure?
Secondly, a much bigger story engulfs everything else. Queen Levana, ruler of the Lunar race who live on the moon, threatens war with planet Earth unless Prince Kai accepts her marriage ‘proposal’. While Cinder’s spiteful stepmother Adri is humanised from time to time, Levana is a true arch-villain. She rules through telepathic impartation of admiration, and abhors cyborgs, and so-called ‘shells’: the few Lunars who are immune to her charms.
Cinder is a brilliant lead character. She has chutzpah and fantastic sarcasm, while her mechanical assistant Iko is hilarious on each of her infrequent appearances. While the obligatory romantic undertones with Prince Kai are critical to the Cinderella story, it’s the only part that grinds a little. The heir apparent to the Commonwealth is so quickly taken with the mechanic he meets at random, inviting and confiding all over her, that it seems far too contrived. It’s a shame, when so much else is carefully planned and thought out, but perhaps unavoidable. And, since Cinderalla canon is so well-known, perhaps Meyer thought it best to simply cut to the chase.
Together, these threads make for a tightly-plotted, fast-moving story. Some of the bigger twists are so easy to call, what should have been shock at the payoff is more relief that we’re all caught up, but the strength of this tale is in the storytelling.
Meyer’s fresh ideas are ambitious, and well executed. Using familiar source material, she delivers a truly exciting ending that will leave you desperate for the next in the series. If this was an experiment, it was a huge success.
Thanks to Ashleigh of A Frolic Through Fiction for the recommendation.