Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Saturday, January 7, 2012
Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: young-adult, science fiction, mythic fiction
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Pages: 396 (Nook NetGalley ARC)
Published: January 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.
Cinderella gets a cyborg twist in this eye-catching and sci-fictionish tale- but that's not all the fun nor all the new changes author Marissa Meyers offers up in her first novel.  While absolutely recognizable as a clever retelling of the classic tale of Cinderella, Ms. Meyer manages to place her own unique and interesting, updated spin on the ages-old folk tale. This is one of the first of several such retellings I've either gotten to read (Ella Enchanted, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, The Fairy Godmother ) or bought and  have waiting (Ash by Malinda Lo, Ember by Bettie Sharpe) or am on the look out for (Before Midnight) to buy. Cinder is original and inventive both with its location, time, technology and twists. Overall, I thought that this was a very clever and fun read, worth both the hype and the endless, obnoxious ads on GoodReads. 

Linh Cinder is a cyborg: the new form of servants/underclass in the world of Meyers making. Even peddling basic mechanical repairs, Cinder is forced everyday to deal with being the most outcast, feared, hated and nearly shunned person at the Market. In a city of millions, it's easy to feel isolated and alone, but not the extremes that Cinder is forced to by the very culture of her own home. There are constant reminders how just how little worth Cinder is considered to be: from her stepmothers constant verbal reminders to the city-wide draft of cyborgs for scientific experimentation research. These are thinking, feeling people treated as though they were no more human than the all-mechanical androids. Cinder is a decent protagonist to start with at the introduction of everything - the world is foreign (but just slightly familiar) so it's hard to assimilate her situation at home, outside, with her stepsisters, with her stepmom, etc. all at once. Only 36.28% human, Cinder is obviously not one of the favored class, and her struggles are hard-fought and won. She easily gains trust and likeability as her situations unfolds more clearly and in detail, and her stubborn but smart personality has a chance to grow as well. She's kind, giving and unconcerned with status - all typical of Cinderella in Cinderella tales, but this one has a few traits that set her aside from the norm. I won't spoil them here, even if they can be predictable in the novel, but this Cinder is and has a unique personality. Cinder has a faulty foot - resulting in her needing a new mechanical/cyborg foot instead of the typical and expected slipper or footwear and it seems appropriate for this slightly-skewed but eventually likeable protagonist. There's a lot more to Cinder and mysterious history than let on, and I liked the slow uncovering and piecing together of her trajectory to New Beijing and into Kai's life.

I wish I could say I liked Kai as much as I did the rest of the novel - he's certainly attractive, in that perfect book-character-type way - but he isn't the most fleshed out, or personalized of characters. He seems fairly cookie-cutter for paranormal YA, though without any of the control/dependency/stalker issues so many others suffer from. I sadly found that lack of individual dimension to be the case for most of the supporting cast: the stepmother Adri, one of the stepsisters (Pearl) just seemed carved from the typical Cinderella-story cast, with no updated, fun twist on their typical roles. I had hoped for something more original to be done with the two (three if you count Kai) of them, but that is not the case here. I did like that the family dynamic was switched up: Garan and Adri are the natural parents of the 'evil stepsisters' with Cinder being the adopted, biologically unrelated addition. Most of the twists and subversions of the Cinderella folk story are centered directly upon protagonist Cinder, or tangentially connected to her, like the orange beat-up gas car for a pumpkin. As for Kai and Cinder's romance, happily it is neither the main focus of the narrative nor the driving force behind the plot or Cinder's life. It's sweet, light and adds a subtle flavor of love, hope and yearning to the bouquet of emotions that run through Cinder's downtrodden life.

My main problems with Cinder were the first half: there's a lot of detail, information in the first pages, aka a lot of foundation. While that is by no means a bad thing - give me a well-thought out society any time - it makes reading slow going with undynamic characters. Once Cinder and Kai get a littler more..lively... it's a much faster, fun book but the first half suffers. The flipside of all the details and worldbuilding of the first half is just how utterly complete and solid the society/world of Cinder feels to the reader. Like I said earlier, Cinder creates a world that is both recognizable and totally foreign. Ages-conflicts and issues are still present (xenophobia, the urge for independence, duty versus desire), still eternal but Meyers has crafted a new world and spin for these stories to emerge and play with.There's a vague but consistently Asiatic feel to the culture, vocab, lifestyle of the people within the Commonwealth - appropriate as it possess a capital city called New Beijing - but I'm glad it wasn't a half-assed, weak job. Just like the society ruled from beyond its walls, and like Linh Cinder herself, the palace of New Beijing is a mix of both nature and technology. 

Meyers is an able-to-good storyteller. I wish the first half hadn't been so laden down with detail, though I am very appreciative of the thorough nature of both her imagination and the world of this novel. However, once the ball gets rolling on the plot, this is a submersive and hard-to-put-down novel. Cinder leaves me excited and very eager for the next book in the series, Scarlet, due out. . . . . ..   2013. I think it's quite unfair to leave me hanging in the admist of that admittedly AWFUL cliff-hanger, but sadly that is typical of paranormal YA today. I won't gripe overmuch, as the good/fun outweighs the bad by a large margin. This is one those novels that though I've already read an ARC, I'll be hunting down my own copy to have and love. 

The Spanish cover for this book is also absolutely gorgeous:

There's also a short story set in the same universe, same characters but before the events of Cinder. It's titled Glitches and you can read it for free at that link, or buy it. It's not too long, though $.99 seems too much to pay for it. Well,  it's short enough to be more of a trailer than a proper prologue.  The 'cover' looks like this:


  1. What a fascinating review! I love your honesty! I haven't seen the Spanish cover before- and wow! It is beautiful. I thought I really liked the other cover- but it is amazing. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Thanks very much! I really enjoyed this one and hope the second is even better.


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