Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: January 3rd, 2012
Pages: 390
ISBN: 0312641893


A forbidden romance.
A deadly plague. Earth's fate hinges on one girl . . . 
CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She's reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen - and a dangerous temptation. Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth's future. This is not the fairytale you remember. But it's one you won't forget.


I will admit from the very beginning that I was wary about reading this book. The synopsis above was one of the reasons why. After all, nowadays, there are a thousand different Young Adult books written within the same formula: outcast girl falls in love at first sight with heartthrob boy, and after a series of mini plot twists they end together in a happily ever after sort of way. A number of such novels has thrown fairytale elements at this ready-made formula in the hopes of creating something new, which, most of them do not. I thought Cinder would be one of such books. I was pleasantly surprised.

The book starts by introducing Cinder, a cyborg girl, who is in the middle of taking off her old, child sized foot in her booth at the Beijing Market, when a customer approaches her. Immediately she recognizes him as Prince Kai, the same prince whom every girl in the Commonwealth dreams of. Aware that she is one of the best, if not the best, mechanic in Beijing, he asks her to fix his personal android. It is not this, however, that makes sure that their lives become entwined (though not, I should say, necessarily in the romantic sense). 

What does lead to it happens after Kai leaves the market. Cinder and her android, Iko, are in the process of placing Cinder's new foot on her when screams erupt from the market. The plague, they realized, had taken away one of the sellers. The same plague that has been killing Eartheans in every continent for years. The same plague that has taken away Prince Kai's mother and is slowly killing his father, the Emperor. This plague is not the only issue which Cinder and the Commenweatlh have to deal with throughout the book, for there is also the lingering threat of an invasion from the Lunars, the people who live on the Moon. And if that is not enough there are issues such as racism and other complications that every society in the course of history has dealt and been dealing with.

In any other book, it would be expected for Cinder and Kai to come upon one another every ten pages, to claim that they had fallen in love by the middle of the book, and to spend the rest of it snogging and whining about their problems. Not one of these things happens. The number of moments shared between these two characters is relatively small, and the love they eventually share (this story is based on Cinderella, after all) is subtle, natural and only brought up when necessary for the plot. It is, in short, a breath of fresh air.

The way the characters are built is also quite refreshing. Not a single one of the characters is flat and not a single one is a walking cliché, not even the "evil stepmother". All of them feel real and like someone you might meet on the street, including the android Iko, who is so humane that it makes it excruciatingly hard to draw the line between what is robot and what is human. 

In terms of writing, Meyer writes in a style that is fluent, rich and simple, making this book engaging, pleasant and easy to read. Another thing I quite enjoyed about it was how witty the dialogue is, and how every character has a very distinct voice. 

The book is not perfect, however, as Meyer is not quite the best at introducing plot twists. I, at least, answered some of the questions the book presented right after they were asked. Yet, I cannot complain very much about this either as, unlike other authors, when Meyer gives a definitive answer those questions, she does not shove the answers down her readers' throats. She does not present her plot twists in a way that it feels like she is unjustly asking to be bowed down to. She presents those answers the same way she does everything else: as something as natural as breathing.

All of this conjugated with the many philosophical questions that Cinder subtly introduces makes it, in my opinion, one of the best fairytale retellings to date. 

The book in a quote

“Imagine there was a cure, but finding it would cost you everything. It would completely ruin your life. What would you do?”