Written by: Marissa Meyer
Book # 1 / 4 of The Lunar Chronicles series
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Summary: 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, 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. 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.
“Vanity is a factor, but it is more a question of control. It is easier to trick others into perceiving you as beautiful if you can convince yourself you are beautiful. But mirrors have an uncanny way of telling the truth.”
Review: I actually read this book awhile back but I plan on reviewing the entire series as I have yet to read the last two books, even though this is one of my favorite series thus far to recommend to others. Every time there is a creative, modern-day (ish) retelling of a classical story, I am 1000% grabbing it off the shelf. Add in my favorite Disney princess, cyborgs, and a world-wide plague, and I am there. From page one, Meyer had me hooked to Cinder and her story, although it differs just a little bit from the princess’ who inspired it. Replace biological father with a benevolent man willing to adopt orphaned Cinder; switch out two evil step-sisters for one evil and one good; and switch out a glass slipper for a metal foot, and you’ve got Cinder.
The book itself is an incredibly easy read, seeming to pass by without me checking what page I’m on or how much I have left like I do with other books. It’s one of those books that you pick up just to read three more pages even if you really don’t have the time to. The wold that Meyer has created is complex and intriguing; the story she tells just in this first book keeps you locked in for the rest. The dialogue is humorous but also emotional, and also filled with action. Even the plague is well-explained, as well as the need for cyborg/human hybrids, satisfying my sci-fi interests. It checks every single one of my boxes. The only reason this book didn’t quite reach five stars for me is that Meyer still needs to develop her world a little more thoroughly, because, as I said – it is vastly complex. For example, were the Lunars always in existence, or are they descendants of Earthens that emigrated to the moon? This is never really fully explained. Additionally, I love when “fantasy” books include maps of the domains they discuss. Although I don’t imagine Cinder’s world being that different from ours, it’d be interesting to see how much boundaries and lands have changed. But there are still three books left in this series; I’m sure this will be remedied in full.
So many of the characters within this story are so well depicted that they jump from the pages for me. Whether it be Cinder’s adoptive family, or Cinder’s robot friend Iko, or Kai’s advisor Torin, I can so easily imagine each character as I believe Meyer intended for them to be perceived; but two, obviously, stick out. Here’s something I don’t generally say about “heroines” in YA novels: I truly do love Cinder. I think she’s incredibly strong and resilient, and intelligent considering her circumstances. Some people want to nitpick about some decisions she made throughout the book, but let it be known that this is a girl who has no proper understanding of military tactics or political information, so I think she does pretty good considering. She’s also funny, in a very dry and sarcastic way, which is my kind of humor, and you can tell that she is a genuinely kindhearted soul despite the cards that have been dealt to her. Additionally, I am also excited to see how her relationship with Prince Kai evolves, because I think their relationship can make him a better ruler. I love Cinder because I was respect her; I love Kai because he’s cute, like puppy. He definitely still has a little way to go before I think he’ll make an excellent ruler of the Eastern Commonwealth. However, Cinder brings the pauper to Kai’s prince; through her eyes, he is able to see his country as all of his denizens see it, and that is such an important first step to ensuring that he is the kind of ruler that the Eastern Commonwealth deserves.
But then there’s Levana, Queen of Lunar and supposedly the betrothed of Kai, here to step in the way and ruin literally everything. However, she’s one of those villains that you can’t help but kind of like, even though she is definitely crazy. She has an immense amount of power, and although some of it is used for petty things like making herself more beautiful and tricking people into agreeing with even the smallest of ideals, she knows what to do with her powers and how to use them to her advantage. She’s (kind of) got a good reason to be doing all these evil things, and she does them so well, always thinking two steps ahead and knowing exactly when to make her next move. The largest issue I have with Levana is I’m not sure how realistic her taking over the world (basically) is; although there is mention of troops on Lunar, I feel like if all the different countries of Earth united as one against them, it shouldn’t be a problem. Maybe I’m undermining the Lunar powers here, but they’re just another thing that Meyer has yet to expressly develop. We’ll definitely have to see where Levana’s ego trip takes us next.
Ultimately, this is one of those few and rare YA series that didn’t make me groan or roll my eyes in more than 30% of the book (an arbitrary number, I know, but that’s usually what makes the difference between a 3 star and 4 star book). Although you could argue that Cinder is a Mary Sue, it doesn’t seem that relevant or that obvious, a masterful sleight-of-hand done by Meyer. Leavana is a worthy foe that I know is going to make things a hell of a lot worse before they ever get better. And the world of the Eastern Commonwealth and Lunar and all of the other countries have got me hooked, with the plague and the potential intergalactic war hovering over the atmosphere. Doing this review reminded me of just how much I love The Lunar Chronicles, and I cannot wait to continue this series to see how Cinder’s story ends.