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Cinder, the first installment of the Lunar Chronicles series, is Marissa Meyer’s debut novel and I was pleasantly surprised at just how fast I began to care about the characters and how intriguing the world building was in this science fiction retelling of the Cinderella story.
The story begins with Lihn Cinder, a gifted mechanic thanks to her status as a cyborg, living in New Beijing at some point in the distant future. Cinder lives with her stepmother, who, as per the source material, hates her and blames her for her stepfather’s death. Her humdrum existence is forever altered, however, when the handsome and surprisingly modest Prince Kai, the heir to the throne of the Eastern Commonwealth, visits her stall and asks her to fix his android. From there Cinder is drawn into the middle of a struggle between the nations of Earth and Queen Levana, the leader of the Lunars, cruel and powerful psychics who are the descendants of lunar colonists, all while trying to escape her stepmother, dealing with a plague outbreak, struggling with her affections for the crown prince, and discovering secrets about herself that will change everything.
I loved the characters, from Cinder’s snarky self-deprecation and her android buddy Iko, who looks like Wall-E but has the most adorable personality, to prince Kai, who is surprisingly down to earth despite being prince to a kingdom that includes Russia, China, India, and about half-a-dozen other countries. The story too, although a recognizable retelling of the classic lost princess story, was equally enjoyable with just enough world building to make interesting but not too much as to ignore character development of a descent story arc. The political battles and budding romance between the cyborg mechanic and the prince were deeply engrossing, and the hints that were dropped about the history of this world, from how the lunar plague started to mentions of a World War II and IV (!), made me glad that this was only part one of a series.
About the only thing that was a bit jarring was character’s reactions to cyborgs, especially given just how many people today have prosthetic limbs and just how useful Cinder’s implants are. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to tell if someone was lying or download how-to instructions from the Internet…although given how many sites provide inaccurate or outright false information they might have a point.
Overall, however, I greatly enjoyed this book. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder is a great pick for readers who enjoy witty, romantic novels with a touch of danger, a captivating storyline, and a strong, smart female protagonists who are more at home in a garage than in a dress. I would give Cinder an 8.0 out of 10.