She had to get away. And she knew just how she was going to do it." - Cinder, Macmillan January 2012
Cinder, the first of four books in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, spins the familiar Cinderella story into the far off future. Cyborg, not remembering her past, Cinder is the adopted daughter who is a mechanic to provide for her adoptive family, made poor after the death of her “father” and her guardian blows through the savings. A plague is devastating the world, infecting first the outerlands and now the city at an alarming rate, and cyborgs are being drafted in order to be experiment subjects for a cure- after all, you can’t experiment on pure humans, and cyborgs aren’t real humans. The Emperor has contracted the plague, and his heir, Prince Kai, must somehow deal with the Lunar Queen and her threats of war against earth- the only answer seems to come at too dear of a price to pay.
Cinder holds all the of the traditional elements of Cinderella (outcast daughter, handsome prince, wedding ball, must find suitor, will she go to the ball, will they get together, etc.), but puts some wonderful spins on it as well.
Being set in a futuristic Eastern Commonwealth, Cinder’s world seems to hold to a largely throwback Asian mindset: pureblood first, then adoptive, and finally outcast, so Cinder would be the bottom of the bottom being not Asian (found in a different country), then adoptive, then cyborg. The marketplace and stalls where she works, and the quarantine where the plague victims are kept are also similar to historical times more than futuristic endeavours, with rickety stalls and fold up cots- only the technological intrusion of robot medics and police change the scenery.
Also, Cinder turns gender roles on their ear. Prince Kai is the one who’s having to consider marriage to Queen Levana, who’s people has mind magic, but it’s clear in the one scene that if he will not marry her that there is another prince that might be able to take on the deal and save the Earthens. A refreshing change- instead of marrying off the daughters, we’re having to marry off the sons- and Prince Kai does not seem able to make command decisions anywhere within the book.
Cinder the cyborg isn’t a scullery maid- she’s a mechanic fixing androids, scouring the junkyard for parts, and eventually fixing up an orange VW bug for her very own escape vehicle (yes, it’s her pumpkin). And Cinder the girl isn’t waiting to be rescued- she’s the one doing the rescuing. She’s trying to assist in finding a cure for her sister Peony, she’s trying to rescue her android, and near the end, she’s trying to rescue Prince Kai.
I really enjoyed Cinder, the only drawback I can see to giving it to any reader would be that the cover could turn off guy readers. I understand why (hello, it is Cinderella, so we need the shoe, and you can see the cyborg workings underneath the skin), but it can skew more female than male. I would definitely recommend Cinder to readers who enjoyed Starters by Lissa Price, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, or the Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield.