All I knew about this was that it was a retelling of Cinderella and featured a Cyborg, which kind of gave me a Dr. Who vibe. Given that I’m a huge fan of Dr. Who, I figured that this was something that I’d like.
The is a dystopian story which takes place in the distant future — I think it was 100 years after World War 4 — in the city of New Beijing and follows a girl named Linh Cinder, a teenage cyborg who is a gifted mechanic. She was injured in a tragic accident in the past — though she has no memory of it — and because of scientific advances, doctors were able to save Cinder though to do so she had to become a cyborg – part human, part machine.
Still, underneath all of her metal, her computerized parts, and her prosthetic limbs, Cinder is human. But regardless, Cyborgs are considered second-class citizens — less than human — shunned by society and owned by their guardians. Cinder is more or less owned by her wicked stepmother Adri and detested by one of her step-sisters.
Each day, Cinder slaves away as a mechanic at the local market, repairing androids and other electronics. Unfortunately, she’s forced to hand over all her money to her stepmother or owner.
Now there are also people — or beings — called Lunars living on the moon who have the ability to manipulate the minds of Earthlings to make them see what they want them to see and do what they want them to do. So naturally, people of the Earth don’t allow these beings to reside on earth because of the danger for humans (though a few of them manage to sneak in).
And then there’s the evil queen Levana with a massive army who controls the minds of all the other Lunars and appears hell-bent on starting a war between the Lunars and the Earthlings with the goal of taking over the earth.
What she wants to do is to force Prince Kai, the crowned prince of the Eastern Commonwealth to marry her and then use her position as Empress of the Eastern Commonwealth to take over of the rest of the Earth.
And there’s also an incurable deadly plague called Letumosis that’s sweeping through the kingdom and killing off the citizens including people close to Cinder.
Then one day, Cinder’s life changes when the handsome Prince Kai when he stops by her booth to have her repair his android. She can’t deny the attraction she feels for the prince, but she knows that she can never act on it, confident that Prince Kai would be repulsed by her, should he learn that she’s actually a Cyborg.
Without giving anything away, let’s just that Cinder discovers a couple of secrets that put her smack in the center of the struggle between the Earth and the Moon, and the future of her planet may rest on the decisions she makes.
WHAT I LIKED
I really liked the premise of the story – taking the Cinderella fairy tale and placing it in a dystopian world where the Cinderella characters is a cyborg. I thought this was exceptionally original and enjoyed the author’s take on it.
I especially liked the fact that Cinder isn’t a passive damsel in distress like in the original story in which the heroine needs a man in order to be happy, but instead, she is a strong and independent woman who takes initiative on her own.
She was also one kick-ass heroine and in spite of the fact that she was a cyborg, found her quite realistic and believable.
The world building in this story was also amazing, and I enjoyed the futuristic city of New Beijing that the author came up with, including the strange new race of magical people on the moon called Lunars and a society in which Cyborgs aren’t that unusual.
The world had kind of a Blade Runner feel to it, I felt. But that could just be because I watched Blade Runner only recently and it was fresh in my mind.
I almost immediately found myself immersed in this strange and intriguing world. I also found it interesting how the author combined several different genres in the story and managed to make it all work: science fiction, dystopian, space opera, action/adventure, fairy tales, and even romance.
I’ve also read many fairytale retellings over the years, most of which haven’t been very good. Cinder, however, succeed in pulling it off while still providing all the essential elements of the Cinderella story – the evil stepmother, working ridiculously hard at menial tasks, a handsome prince, and even a ball. The ball scene, by the way, was awesome!
I thought the plot of the story was gripping with a lot of interesting subplots going on: there’s the deadly plague, Cinder’s plans of escaping New Beijing, political intrigue between Prince Kai and Queen Levana, Cinder’s own family dynamics and the big reveal of Cinder’s childhood and her background. The storyline was quite fast-paced and the premise original enough that I never found myself bored or impatient during the book.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
If you’re expecting major plot twists, there really aren’t any. I think there was supposed to be a huge secret — which was revealed at the end but I had it all figured out when I was less than 20% into the book.
I thought maybe I was wrong or that there would be additional plot twists but there were none. I always figured out well ahead of time what was going to happen. Thus, the story was highly predictable but still enjoyable.
And the romance between Kai and Cinder? I just didn’t feel it. This could be because Kai’s character felt a bit flat to me and I didn’t see as much depth with him as I would have liked.
There was also that insta-love thing going on, which really didn’t make sense in this story, especially considering Kai’s character and societal position. But I suppose this kept in line with the original Cinderella story in which Cinderella and the Prince were stuck by love after one glance.
The characters of the stepmother and Queen Levana were evil through and through with no redeeming qualities. I’ve mentioned this in the past, what I call the Snidely Whiplash syndrome when the villain doesn’t have any redeeming qualities whatsoever or any motivation for the evil they do. This was the case with these two, which made them a tad one dimensional. Adri, Cinder’s stepmother, for example, has no conscience at all and no remorse for how she treats Cinder.
The thing that I most disliked — or should I say detested — about this book was the ending. Or should I say the lack of ending. All of the trust and good faith that the author had built up during the story was utterly destroyed by the cliffhanger ending.
Actually, it didn’t even feel like a cliffhanger — more like the author stopped writing the story in the middle of the book.
There was no plot resolution, no character growth….it just… ended. I should have read the reviews before buying this. If I’d known that it would end abruptly where a chapter break should have been, then I would not have purchased it.
If you follow me, you already know my opinion on cliffhangers so I won’t belabor that point. I just was extremely disappointed that I purchased a book but instead of getting an entire book, ended up getting only part of one.
I enjoyed this book up until the end. It was a fast-paced, intriguing retelling of the Cinderella story from a refreshing and unique perspective. Though it was predictable, it was nonetheless wildly entertaining and a fun ride.
Unfortunately, the lack of ending ruined it for me and I will not be continuing with the series.
If however, you don’t mind a cliffhanger ending then, by all means, check out the Lunar Chronicles. Cinder is a great start to the series in my opinion, and the entire series is finished from what I understand so you won’t have to wait a year to see what happens. I’ve heard great things about it, and it has many positive reviews. It just wasn’t for me.