Marissa Meyer
Cinder Cover



Oof. This is a bit of a rough one. One the one hand, let it never be said that I will not read a book just because of its genre. I've tried romance this year (and even found not all of it is cringe-fest-inducing bodice rippers) and I've read YA in the past, to mixed results. I liked Railsea for example, but not The Ghost Bride. However, because I'm reusing quite a few of the books I picked for last year's r/fantasy bingo in this year's card and because I had heard a lot about the Lunar Chronicles, I decided that I would pick the 'Fairytale retelling' square over the 'Book featuring a ginger' one and read Cinder. An added bonus was that the book also very nicely fit in with my choice for the 2017 book challenge, where I am both woefully behind and fully prepared to use a book for multiple squares (the reddit bingo prohibits this and with a much smaller card to contend with, I don't actually mind this).

Cinder, as its name implies, is a retelling of Cinderella, set in New Beijing, 126 years after the Fourth World War. Cinder Linh is a cyborg mechanic, which makes her less than human in society's eyes. She lives with her stepmother and stepsisters in a world plagued by letumosis, a diseases that kills old and young alike, with no cure in sight. Cinder is content to simply be, fixing things as a reputable mechanic, until Prince Kaito stops by her stall and asks her to fix his android. From there, she is sucked in to political intrigue and the struggle between Kai's duty to the earthen Commonwealth and the desires of the evil Queen Levana of the Moon. She must uncover her past and decide just where he future lies.

If this reads a little bit like Cinderella mixed with Sailor Moon, you wouldn't be wrong. Apparently Meyer used to write quite a bit of fanfiction in that particular sandbox and some of the elements of the manga/show are very apparent: Lunar people, a mystery missing princess (presumed dead), magical powers, a funny/annoying sidekick... You get the picture. There are quite a few twists, all of them telegraphed from a mile away and there are some setbacks to the book. But let's start off on a positive.

It's plain, mindless fun, basically popcorn for the brain. It's not a complicated plot and the characters are a little bit thin on the ground (in my update, I mentioned that Levana is moustache-twirling levels of evil and Cinder and Kai are both pretty wooden/emotionless/cardboard in terms of motivation, desire and overall personality, with Cinder acting with an absolute brat at times, to an almost embarrassing degree). There are a whole host of questions that remain unanswered and the romance skirts that element of 'instalove' that I absolutely despise in books. But it's a ridiculously fast-paced read, it made me keep turning the pages (and rolling my eyes but whatever) and ultimately, I did want to know what would happen next. In all of that and because it's summer and summer reading is always meant to be more breakneck speed, I think Cinder does succeed and I have already decided that I want to pick up Scarlet sooner rather than later (thankfully my local library actually seems to have a copy, so that ought to be in my clutches soon).

But the reason I ended up knocking a full star off? It ends in a bloody cliffhanger, with absolutely zero resolution to the main plot. Because while I appreciate that Meyer is setting up an entire series here, it's bad form not to have some sort of resolution in your books. Yes, sure, make me want to pick up the sequel, but don't turn this into a situation where I am completely cock-blocked at the end of the series. You basically get the big reveal that you'd guessed about 300 pages ago and... it ends. Just so frustrating! While I appreciate that I've already said I'm going to read the next book at least now I know not to expect an actual ending/resolution/call it what you will until Winter. Setting myself up will make it far less annoying when it happens, I'm sure.

There are loads of questions that this book doesn't even attempt to answer. Why World War Four? What's the deal with Levana and the Lunar people? Are they aliens or humans with weird powers? What's their glamour thing all about, since 'bioelectrical energy' sounds like some woo that gets sold to you alongside healing crystals? Why are some parts of Cinder mechanical but not all and why are cyborgs so hated and reviled? Why even set the story in New Beijing when you intend to do absolutely nothing about the setting? It might just as well have been Generic City because Meyer does nothing with her setting, no worldbuilding, nada. I used to be more forgiving of that, but writing YA is not an excuse to skimp out and dumb everything down.

I'm not sad I read this and I do actually want to keep reading, maybe Kai and Cinder get some personality traits in the sequels, but I would not go in expecting this to be a masterpiece. Then again, sometimes you do need a break from the super serious, brainy, classical or whatever, and Cinder definitely provides that. It's not much but for me it was definitely a welcome break.