You can’t bump around the reading world lately without seeing mention of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, a new dystopian novel placing a pot of cyborgs, magical powers and evil stepmothers on simmer. If you’re a fan of “Cinderella,” that most classic of all fairytales (and Disney movies!), you’ll be intrigued by this one. But I’m not sure it lived up to the hype.
Cinder, a talented mechanic, toddles along the streets of New Beijing, China, trying to attract as little attention as possible. Her stepmother favors Cinder’s two sisters, Peony and Pearl, and pilfers the money Cinder makes working in a street market to enhance their lavish lifestyle. Relying on her own wits and savvy after her stepfather’s death, Cinder has no recollection of her mysterious past — or even how she arrived in New Beijing. But she’s about to find out.
Handsome Prince Kai, the future Chinese emperor, arrives at Cinder’s booth needing help with a royal android. Now on the prince’s radar, Cinder works to help repair the damage as a deadly plague begins to sweep Earth — and their city. When Peony falls ill, Cinder is blamed for her exposure to the sickness
. . . and must work quickly to save her sister’s life. What happens next changes the course of everything.
Cinder has a little bit of everything beneath its intriguing cover: romance; family dynamics; threat of annihilation; magical Lunar people. There’s all this talk of who Cinder really is and where she comes from and why she’s so special, so different from everyone else. There’s Prince Kai, who we’re told is all hottie hot (a rebellious Prince Harry, if you will). There’s all this talk of impending doom and disaster, and yet . . . I didn’t feel it.
I don’t know. I feel guilty. But I wasn’t crazy about this one.
First, the good: Cinder is the bold, stereotype-busting heroine we all love to see in YA literature. She’s not the demure young lady tucked away in a corner with her needlepoint. This chick is a mechanic, for goodness’ sake; she is hardcore. She’s up to her elbows in grease all day, fixing things that need fixing and building her positive reputation. Prince Kai comes to her because he hears she’s “the best” at what she does, and that’s pretty bad ass for a teenager.
But. But. I never really felt emotionally connected to Cinder. I felt for her and could sympathize with her plight, but as far as the twists and turns surrounding the discovery of her identity? I just wasn’t there. At many points I knew I should feel shocked or bamboozled, but I just never did. The whole thing was very tepid. I liked that Meyer changed up the fairytale, actually making Cinder very close to one of her “evil” stepsisters, but that wasn’t enough for me. I never felt engaged with the characters.
I just couldn’t get down with the Lunar people, either. Evil Queen Levana was a caricature, what with her wanting to take over the planet and all. Magical people living on the moon and threatening to screw up everything we’ve got going on here on Earth? Okay . . . I mean, I thought I could go with that. I started Cinder knowing it was a fairytale retelling, but the story never absorbed me enough to suspend my disbelief.
But you know what? I’m completely in the minority here. I’ve read positive review after positive review of Cinder, and all these fine and fashionable reviewers can’t be wrong. If you like dystopian fiction, fairytales turned on their heads or get down with fantasy, Meyer’s unique debut might just be for you.
3 out of 5!
My thoughts on the narration: After getting my proverbial feet wet with audio books, I’m beginning to understand just how important a good narrator is to a production. Bad ones can completely ruin an otherwise great story for you, and I’m becoming much more discerning in the books I choose. That being said, Cinder’s narrator, Rebecca Soler, did a fine job voicing the titular character. As other reviewers have stated, it’s strange that Cinder — a Chinese character — would have an American accent, and I didn’t get much cultural flavor from the narration. But whatevs.