Monday, March 31, 2014

CINDER

Review of CINDER by MARISSA MEYER
(first in THE LUNAR CHRONICLES series)

I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages, but somehow something else always bumped it down the list; now I think CINDER deserved a higher priority spot right at the top. In other words, if I had known it would be this good, I wouldn’t have waited!

In short, this is a Cinderella retelling with the main twist being that the Cinderella character is a cyborg. Of course, that description undersells the book by omitting all the other numerous twists and nuances. Working with all familiar elements, Meyer has welded everything together into something utterly unique and captivating.

Our heroine Cinder works as a mechanic, but her earnings go to her stepmother Adri. See, cyborgs don’t have the same rights as “full” humans, so Cinder is Adri’s possession. Then the prince brings Cinder his broken android for repair and Cinder’s stepsister becomes fatally ill and before you know it the story’s off and running at an addictively fast pace.

It took me a few chapters to invest, because I didn’t understand at first whether Cinder is a human or robot. (I read lots of fantasy but not much scifi and realized later that this confusion came down to my own misunderstanding of the term cyborg.) And, yes, I care less about a robot. But once it became clear that Cinder’s absolutely human, just with some robotic parts, I actually felt guilty for ever doubting this fictional person’s humanity! In fact, people’s distrust and prejudice towards cyborgs becomes a major theme in the novel. With so much of her rebuilt, Cinder can’t do simple things like cry or blush, which expectedly makes her seem all the more robotic. Since we’re in her viewpoint, though, I sympathized strongly with this character who feels embarrassment and anguish every bit as much as anyone else but can’t express the emotions physically. Crying and blushing don’t seem like good things, but the thought of not being able to do them makes me feel almost claustrophobic. 

I tore through this book and loved every minute, so I can count my halfhearted criticisms on one hand. First, there's a dramatic reveal at the end that I guessed hundreds of pages earlier (as soon as enough information had been provided), so I wished that something that seemed so obvious to me had been moved up much sooner. Second and more notably, the ending is significantly rushed. I would discourage someone from even reading this unless they already have the second book right there to pick up once they finish CINDER, because the end feels more like the story chopped off than concluded.

I don’t have the next book yet, but plan to pick up my copy in a day or two. I love thoroughly reworked tales like this, especially with such memorable characters, and can’t wait to see what Meyer does next!

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