I had heard amazing things about Cinder and the Lunar Chronicles before picking this book up. Since I took a course during my degree called Fairy Tale Literature, I’ve fallen in love with fairy tale retellings, hard. One thing I learned in that class was that you can’t be wrong when rewriting a fairy tale. Another thing I learned is that all fairy tales have inherent literary qualities. So now let’s talk about Cinder, a science-fiction novel retelling the story of Cinderella.
Cinder is a cyborg who runs the best mechanic’s booth in the city of New Beijing. She reluctantly lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters. Her stepmother, Adri, has full legal power over Cinder because of her age – only 16. Though her younger stepsister is kind and treats her respectfully, her older stepsister is even crueller than Adri. As Cinder’s life begins rusting at the edges and threatening to disintegrate, she meets Prince Kai and learns about a lost (and supposedly dead) Lunar Princess. Finding this princess may be the key to stopping a worldwide threat from the Lunar Queen. While helping the prince, Cinder learns just how horrible the plague that has ravaged Earth really is.
This story is amazing, just like other reviews told me. I haven’t read a fairy tale that has this much planning and forethought and machinery in it before. The inclusion of machinery and this level of technology is something I’ve only encountered once in a fairy tale retelling – a strange alien-invasion story of Beauty and the Beast. And that was only a short story, so it had none of the depth that Cinder has. The intricate way that technology plays a role in every facet of life in New Beijing astounds me. (If you can’t tell, I was blown away by this book.)
Onto the character of Cinder and her comparison to the Cinderella we all know. Cinder is a cyborg and a mechanic. She is a headstrong and sassy protagonist who isn’t afraid to break the rules and laws laid out for her. She puts up with her stepmother because it allows her to work. Her stepmother, however, has done everything possible to keep Cinder trapped within her custody. She views Cinder as a source of income and therefore useful. Cinderella, on the other hand, is a strange protagonist. She isn’t an active character that chooses what to do next or what she wants. Everything in her story acts upon her to lead her to her happy ending. Her stepmother makes her clean and cook, her fairy godmother pushes her to go to the ball even after she has given up, and the prince places the glass slipper on her foot and seals her fate as a princess. I enjoy the way Cinder is the opposite of Cinderella. It makes for a much better story and gives the reader a chance to connect with the character.
The plot was so complex and intriguing. I thought it introduced the right amount of questions that I couldn’t see where the end of the novel would land. I knew that it wouldn’t be well wrapped, but I questioned over and over whether the novel would end in a spot that looked like the end of the Cinderella tale. I won’t tell you how it ended, though. Spoilers.
By the end of the book, I was enthralled. The worldbuilding and plot-building seemed very well-done, but by the end I was blown away by the amount of effort put into the plot and world and the character of Cinder. I can’t wait to read Scarlet and the rest of the series. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I hope you’ll pick up Cinder and join me in delving into this magnificently complex and wondrous world of twisted fairy tales.
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