Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

February 12, 2014 Reviews, Science Fiction 23 ★★★★★

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles # 1
Published by Feiwel & Friends on January 3, 2012
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Puchased
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Cinder is part of my personal “Series Catch-Up” challenge.  As many raves as I’ve heard about this book, I was skeptical.  A cyborg?  A cyborg mechanic, no less?  I wasn’t sure if or how I would connect with this story.  And honestly, before reading Cinder, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a good definition of cyborg.  I probably would have said, “It’s something like a robot, right?”  I needn’t have worried, though, because Cinder was a 5 star book for me.  As a point of reference, the last two times I rated a book with 5 stars were The Winner’s Curse in October 2013 and Not a Drop to Drink in July 2013.  (I think I need to be a bit more generous with my stars.)

One thing that occurred to me after reading Cinder is how tricky writing a fairy-tale retelling must be.  Sure, the author has the opportunity to use some popular and beloved plot points.  But exactly how much should be used?  Just as important, which elements of the fairy tale should be scrapped?  And at what point does a retelling seem more like a copy than an original story?  I thought Marissa Meyer did a fantastic job retelling Cinderella, placing the main character, a cyborg named Cinder, in a futuristic Beijing.  This Cinder has an evil adoptive mother and sister (rather than a stepmother and stepsister), she has attention and the affection of a handsome prince, and she has a secret identity.  Best of all, rather then Cinderella’s glass slipper, we have Cinder’s robotic foot.  I thought this was such a clever touch, and Meyer worked it into the story in a sweetly familiar but totally fresh way.  But she didn’t overdo it.  In other words, there are no pumpkins here.

Being a cyborg makes Cinder a second-class citizen, at best.  She is fairly accepting of her status, even though her adoptive mother and sister make clear to her that she’s not wanted in the family.  Cinder’s only sources of support are her younger sister and her personal droid.  But things start to turn around when Prince Kai asks her to repair his droid.  Kai flirts with Cinder, and Cinder flirts right back, even though she’s sure Kai would want nothing to do with her if he knew she was not completely human.  Meyer does a fantastic job portraying the relationship between Cinder and Kai.  This is no insta-love, but rather a slow-burning attraction with some misunderstandings and misconceptions on both ends.  Kinda like most real-life relationships.  One of those misunderstandings leads Kai to do something to Cinder that seems terrible on its surface.  Yet, he remains sympathetic because it’s easy to understand the reasons that led to his decision.  This also highlights the fact that Cinder is not another paint-by-numbers romance.


23 Responses to “Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer”

    • Stephanie

      So far, I’m not enjoying Scarlet quite as much as Cinder. Every time the POV switches to Scarlet, I keep wishing it would get back to Cinder and Thorne. And Iko!

  1. Angel (Spare Reads)

    Yayayayay!! Another Lunar Chronicles fan 😛 I love this series so much, definitely one of my all time favorites. Cinder is such a vibrant character. She is so special yet so normal. Being a cyborg does not make it hard for me to relate to her at all. Instead, she blushes just as much as any other teenage girl would do when faced with a charming prince. I hope you would love Scarlet too. It’s a fine sequel to the first book, but deep down I still carry Cinder closer to my heart than any of the other characters. Can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts on it!
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    • Stephanie

      Cinder is a fantastic character. I recently finished Scarlet, too, and she just couldn’t quite measure up to Cinder, IMO.

  2. Cait

    Wow! You’re tighter with your 5-stars than me!! I’ve struggled this year, actually, rating books higher than a 4. It’s either 4 or 2. >_< What's happening to me?!! Argh! XD (Also: I LOVED Not a Drop to Drink. I'm freaking excited about the sequel). I'm so glad you liked Cinder. It was a huge favourite for me, though I originally DNF'ed it because the library wanted it back. The second time I borrowed it, I read it in like 3 days flat. And I've been addicted to all things Marissa Meyer ever since. 😉

    • Stephanie

      The library can be cruel sometimes, right?? 🙂

      I had no idea how stingy I was with my 5 stars until I wrote this post. But when I thought about how strong my reaction to NADTD was, it was hard to find another books to measure up.

  3. Wendy Darling

    Definitely not a paint-by-numbers romance. I’m glad you enjoyed it! You’re also lucky you don’t have to wait for the next couple of books at least, I remember reading CINDER and being confused about where the story was going to go if the next book was about someone completely different and Cinder’s arc wasn’t resolved. I really like the way everything weaves together, though, and I liked SCARLET even more–so I hope you do, too!
    Wendy Darling recently posted…Literary Swoon: YA Authors Dish on their Fictional Crushes!My Profile

    • Stephanie

      I didn’t like Scarlet quite as much, but I DO love the way the two books are weaving together. It seems very natural.

  4. Nicole

    Gah I love this series so much! You make an excellent point about fairy tale retellings- how much of the original story should be used? I think Marissa Meyer did a beautiful job at creating such a wonderfully original story yet stayed true to the feel of the Cinderella fairy tale. But what I am more impressed with is how she is tying multiple fairy tales together in the series. She is truly talented. So so glad you read this and loved it! Can’t wait for you to continue with the series.
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    • Stephanie

      Thanks, Nicole! I’m reading Cress right now, and I’m not familiar with Rapunzel at all, so I think this won’t strike me in quite the same way Cinder did.

  5. Em

    I was really skeptical about reading this one also…..In ended up liking it, but I think that Scarlet and Cress were even better. I completely agree with you, Marissa Meyer did a great job with retelling the Cinderella story.
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    • Stephanie

      I’m glad you love the series, Em! This seems to be a common theme – people enjoying the sequels more than the original. It’s always nice when that happens.

  6. Nara

    I thought it was fantastic how well Marissa did in twisting the original plot points from Cinderella into Cinder. She does a really great job in Scarlet and Cress as well (pushing my expectations for Winter even higher…)
    ***SPOILER WARNING!!!!***
    The pumpkin thing is interesting, because in the original tale Cinderella goes from pretty ballgown to rags but in Cinder, Cinder goes from ballgown to glamour (as in, even prettier than before). Clever of Marissa!
    ***END SPOILER***
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    • Stephanie

      That is so interesting, Nara. I never even realized that! No doubt that was intentional on Meyer’s part.

  7. Kelly L.

    I love how you mentioned how tricky writing a fairytale retelling must be – I was thinking that too when I first finished Cinder, especially the “at what point does a retelling seem more like a copy than an original story?” part you’ve mentioned. Marissa Meyer did it perfectly though – wait until you read Scarlet and Cress!
    Great review Stephanie! 😀
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  8. Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley)

    I read this and fell really hard for it and then I re-read it before reading Scarlet and I enjoyed it even more the second time. And then I loved Scarlet even MORE. I think the author has done something really interesting and odd and quirky and it just works for me, somehow. I’m excited for the rest of the series and then for whatever she decides to write beyond that. She clearly has a great imagination, ya know? Glad you liked it. (:
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    • Stephanie

      I wish I had loved Scarlet as much as the rest of you! I still liked it very much, but not as much as Cinder. Maybe the problem for me was reading them back-to-back.

  9. Kelly

    So happy you liked this one! I loved how sarcastic Cinder was, and found her dry humour to be something I really connected with. Iko stole my heart and I absolutely loved the elements of Cinderella that Meyer decided to keep, even if it was done with a twist!

    I wasn’t as big of a fan as Scarlet, but I’m about 3/4 through Cress and I’m LOVING it!
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