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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

My preconceived notion going into this book was the main character, Cinder, would be comparable to Cinderella. I honestly was a little apprehensive when I (mistakenly) assumed this would be some science fiction rehash of the same old fairy tale. The author, however, has created a character that lives and breathes, one you feel for as she goes about her day at the very bottom of a society which judges her for being cyborg. At no point during my reading did I feel like Cinder was just another version of Cinderella. It feels like the author used the fairy tale as a jumping-off point more than as anything else.

The book opens on a market scene complete with the smell of cinnamon buns and people careful to keep their distance from Cinder and her android repair booth. We get a glimpse into Cinder’s everyday life, as well as a look at how the society of New Beijing goes about a typical day where people are dying left and right. The culprit is a plague blamed on the Lunars, an alien race now living on the moon. Cinder’s voice is clear and distinct from the moment she notices others’ wary glances when she yanks her foot off, to the end of the novel. A chance run-in with Prince Kai, who’s in hiding, gives way to a plague victim and medbots. People in the market square close up shop quickly, and with this event ending the first chapter, I was convinced I was in for one memorable trip.

Let’s look at the originality: Cyborgs living during a plague that’s wiping out New Beijing after the fourth World War. Do you know the craziest part about that premise? With the way debut author Marissa Meyer writes, I buy it. I think readers will appreciate the creativity splashed across each page. Small details help readers smell the market, the grease hovering over Cinder’s booth, and much more. The quarantined area is simple, but effective; the writing here is tight. Throughout my reading, I found myself wishing I could write like this woman. Meyer injects fantasy with a unique jolt of good writing that kept my attention. Of course, so did the Lunars who were suddenly threatening to launch the first war since world peace.

Iko, Cinder’s trusty sidekick, is the maid of the house, and her personality alone (data on a computer chip) made me smile more than once while reading this. Prince Kai, while a little annoyingly perfect and predictable for this kind of science fiction romance (looks like a million bucks, has a temper, yet maintains a heart of gold), was at least believable as the heir apparent to New Beijing’s throne. Queen Levana, a Lunar, is an intriguing villain. I found myself wanting to know more about the Lunar people, but I understand the author’s need to stretch the story out over the course of the planned four books in this new series.

Each character acted in ways consistent with their personalities. It never felt like the author was positioning them where she wanted them just to make the plot work. The story seemed to advance based on character action and reaction, and nothing felt forced. Granted, the characters are somehow going to end up at the ball, but the twists and turns you take along the way make this well worth the ride.

Realistic dialogue is where this story really pulled me in. I appreciated the fact the androids and cyborgs spoke no differently than any human New Beijing citizens. The same goes for the Lunars.

I barely thought about the pacing. I found myself wanting to return to the book time and again, just to spend more time in Cinder’s world. Cinder is far and away the best character in this book; she is relatable, sympathetic, and very easy to root for. Despite the rust adorning part of her body, she shines. The pace felt measured and even. At no point did I feel like giving up on the book, and I never felt like the story was moving too quickly.

Believe it or not, the ending provided me with a final twist I did not see coming. The events immediately following the ball really got me excited for the next book. A cliffhanger ending is inevitable when you’re dealing with the first book of a four-book series, but this first story was about identity, and Cinder, by the end, knows who she is. This means it’s “go time”…next time.

This book is perfect for anyone who misses fairy tales or loves to root for the underdog. There’s enough action to satisfy male readers who thrive on science fiction, with character development and carefully-paid attention to each character’s nature. This creates real people who are more believable with every turn of the page (or tap of the screen). I will be reading the second book in The Lunar Chronicles as soon as I possibly can. What a treat.

-Travis

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