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.
There’s a certain eternalness about fairytales. As humanity evolves, so do they, finding forms through which to answer the need people have to believe in happily ever afters, in victory, pyrrhic though it may be. Cinder reimagines the story of Cinderella in a way that does not just situate it firmly in the 21st century but also being careful to retain that flavor of myth, of the possibility that makes fairytales immortal. In this tale, Meyer very bravely recreates Cinderella as more (or perhaps less, it depends on who you talk to) than human. Her very identity is shrouded in mystery but the foundation of Cinderella remains firmly in place.
The best part of the story for me was finding the fairy tale elements. The orange pumpkin coach, the fairy godmother, the glass slipper – these are all important to the original fairytale but Meyer does not just use them in a superficial sense, as in, to maintain that familiarity with the original tale. These fixtures of the tale gain their own separate meaning in Cinder, have their own purpose. I love how seamlessly they are woven into the fabric of the story.
The fact that Cinder is a cyborg opens up a delicious discussion on what it means to be human. Is humanity quantified by the amount of flesh in one’s body? What is humanity? Is it extrinsic or intrinsic? With the way science is moving, I have a feeling that these will be very pertinent questions in the future.
Prince Charming is also given a makeover and comes complete with a personality and motivations that make him more human than the stereotyped prince charming of the original tales. His conflicts are easy to relate to and his frustrations at his helplessness evoke empathy. I also really liked the world building. Meyer has created an exquisitely detailed world for her characters and so impressive is her word-smithery that it is difficult to believe that this is her debut novel.
When Meyer moves away from the Cinderella story to complicate the plot and increase the stakes, she does so with a finesse and confidence that is translated in the smoothness of the prose. The pacing of the novel is just right and I liked where she ended. There is no cliff hanger but there is definitely a sense of urgency which will keep readers waiting the long months till the next installment in the trilogy. I definitely recommend this debut novel to anyone who likes fairytales, gutsy heroines and romance that makes your breath hitch and your toes curl.