series: Lunar Chronicles, 1
work colleague: So, what are you reading now?
Karen: Oh, it's a retelling of Cinderella set in a dystopian future. She's a cyborg.
In Cinder we have a classic fairytale set in the (far distant) future. The moon, now a nation known as Luna, is populated by a race of mutant humans with mind-control powers (which most humans consider magic, but is described by the scientifically minded as the ability to manipulate bio-electric energy).1 After the devastation of World War IV, Earth's remaining nations signed a peace treaty. But, while there is peace on Earth, humans are threatened both by a worldwide pandemic, a plague called letumosis, and by the possibility of war with Luna.
Linh-mei (aka Cinder) is a teenage mechanic living in New Beijing, capitol of the Eastern Commonwealth. While Cinder survived the airship accident that killed both her parents, the surgeries that saved her left her less than 70% human. She is a cyborg, a second-class citizen. Her adoptive father contracted letumosis shortly after her assuming guardianship of Cinder, her care was left to his wife. Adri resents being burdened with Cinder, of whom she is ashamed and whom she only tolerates because of Cinder's ability to support the family.
When Prince Kaito, first in line to the throne, seeks Cinder out to repair his personal android, he is unaware that she is a cyborg...
I have to admit that I was a bit reticent to read Cinder. Given its premise,2 I figured that the novel would either be absolutely fantastic or perfectly horrendous depending on its execution. But I overcame my reluctance when I happened across Cinder among my library's e-audiobook offerings.
While it would have been easy for debut novelist Meyer to the overdo it with Cinder. There are a lot of different elements that she has to balance while still remaining true to the original story. But Meyer manages brilliantly. Cinder is true to the original while being something completely new. I still feel like the inclusion of the paranormal elements3 was a bit much and likely unnecessary, but they didn't bother me nearly as much as I would have expected them to. Cinder is a strong, sympathetic character. While she's still an unloved step-child with the ability to (unintentionally) beguile a prince, Cinder is so much more than that. She is independent, brave, and a problem-solver who doesn't need a fairy godmother to get her to the ball.4 Prince Kai is much more nuanced than the traditional Prince Charming character and his decision about Cinder is more complicated than simply overcoming prejudice. Some of the secondary characters are a bit one-dimensional, which is almost to be expected in a fairytale considering that fairytales are full of stock characters, but others are perfectly crafted.
I will definitely be continuing on with this series. Per Meyer's website, the second installment Scarlet will be released in Feburary 2013 and will focus on a Little Red Riding Hood character.
- Shades of vampirism, not blood-sucking, but being able to glamour humans and an aversion to mirrors.
- Let's review how much is packed into this one story. We have a retelling, set in a dystopian future with a heavy emphasis on science fiction and a dash of the paranormal. I'm overwhelmed just setting that out.
- There's more than what is mentioned in footnote 1, but explication would involve spoilers.
- There is a fairy godmother character, but Cinder comes to her rescue rather than the other way around.