Cinder: Book One in the Lunar Chronicles

Cinder  - Marissa Meyer After seeing rave review after rave review on Goodreads and Amazon, I downloaded Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel &Friends, 1/3/12) and ended up finishing it in one sitting. Yes, the book was that good, and all of the glowing praise is justified. Cinder takes place in New Beijing, 128 years after WWIV. World peace has lasted this long mainly because of a global peace treaty signed by all of the major nations after the war. There is one nation, however that has refused to sign and poses a new threat to not just the Commonwealth of New Beijing, but to the whole of planet Earth: the Lunar people, who reside on the Moon. Peace negotiations have been underway for the last 20 or so years between the Lunars and the Emperor of New Beijing, but with the emperor sick from a sweeping and as-of-yet-incurable plague, and his untested teenage son about to inherit the title of Emperor, nothing is certain.This is the political backdrop for Meyer's re-imagining of the Cinderella tale. But this is no ordinary re-telling. The titular character, Cinder, is cyborg. She has a mechanical foot and hand (and possibly more) that mark her as a second-class citizen, for cyborgs are feared and openly hated in the Commonwealth. She hides her metal as best she can, and tries to make do with a small mechanic shop in the market area of New Beijing, even though all of her profits legally go to her horrible step-mother. The plot follows the general outline of the cinderella story, ball and glass slipper (here, a mechanical foot) included. This Cinder meets her prince long before the ball when he brings her his broken android, and she actually doesn't really want to go the the ball, but of course ends up there on matters of great import. The additions of a horrible plague sweeping Earth's population, a kingdom on the brink of war, and an evil queen to rival anything the Grimm brothers could come up with help flesh out the plot, the world, and the characters, though I never felt like any of it was just fluff. Each of these elements contribute greatly to the action of the story, so it feels less like a re-telling of the Cinderella story and more like speculative fiction with elements of Cinderella added in. The romance (there must always be a romance these days) was not over-the-top and was really more of a subtext for the novel rather than its entire purpose for being (as it is in Delirium and Unearthly, for example). While it doesn't quite have the organic feel I prefer, it also didn't feel forced, which is kind of amazing considering it's really just a plot point to follow the fairy-tale original.Cinder herself is a highly likable and sympathetic character. Her relationship with her younger step-sister and an android with a personality "glitch" are sweet and comic, respectively, and add some emotional depth to Cinder. She is smart, tough, and doesn't put up with much. She's willing to yell back at her stepmother and stand up for herself, which makes her much more human than her fairy-tale counterpart. She also rarely wallows (though she has plenty of reason to) and prefers action over sitting and waiting for something to happen; you can trust that she'll do what needs to be done. Considering the latest crop of female dystopian leads in YA fiction, Cinder is one of the better ones, and one that I'm more than willing to return to.Though secrets abound in this novel, the major revelation was rather obvious by the first oh, 5% of the book (I read the ebook version), so it was a little frustrating that Cinder dosen't discover it until the last 2% of the novel. As far as the world building goes, the premise for the existence of the new world order is fairly believable. There are other things, however that would benefit from more/better explanation, specifically concerning the Lunars. What are they? Where do they come from? Have they always existed on the moon? Why do they want Earth? I expect that we'll get a better understanding of them in the second book, so I'll hold out for that. There have also been criticisms concerning Meyer's use of technology, in that she doesn't go into enough detail/explanation etc. I thought that for the genre and the audience she's writing for, it was fine. If I wanted a hefty book about cyborgs and humans living together with an alien race hanging out on the moon, I'd head to the SF section of my book store. In other words, though there are SF elements in the novel, that is clearly not what Meyer is writing. She's writing a teen romance and as such, it's one of the better ones I've come across lately. There have also been criticisms that this book superficially touches on things that could have better developed for more social commentary, which is one of the primary aspects of speculative fiction. I only half agree; again I think it comes down to audience and purpose. Do I think that this novel had much more potential? Yes. Am I disappointed by it? No.All said, I thought Cinder was a fast-paced and enjoyable read. It held my complete attention for the 5 or so hours it took me to read it, and when I finished it, I checked for a release date for the second book in the series. (Couldn't find one, but it's supposedly called Scarlet and is the story of Little Red Riding Hood, according to Meyer in an interview on Amazon.com. My thoughts: WTF happens to Cinder?). I'd highly recommend this for a bad-weather, stay-at-home-and-drink-tea kind of day. You won't be bored, and I don't think you'll feel you wasted your time either. Happy reading!P.s. Did anyone else get hints of Sailor Moon in Cinder? If I say why, it might be considered spoilers, but I couldn't help thinking of it while reading.