Allison's Book Bag

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Posted on: September 1, 2012

What I really want to tell you is: I love Cinder, the first book in The Lunar Chronicles. Oh, and Marissa Meyer rocks as an author! Yet as a reviewer, I need to back up those statements with reasons. Well, if I absolutely must give you more of an explanation, I enjoyed Cinder by Marissa Meyer on two accounts. As a reader, I love that it’s a fantasy, set in the future, and based on a fairy tale. As a writer, I feel in awe of how many elements of fiction Marissa Meyer gets perfect. Now for a closer look at those statements.

As a reader, I like that Cinder is a fantasy for young adults. The most recent trend is dystopian. Cinder fits into that genre, being set in a not-so-pleasant future. However, it branches beyond that, being about a teenage girl who is part cyborg and part human. Despite movies like A.I., which featured an advanced robotic boy who longs to become real, I haven’t encountered many young adult books about cyborgs. Another way that Meyer sets Cinder apart from other dystopian fiction is that she set her story in futuristic Asia. Cinder’s home is in New Beijing, delegates who meet with the prince are from actual countries (including Canada! ), and that bamboo screens, pergolas, and Buddha statues form the background of the city. Moreover, her main characters have olive complexion and dark hair and they’re addressed formally in ways other than our American standard of Mr. and Mrs. and Miss. These realistic details aside, I most felt mesmerized by the androids, net screens, mechanical legs, hovercrafts, and other markings of a futuristic world. This is an area where Meyer excels–but more on that later. Let me wrap-up this paragraph by saying that Cinder is also based on a fairy tale—I’m sure you can guess which one. As such, Cinder has an evil step mother and step sister, meets a prince and attends his ball, and there’s even a marriage proposal. Some reviewers criticized Meyer for basing Cinder on a fairy tale, because they felt this constrained her. I love fairy tales, including the modern ones when they are done well, and so I didn’t have a problem with Meyer’s choice. Moreover, I think she handled it quite smartly, in that she used what she needed and dropped what she didn’t. For instance, while there are two step sisters, one of them is nice. Also, Cinder meets the prince before the ball, and Cinder’s ‘fairy godmother’ is instead a secretive doctor. Last, there’s a Lunar Queen who is far more terrifying than the entire wicked step family.

As a writer, I feel in awe of how many elements of fiction Marissa Meyer gets perfect. The plot instantly takes off in the very first paragraph, with the introduction of Cinder who is a most unusual character in being part cyborg and part human. On page three, Cinder is shunned by a fellow merchant, even though wires are not “contagious”. One page later, Prince Kai shows up at Cinder’s mechanical repair booth with a broken android that contains top-secret information. Before the end of the chapter, a plague outbreak forces the evacuation of the market. With that much action, you might wonder if there’s any room for character development. In Meyer’s skilled hands there is! Cinder is a delightful mix of human and cyborg parts. As such, she can feel squeamish over the singing of a death-themed nursery rhyme that the local children sing but also scan the prince’s face and identify him from a net database. Her heart throbs at the sight of Prince Kai but she’s a mechanical whiz, earns her own money, and is skilled with her hands. I identify with her because she has all the normal emotions of an adolescent girl, but doesn’t derive all of her value from whether her crush has recently glanced her way. Real teenage girls will appreciate that Cinder isn’t just a trembling flower but also has amazing strengths. Regarding the story’s secondary characters, there are certainly those that are two-dimensional. For instance, a few of the minor characters are evil for no apparent reason and Prince Kai too conveniently falls in love with Cinder. However, the majority of the cast are quirky and complex; I love how sweet and fun Iko and Peony are.

Because description more than anything else is Meyer’s selling point, I’m dedicating a separate paragraph to it. Not only did Meyer become familiar with technological scientific advances enough that she could include a lengthy explanation of it on her website, but she also seamlessly integrates it into Cinder. I grew up living next to a bog and yet I don’t think I could talk as naturally about it as Meyer does about cyborgs. For more than one reason, Meyer made the perfect choice when she opened Cinder by writing: “The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross markers worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles arched from forcing the screwdriver….” In these few opening lines, I’ve fallen for Meyer’s character and for her world. Better yet, I stayed immersed in the Cinder world for the entire three-hundred-and-eighty-seven pages.

Upon recommendation of my teenage sister, I read Cinder this past July. I intended to simply skim through it again in preparation for this review but couldn’t stick to that resolution. Despite having several other books to review, I found myself again being drawn into Cinder’s world and reading thoroughly rather than scanning. Over the next year as I work on own novel, I imagine that I’ll reread Cinder a few times again to remind myself how Meyer’s captures her main characters’ emotions and describes their world. Cinder is one of my favorite books of the year. It’s exciting enough that I can picture other authors trying to emulate it. Could Meyer start a new trend of cyborg literature?

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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Almost a year after I announced that it was time to take a step back from this blog, Allison's Book Bag is still here. I'm slowly working back up to weekly reviews again. Each week, there will be one under any of these categories: Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, religious books, or diversity books. Some will come in the form of single reviews and others in the form of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

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