Cinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing, capital city of the Commonwealth, an empire created after World War IV. Being a cyborg means Cinder is reviled by most humans, especially her step-mother and step-sister Pearl. Her only friends are an android named Iko and her younger step-sister Peony. Being cyborg does have one advantage, though–it makes Cinder the best mechanic in the Commonwealth, and brings the famous and eligible bachelor Prince Kai to her market booth to get his android fixed. Cinder thinks this will be her only meeting with the Prince, but when her step-sister Peony catches the plague, a horrible disease that kills every one of it’s victims, Cinder’s step-mother “volunteers” her for plague testing, an “honor” that kills all it’s honoress. This brings Cinder into the palace, where she sees the Prince more often and must struggle to hide her metal parts from him, and she also discovers something about herself that could change her life, and the world. She is immune to the plague.
I LOVED this book. I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. Just about everything about it was excellent. Cinder was a fantastic character who had the ability to think for herself, and best of all, consider the words and actions of others before making decisions. How about THAT in a young adult novel. It was so nice to read a character who wasn’t whiny, impulsive, and stupid. I also loved that we heard some of the story from the Prince’s perspective. He was another strong character. Tragic, yet smart and willing to do what he had to do to ensure his people’s survival.
Though Prince Kai, we learn about the Lunars and their queen Levana. The Lunars are a country of former Earthens who moved to the moon long ago and formed their own society. Living on the moon gave them almost-magical powers, which allows them to glamour themselves and control the thoughts and emotions of others. The queen is horribly evil, killed all her heirs to maintain the throne, and is trying to force Kai to marry her, the first step in her plans to conquer Earth. This is the secondary conflict in the novel, besides Cinder being mis-treated by her step-mother and trying to find a way to escape, all while trying to understand her mysterious immunity to the plague.
The “love story” between Cinder and Price Kai was cute and (best of all!) believable. Not too childish. Not too teen-romance-y. Just sweet and (again, because the Prince was involved) tragic. Well done.
It seems like a LOT happens in this novel, which is true, but I never felt over-whelmed or like I couldn’t follow or understand what was going on. Everything was arranged logically and clearly. All the characters were well-developed. I was really able to sympathize with both Cinder and Kai, and I really hated Queen Levana by the end of the novel. My only gripes were these: I was able to predict parts of the ending. Which was fine. I think the reader was meant to figure out the “big news” before Cinder did, and it didn’t spoil anything for me. I also wish Meyer would have just written the novel without the blatant Cinderella references. I get that fairy-tale retellings are super popular right now, but I thought the story stood well enough on it’s own, and didn’t need to be loosely based on Cinderella to be an excellent story.
I am very excited to read the next book in this series, Scarlett. Should be fun!