|+| Trigger: abusive family situation |+|
“But mirrors have an uncanny way of telling the truth.” ~Dr. Erland (Cinder)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA dystopian/romance; Faerie Tale retelling
Summary: 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.
Cinder was a tricky book for me to rate. It had diversity but that diversity was implied and never truly expanded upon. It had a strong and fleshed out cast. The plot was unique although the majority of the plot twists I predicted. The writing style was strong when focused on characters, yet I had a hard time visualizing the setting the characters were in. Overall I wound up giving this book 3.5 stars.
The biggest flaw of Cinder for me was the diversity. Or lack thereof. The characters were supposed to be Asian, specifically Chinese. We learn this because the story is located in New Beijing, the major buildings are built in the famous Chinese architecture style, all natives of the area have Chinese names, and twice do we catch a small glimpse of the old traditions. Despite having little to no elaboration on these traditions, we’re told that they’re vitally important to the people of New Beijing.
Considering the wealth of information on Chinese traditions, and how rich and vibrant the culture is, it shouldn’t be too difficult to pull a few references and implement those traditions into the book. Yet the book given excuse for the lack of elaboration on these traditions is that the war made it hard for the people to remember those things. A sort of valid, but lazy excuse. Frankly I was bummed because I had been told this book series had fantastic world building. Showing me the detailed cultures and building a new one off of the old one is a part of that, and Cinder fell flat in that area for me.
Considering the location and how the world is built Cinder should have had a lot of representation, yet overall I felt like these were white people with Asian names. No one truly acknowledged the culture that they were apart of. And that’s not really representation to me.
What won me over from the start were the characters. Each character is incredibly fleshed out, even the minor ones. Those that we don’t get to see much of, there’s a lot shown and implied to tell us that there’s a story there, even if we aren’t told it. I really appreciated that and it was one of the biggest things that made Cinder enjoyable.
The character interactions, especially Cinder and Kai’s interactions were fantastic. Nearly all interactions flowed smoothly and felt natural. We spend most of the book in Cinder’s head, and my heart really did break for her. Every so often we would have chapters in Kai’s head and that was refreshing as his personality and life situation is quite different than Cinder’s. We really get into the politics of the world here and that was a lot of fun to read. I think the characters, even Levana, despite her being the most hated character for me since Umbridge, were fleshed out and felt very natural. It was a major selling point for me.
This also ties into the descriptions. For the characters and how they felt, the descriptions were lovely and spot on, yet when it came to the setting I had a hard time picturing things. There’s such a huge opportunity to show/tell us the colors and sights and sounds through Kai or Cinder, yet most of what we get is very brief and limited, so I felt a bit ripped off at times. Thankfully, the descriptions for the characters and the strength of the characters really picked up the slack.
Another thing that made this book fun was the plot twists. Unfortunately I saw them all coming except for one. On the plus side, the one I didn’t see coming was the biggest and most climatic one. So it’s a bit of a 50/50 for me on that.
Despite its flaws Cinder was an enjoyable book that was well worth the read and left a lot to be built on in the rest of the series. What disappointed me in this book can be fixed in the other books, and from what Cinder gave me I feel that I won’t be disappointed in the rest of the series.
TL;DR: Overall Cinder is a fun and solid book. The characters are interesting and well fleshed out. While the plot twists were predictable to me, they tied into the plot very well and were very character driven. While I was disappointed in some areas (diversity, predictability of plot twists, lack of description) which lead me to give it a mixed rating, there was a lot going for this book, and I’d still recommend it. Cinder left me with high expectations so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series.