Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: January 5, 2012
Add it: Goodreads
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..
If that sounds familiar to you, don’t worry because it’s more or less intended to be. If any of you are familiar with the flawless anime Sailor Moon, you will find an absolute shit tonne of references, homages and allusions in Cinder. I actually think it’s a pretty great attempt at embracing such an iconic show and it was fun for me to read and come across all the different references and such XD
So, in this vision of the future we’re introduced to a world which has advanced technologically to the point where sentient Cyborgs exist. Enter Cinder, our resident Cyborg and heroine. As in the original tale, Cinder is pretty much a slave in her own home; the twist in the novel is that due to circumstances in her past and the law of the land, Cinder is literally owned by her stepmother and thus has no real agency or freedom. This relates to another aspect of the future Meyer depicts in her novel – the world Cinder inhabits is one in which a fatal, incurable disease is rife within the population, and Cyborgs are often contributed to science as test subjects for attempts at creating a cure, all without their consent. Cinder was a great character – she was intelligent, sarcastic and strong. One of the strengths of this novel for me was how Meyer took a really old fairytale with a traditional female character and gave her depth and personality. I cared about Cinder and wanted good things to happen for her; I think she still has room to grow and become even better as the series continues. I did also love the little references to the original tale – how Cinder’s foot literally comes off at a pivotal moment is probably my favourite scene in the whole novel, just because it’s such a clever adaptation choice. The pumpkin carriage being a rusty orange car that represented freedom to Cinder was also another favourite reference <333 The reveal of who Cinder really is didn’t feel shocking to me, but I think the novel leads up quite well to that particular moment. It just made me laugh because:
My only complaint with Cinder is that, even though the novel is set in China, our main character isn’t Chinese. I just feel like Meyer could so easily have made her character a POC, and the fact that she chose not to is a really awkward choice.
For the most part I really enjoyed the world-building in the novel – it read as though Meyer had put thought into it and as a result was pretty easy to fall into. The vivid descriptions of New Beijing, the Palace and the characters that we meet during the course of the novel all helped to make the world believable, if fallible. But I did have some issues, starting with the treatment of Cyborgs. If you live in a world that treats your people like property at best and doesn’t recognise your right to choice and freedom, why exactly would you fall over yourself to be loyal to the ruler who enforces the system? Which is what seems to happen in Cinder – the people are weirdly fond of their ruler, to the point where everyone cries when he finally dies. GUYS, HE’S BEEN OPPRESSING YOU FOR YEARS, THE ONLY TEARS YOU SHOULD BE CRYING ARE ONES OF JOY! It did amuse me that the only real villain of the novel is a Queen of a distant nation while all the problems found in New Beijing (and Earth in general, a whole system made up of monarchies are you fucking kidding me) were largely ignored.
The Queen was a pretty great villain, all things considered. We don’t learn very much about her other than the deeply suspicious way she took the throne, and that her people are ruled by fear and manipulation. I just loved everything about her – the way in which she used beauty as a weapon and how she used her sexuality to make men cower (SO GREAT).
Also, Prince Kai is Tuxedo Mask. Look inside yourselves, you know it to be true. He was an okay character but interesting is not a word I would ever use to describe him. He just felt flat to me, which was fine tbh because the story was about Cinder, and not the dude she had a crush on.
Overall Cinder was a unique novel and one I enjoyed for the most part. The world-building had its flaws and in some ways let the novel down, but I think that since this is a series there is time to smooth out the problems. Also I read the synopsis for Scarlet, and since it’s a retelling of Red Riding Hood I think we can all agree that Scarlet:
Sailor Moon is the best and everyone should watch it tbh.