Author: Marissa Meyer
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars
In all honesty, the only reason this novel is receiving nearly three stars is because the second half of the story was fast-paced, amped up the action, and was genuinely interesting. I didn’t think you could possibly go wrong with a Cinderella re-telling, let alone one involving a futuristic setting and cyborgs; unfortunately however, it turns out I was wrong. Cinder is one of those novels which had a lot of potential, but simply failed to live up to the hype surrounding it. While I enjoyed its overarching story and admired the strong – and surprisingly realistic – characters Meyer brought to life, both the lack of world-building and predictable plot ruined this novel for me.
Cinder, a cyborg, is the best mechanic in all of New Beijing. While her days are mostly spent doing various chores for her ungrateful stepmother and stepsisters, she still manages to be a mechanic. When handsome Prince Kai stops by, requesting her to fix his android, things slowly begin to change. For one, her kind stepsister Peony falls ill and is infected with a deadly and incurable disease. In her rage, her stepmother sends Cinder off to be a lab rat as she is a cyborg and is worthless to those around her. Meanwhile, Prince Kai’s father is dying from the same disease Peony has been infected with and as his death looms closer, so does the inevitable visit of the evil Queen Levana of the Lunars – people who possess magical glamour abilities and live on the moon. Levana has her own agenda and wishes to marry Kai to secure an alliance between the two planets and use her deadly abilities to take over. Yet, in the midst of all this, Cinder, who is being used to find a cure for the disease that plagues this nation, might just have more power, more importance, and more strength than she thinks. She, a lowly cyborg, may be the key to solving the plethora of problems surrounding them – if only she can understand how.
I know, I know, with a synopsis like that how could I not have liked this novel? I can sum that answer up in one word – predictability. I don’t think you have to be particularly intelligent to figure it out, but I was able to solve the mystery behind the plot of this novel less than 15% into it. In most cases, this slightly bothers me, but in the case of Cinder, I found this to be irritating to no extent. Marissa Meyer is a debut author, which is why I think her “subtle” hints at the huge plot twist/cliffhanger at the end were not-so-subtle, but I found Cinder herself to be remarkably stupid for not putting together the pieces before the last page of the story. If Cinder had somehow found out about this vital information/plot twist before the end of the novel, I think it would have made for a far more interesting and realistic plot. Unfortunately though, I find that Meyer was simply too focused on sticking strictly to the story arc of the fairy tale Cinderella herself and refused to take that creative leap of faith and change up the direction of her novel. I think readers who didn’t know the plot twist at the end would have enjoyed this novel far more than I would have since I found myself to be bored during many scenes and rolling my eyes at the obviousness of the whole situation during others – something which, I can assure you, you don’t want to find yourself doing while reading a book.
The predictable plot line aside, I also found the world-building to be strangely lacking. I love the world Meyer has created within Cinder and I thought it was not only creative, but original as well. Yet, I found that we were given practically no information at all about it! I believe that when an author is setting out to write a dystopian novel, regardless of whether or not they intend to change that into dystomance, they should first clearly outline the nuances of their futuristic world. While I understood that Cinder lived in the future, years after WWIV had taken place, and Earth was challenged by extra-terrestrial Lunars and humans suffered from an incurable disease, I knew nothing beyond that. Were the Lunars humans who had evolved to somehow channel magic? Or were they aliens? If so, were there other planets humans knew about? Even simple questions about Earth itself were left unanswered such as why the people had re-instated a monarchy rule instead of opting for a democracy which is a more popular form of government today or why, with such advanced technology, further improvements had not been made to somehow prevent the spread of this disease through some other method either than finding an impossible cure? While I hate information dumping, I still like to know my fair share of information about a dystopian setting, and I found myself to be very much disappointed by the unanswered questions Meyer left. In fact, I think many of the answers to these questions can be easily amounted to fairy tale necessities such as having a prince instead of a monarchy and only one conflicting extra-terrestrial challenge opposed to many. Nevertheless, I was unhappy by this development – or lack-of really – within the novel.
My qualms with this novel aside, there were aspects of it which I enjoyed believe it or not. For one, I loved Cinder. I thought her character was strong, courageous, brave, and reasonable. She had certain goals in mind and no one, not even the prince and her affection for him, came in the way of that which I admired. Furthermore, I enjoyed her interactions with Prince Kai. Although much of their dialogue was rather clichéd, I found their growing relationship to be nicely developed. In addition, Prince Kai himself is not your usual haughty monarchy. I liked his personality and his treatment of Cinder, despite her lowly status, was admirable. Yet, the best characters in this novel were the secondary characters themselves – Iko, an android; Peony, Cinder’s kind stepsister; and the doctor at the royal science lab. Not only did they play important roles in the development of Cinder and the novel itself, they were also exemplary, interesting, and fun characters to meet.
All in all, I guess you could say I liked Cinder. I found the pace to be quite comfortable, the characters to be enjoyable, and I loved Queen Levana as the villain as well. I also enjoyed the thorough employment of third person point of view, enabling us to see the political scheme in the palace as well as Cinder’s life. Yet, while I liked this book and can see why others will come to love it, I did not enjoy reading it. My experience was ruined by the predictability of the plot and the lack of world-building which I found to be disappointing, and I can say with perfect clarity that this novel does not live up to the hype. In fact, I doubt I will be picking up the sequel unless it is available in my library and I find myself with nothing else to read. I myself would not recommend this book, but as I seem to be in the minority with my rating, I’d tell you all to give it a try. Still, I’d caution you to go in with low expectations – if not, you might find yourself to be sorely disappointed and reduced to a pile of unhappy cinders like me.