In Marissa Meyer’s reimagination of the Cinderella story, a deadly plague ravages the human population of New Beijing while the conniving alien race of Lunars watch indifferently. Linh Cinder, part cyborg and full-fledged mechanic, is scorned for her mixed makeup by her stepmother, even more so when it seems like her beloved stepsister caught the plague and Cinder remains healthy. To save her stepsister’s life, Cinder reluctantly agrees to serve as a guinea pig for Dr. Erland’s search for a cure. Meanwhile, she has caught the attention of handsome Prince Kai, who doesn’t know she’s a cyborg and who is considering a marriage alliance with the ruthless Lunar Queen Ravenna in order to save his people from the plague. Unfortunately his growing relationship with Cinder brings them both into danger under the Queen’s cruel eye as the destruction of Earth seems imminent.
Honestly, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to jump on The Lunar Chronicles bandwagon because it appears to have everything I loved – retold fairy tale in a cyberpunk dystopia with shady aliens AND sassy robots. Plus, I adore the cover art of Cinder’s mechanical leg, though I do wonder why it’s a ruby slipper rather than a glass one.
Since books, particularly in fantasy and even more particularly in YA, are seldom set in Asia, I was initially excited about the “New” Beijing setting; however, with the exception of the market scenes at the beginning and the naming conventions, this world was too disparate from ours for me to even understand the point of tying it to a modern locale, much less one as richly historical as China. The more general world-building, from the interplanetary struggles to the tense political connections between the remaining Earthen nation-states, appeared quite intriguing, but again I needed to know more that what Meyer has thus far exposed. I trust that she will thrown in additional details in the sequels, including fleshing out the circumstances of cyborgs and their second-class citizenship in the Eastern Commonwealth.
32% cyborg Cinder was a well-developed protagonist, a sharp and resourceful planner with a loving heart but a skeptical nature. I am impressed by her out-of-the-box hobbies and talents, like remodeling cars and fixing machines, and sympathized with her about her shame and oppression for not being fully human. She made some rash decisions, but at least understood there are consequences to her actions. I also liked Kai, who was considerate towards and respectful of Cinder but also believably worried about compromising his duty. There was no easy path for either of them and the abruptness of the ending caused absolute devastation in my heart, but I’m sure I’ll eventually get my happy ending – they well deserve it. And it’s so rare that I find a literary romance that I root for.
While the foreshadowing became a bit obvious to the reader, Meyer did an excellent job of blending familiar elements of the fairy tale with a few surprising twists. I’m actually waiting for the last book to come out before I venture onwards in the series as I can’t stand waiting. I know they’ll be entertaining in spite of these few mentioned imperfections.