Cinder by Marissa Meyer

There’s been a bit of a trend in recent years of retelling fairy tales with a modern twist.  Plenty of authors have tried, but few get it right (in my opinion).  So when I read that debut author Marissa Meyer had written a retelling of Cinderella I was a bit skeptical.  However, the more I read about this version of the story, called Cinder, the more I wanted to read it.  In Cinder, Marissa Meyer has taken Cinderella’s story and set it far in the future, years after World War IV, in a world with hover cars, droids, cyborgs, and a devastating plague that is wiping out civilisation.

Cinder is a gifted mechanic in New Beijing.  While she looks like a normal girl, she’s actually a cyborg – part girl, part machine.  She doesn’t remember anything from before her surgery, when she woke up as an eleven year old cyborg.  The only family she knows is the man who adopted her (who died not long afterwards), her cruel step-mother Adri, her step-sisters Peony and Pearl, and her her droid, Iko.  After her ‘father’ died she was left to her step-mother who blames Cinder for his death.  Cinder works all day at her mechanic’s booth in the market, only to pass on anything she makes to her step-mother. It is while she is busy working at her booth one day that the handsome Prince Kai comes to get his droid repaired. Just after the prince leaves, a case of the plague is discovered at the market.  These events lead Cinder’s life to be entwined with Prince Kai’s.

When Cinder’s step-sister, Peony catches the plague and is taken to quarantine, Adri blames Cinder.  She sends her away, against her will, to become part of the cyborg tests to find a cure for the plague.  It is here that she meets Dr Erland, who helps Cinder unlock her past and discover who she really is.  However, the truth is dangerous.  The mysterious Queen Levana of the Lunar People is coming to Earth to meet with Prince Kai, and Dr Erland warns Cinder that Queen Levana must never see her.  But Prince Kai’s droid has revealed secrets to Cinder that she must tell the prince before it is too late.

Marissa Meyer has woven a story that has elements of the original Cinderella fairy tale, while also being unique and breath-taking.  Marissa has introduced us to this plague-stricken world that has risen out of a devastating war.  It is a world filled with androids that are everything from nurses to escorts, humans that have been patched up with mechanical parts to create cyborgs, hover cars that have replaced automobiles, and a race of people that live on the moon and can manipulate humans.

The Lunars were one of the most interesting parts of the story and it seems that they will be central to the other books in the series (Scarlett, Cress, and Winter).  The mystery surrounding them and their bio-electrical powers really hooked me and I want to read the next books in the series to find out more about them.

Both Cinder and Kai are great characters and you really feel for them and the situations that they are forced into.  I thought Kai was very different from the arrogant, Prince Charming character that we’re used to from other fairy tale books.  He is put under a lot of pressure but doesn’t cave under it.  He’s not afraid of Queen Levana and not afraid to stand up for what he believes in.

There’s something for everyone in Cinder – mystery, suspense, science, robots and romance.  I can’t wait for Scarlett in 2013. Thanks Marissa for a great start to 2012!

5 out of 5 stars