Talk about judging a book by its cover! While searching for a completely different book, I found Cinder, book one of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer and was intrigued by the stunning cover – it’s one that warrants closer examination and functions beautifully as a metaphor for the entire story. The title grabbed me as well as I adore retellings of the old tales (if they’re done well) and “Cinderella” (the Grimm and earlier versions) was always a particular favourite.
Set in the city if New Beijing, in a future where World War Four happened over a hundred years earlier creating new geo-political allegiances and countries, the Moon is not only settled but is populated by a hostile race of “Lunars” who utilise “magic” (which is rationalised scientifically) as a form of control, a strange plague is decimating the people of the city, this a science fiction novel par excellence that dives straight into the story and lets the world building occur organically, within the telling. Cinder, the main characters is not only a cyborg, but a gifted mechanic who works in a crowded bustling market where she is all but ignored by the other retailers, but not customers who appreciate her talents. But it’s when one particular customer enters her premises, that her life changes…
Following the fundamental tropes of the original tale from which it draws, and paying homage to Anime at the same time, Meyer’s book nonetheless manages to offer something unique. While Cinder is an orphan who was adopted at the age of eleven and lives with her step-mother and two step-sisters, there’s a prince and a ball, that’s where the similarity really ends (bar a couple of additional bits, but I don’t want to spoil the story). Cinder is a loyal and courageous young woman whose self-esteem has been crushed but not broken by her step-mother. Her talent as a mechanic allows her a level of freedom and access to others, as does her friendship with and ability to repair robots and her own mechanical limbs.
Aware she is a cyborg and that they’re regarded as inhuman and less than second-rate citizens, Cinder harbours no ill-will, only a painful awareness of her lack of worth which translates into an acceptance of sometimes harsh and unfair penalties.
When the dreaded plague impacts upon Cinder and those she loves, and the hostile Lunar Queen descends to earth with an offer she won’t allow to be refused, Cinder is forced to confront not only her past, but her destiny as well.
Tight prose, believable characters, a once magical plot grounded in science and futuristic tropes, this is a terrific read that should tick all the boxes for lovers of science fiction, romance, recast fairytales and just well written imaginative novels. It also explores friendship, xenophobia, disease and the terrible toll i! takes, loss, refusing to be victim and staying true to oneself.
The ending sets up the next book in the series reasonably well, though also obviously if not clumsily (when you read it, you’ll see what I mean – the action/motivation doesn’t quite ring true – I don’t see why what’s suggested has to wait). Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the next novel in this series very much and will be interested to see how Meyers, who used the original tale so well thus far takes this beloved character and plot into new territory.