Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Lunar Chronicles #1
Puffin Books 2012
The first thing I want to say is how happy I am this was written in third person. I’m not too fond of first person narration, but was prepared for it – and was pleasantly surprised!
Cinder is actually very good. Although it took me a while to get into it, once the plot picks up it was such a pleasure to read. The style is light and the short chapters help you just breeze through it. I didn’t pull an all-nighter with this, but about 250 pages in I did get the “one more chapter” feeling! That, in my opinion, always counts for something.
As to the setting, I like it. I’m particularly delighted by the idea of Lunars – the setting of the book is Earth and a Beijing of the future, although my mental imagine of it kept returning to American apart from some occasions – who are the magical beings, in possession of the gift of glamour that has to do with bioelectricity and neuroscience. The Earthens are wary of the moon because it is said the Lunars can control them from there, which of course links to the lunar effect. This science fiction-y way of explaining it is something I find appealing. The only thing that jarred for me was the notion that once a human becomes a cyborg they lose their status in society. I’m not sure I quite believe people would think that just having some pieces of you replaced with mechanics makes you less human.
The characters I found likeable and realistic enough. I’m not exactly excited about any of them, but on the other hand they did nothing to annoy me. Cinder is sensible and not too perfect; Kai is not as much of a douche bag as I have recently found YA heroes to be. There are some lapses in reactions and the relationship between actions and words, but those are slight and some of them explained by Cinder’s… composition, I might call it.
Obviously this is also a fairy tale adaptation, as made clear by the title and the cover. In this, I find Cinder very successful. Adaptation is tricky business, and the most important rule is to keep it familiar enough but also make it new, and Meyer manages that very well. The elements of the Cinderella story are there, as well as some smaller hints to other fair tales, but they don’t feel forced and sit neatly in the narrative. The science fiction element brings the newness to them.
I also want to mention the balance between politics, character, and romance. It’s excellent. The romance does not take centre stage (this is definitely no romance novel), which pleases me very much when international – or intergalactic – politics are discussed. The main focus remains on Cinder and her role in the events, but the other points of view, mostly Prince Kai’s, emphasise the political aspects. The adaptation also plays a role in this, as it guides the reading – there is no need to concentrate on the courtship plot when the reader knows how the fairy tale ends. The use of a story known to all allows the narrative to focus on Cinder and the larger plot, with a side of very light romance.
Cinder gets a 4.5/5 rating from me, although I suspect it may rise to 5 when I have let it simmer a while. Although I don’t feel any burning need to read the sequel, I’m pretty confident I will pick up Scarlett sooner rather than later.