Even as an adult, I still love fairy tales with Cinderella being one of my favorites. I love how Ms. Meyer has take the tale and meshed it with dystopian elements creating a thrilling adventure and a dash of romance. It stays close enough to the original tale to recognize it, but offers up many new plot, backdrop and character elements to take it well beyond and into something new.
Cinder is a cyborg and she is a mechanic in New Beijing. It is the future and the world has peace, but it isn’t a bright future for any human or human cyborg. The world is riddled with a plague virus and there is threats of war between earth and Lunar- the country on the moon. On a personal level, Cinder’s own existence is rather bleak much of the time. Cyborgs are treated as second rate citizens. She lives with her reluctant guardian and the lady’s two girls. Her guardian only took Cinder into her home because the lady’s husband adopted Cinder shortly before his death. Cinder like the original Cinderella is worked hard and never appreciated.
Suddenly, Cinder’s life gets a bit more interesting when Prince Kai comes to her booth in search of a good mechanic to fix his android. Prince Kai is not what Cinder expects. He is friendly and kind and she doesn’t want to see him look on her with disgust so she keeps her cyborg self hidden from him.
Events progress for both of them with Cinder learning there is much more to her than she realized even as things change in her home. For Kai, he is faced with the death of his father leaving him the new emperor when he is crowned and bringing an impatient Queen of Lunar to his palace with barely concealed threats if he doesn’t comply with her demands. The Queen plots against him even as he struggles to find a way to help his people and avoid war with the Lunar. The friendship between Cinder and Kai is something sweet to both of them, but their secrets and differences are destined to pull them apart.
While the plot of this book follows the Cinderella story, that by no means allowed me to feel like I knew exactly what was going to happen next or what each character was going to do or say. For one thing, one of the step-sisters is actually a sweetie and for another the plots and intrigue of the Lunar weave through things enough that I was kept guessing. I love stories that have plots and characters that are loaded with secrets that reveal yet another layer of secrets as they twist their way to the end. This one was no exception. I guessed the truth a few times based on some foreshadowing, but there were still a few shockers for me. Then there’s the fact that it ended on a cliffhanger that really deviates from the original Cinderella story.
The world building was fascinating. I loved the backdrop of post-WWIV Beijing that’s a combo of technology and struggle after natural and economic disasters have riddled the globe. I love the concept a human-like race living on the moon. The social issues of cyborgs, plague research and humans was all neatly done by showing the issues and the need for reform without heavy-handing the details. The Lunar people are another creative piece with their personal differences and different society.
The characters are well drawn. Cinder and Kai are easily likeable. The story only gives them a few scenes and they are wistful and friendly with a possibility for more with the bulk of the story sticking with the issues caused by the plague and the Lunar Queen. On Kai’s part, he would like to see more, but Cinder is a realist and knows a chance with Kai is just a dream. Although, we do leave Kai with Cinder’s poor old cyborg foot.
The secondary characters are not flat cut out figures just used to manipulate a scene. There are several characters that are of interest between a couple of Lunar along with the step-mother and step-sister roles that I just loved to hate, the ambiguous types like the doctor and the Emperor’s adviser that I can’t work out how I feel about them, and then the ones I loved like the younger step sister Peony and Cinder’s android friend, Iko.
The story is part of a series and I eagerly await the next installment in the Lunar Chronicles.
The story is devoid of bad language, sex, and little more than mild violence, but there are moderately intense scenes caused by the plague. I can recommend this for young and youngish readers who enjoy a futuristic fairy-tale retelling full of intrigue and just a hint of romance.
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