Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Why did it take me so long to read this book?

Why did it take me so long to read this book?

Title: Cinder

Author: Marissa Meyer

Pages: 400

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (January 3, 2012)

I’ve spent the past four days devouring the entire Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. That includes the three main books (Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress) as well as the prequel back story (Fairest) and the free online short stories (Glitches, The Queens Army, Carswells Guide To Being Lucky, and The Little Android).

They’re hella fun. And cool. And I’m late to the game but at least now I can enjoy the final installment Winter at the same time as everyone else when its released in November 2015.

I’m going to do individual reviews for each main book separately so without further ado here are my thoughts on the very first installment Cinder…I’ve kept everything pretty spoiler free including the quotes.

Summary from Marissa Meyers website

“Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.”

As you will surmise from the above Cinder is a futuristic retelling of Cinderella. I loved it. Alas it took me awhile to come around to as I was at first uncertain whether the setting was going to be my thing. I’m a little weary of dystopian settings. It got so big it’s welcome has worn a bit thin on me. But not in this case. Yes the future here is a weird place with high levels of control and lack of privacy (if someone tried to put one of those ID trackers in my wrist the result would not be pretty). But all of it comes together to build a world and a story that I was excited to read about. The fact that Cinder was a cyborg (due to deathly injuries incurred during childhood) turned out to be one of my favorite things about the story and a source of huge vulnerability for her. Meyer really nails it when it comes to modernizing this character. Much like in the origin story Cinder is sweet, downtrodden, and dirty (grease instead of ashes though we eventually discover the name Cinder does have a literal meaning). However she is also physically strong, unnaturally skilled, and the prince a  secondary component in the destiny she is hurtling towards.

The setting is in New Beijing (the majority of Asia is now dubbed the Eastern Commonwealth) and focuses around Cinder and her step family, Prince Kai, Dr. Erland and Queen Levana. The chief conflicts in the story revolve around a devastating plague, impending war with the Lunars (a civilization on the moon), and cyborg rights. For all that it is an easy story to follow and not as complex as it sounds. Mostly its just good fun. Meyer includes all the most iconic Cinderella moments into her futuristic tale, you recognize the story even as as it weaves through and adds a host of new and compelling additions.

Here is a run down of the main characters:

CINDER 

Cinder is a brilliant cyborg mechanic with quite a few missing years (like everything before age 11), a mysterious past, and spends her time in cargo pants, ratty tees and covered in grease. Cyborgs don’t have many rights and she is therefore the property of her shrew of a stepmother. She is strong and smart, shy and stammering, and all kinds of lovely and kick-ass.

PRINCE KAI

Kai is the son of the Emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth. He has lost one parent to the plague that has been sweeping Earth and is about to lose the second. Isolated by his position, kind, and of high integrity he takes an unusual level of interest in Cinder after approaching her about fixing an old droid he’s had since childhood.

DR. ERLAND

Dr. Erland is head of a research project aimed at eliminating the recent plague (called letumosis) of which no one thus far has survived. In order to test cures a Cyborg Draft was instituted to acquire test subjects. But why is Dr. Erland so biased towards testing on teenage cyborgs of the female persuasion? At first I worried he was shady and so may you. No spoilers.

Queen Levana

Levana is the Queen of Luna. Relations between Luna and Earth have not been good for a long long time. Luna began as a colony but over time their genes transmuted to allow them special abilities that Earthens do not possess and puts them at risk of Lunar manipulation. She equates to the Evil Queen in this series.

Favorite Quotes:

“She kept her head high, even as her eyes stung, even as panic filled her vision with warnings and precautions.
It was not her fault he had liked her.
It was not her fault she was cyborg.
She would not apologize.”

“You yourself said there will be horrible consequences if she doesn’t get what she wants. I am not worth starting a war over.” His eyes brightened behind the spectacles. He looked young for a moment, almost giddy. “Actually, you are.”

“She was a cyborg, and she would never go to a ball.”

While I wouldn’t say the plot holds a ton of big surprises, how we get from here to there  felt is fresh and original enough. The following two books Scarlet and Cress still heavily feature Cinder, this is her series and others are brought into her quest. The writing style and plot acquires more surprise and complexity in the following two installments while still keeping the big moments from Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. I’m really impressed with how Meyer transformed these stories and made them intersect.

5 STARS

Now if you haven’t already, Go Read It!!!

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Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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I’ve decided to kick things off by reviewing my favorite book from last year.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge is a Beauty and the Beast retelling in a Greece-inspired alternate world that also had a Tam Lin element towards the end. It was far more fun, original, and sexy than I’d have guessed…though I do wish it had been published in the NA genre so some of the constraints could have come off.

At the start our cruel heroine Nyx is preparing for her impending nuptials to the Gentle Lord, a demon prince who has been lording over the island of Arcadia since it became cursed. She has been groomed her entire life for this task, to marry and kill her husband and save her world.

For all her alleged cruelty, I found Nyx to mostly be resentful of her less-than-stellar family and suspicious of her new partner. She has a clear focused mind, a sharp tongue, and is mostly a good person. We all have anger issues and being raised as a sacrificial lamb probably isn’t going to help alleviate them. She wasn’t a diva or particularly ego driven, therefore I found her to be refreshingly mature as far as YA heroines go.

Our Gentle Lord goes by the name of Ignifax, which we immediately learn is not his real name, a fact that plays an important part of the tale. Nyx is surprised (though we are not) to discover he is beautiful, all kinds of sexy, and for the most part treats her well…though both Nyx and the reader aren’t sure of his nature. I enjoyed seeing some echoes of the fairy tale Bluebeard also worked into a part of this story.

Ignifax's description reminds me a bit of Tom Hiddleston's Loki.

Ignifax’s description reminds me a bit of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.

Nearly the entire book takes place in Ignifax’s mysterious castle, where we discover some odd rooms and peculiar objects that give strong hints to the nature of the curse over Arcadia. I enjoyed the stories tight focus on the only three people living in the castle, Ignifax, Nyx, and shadowy ethereal servant Shade. This wasn’t a big epic tale with a cast of colorful characters and in this case I’m glad.

Things turn south once Nyx returns home for a spell and is forced to make some choices between love and duty. I thought this played out in a way both beautiful and original. It is here also where the echoes of Tam Lin came through, as Ignifax and Nyx interact with beings known as the Kindly Ones.

Cruel Beauty was my favorite book of last year, it was romantic, sexy, poignant, and sad.

I leave you with a snippet…

“I would do it again and again. Every night I would torment you and laugh. Do you understand? You are never safe with me.” I drew a shuddering breath, trying to will away the sting of tears.

He opened his eyes and stared up at me as if I were the door out of Arcadia and back to the true sky. “That’s what makes you my favorite.” He reached up and wiped a tear off my cheek with his thumb. “Every wicked bit of you.”