Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 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.
Oh my God, I wish I had Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles series to grow up to, because, damn, that is one hell of a story well told. It’s a perfect blend between Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Star Wars and Sailor Moon, and the first book, Cinder, was a great way to introduce us to the futuristic setting of Meyer’s world. I think it’s safe to say this is my favourite series right now, no competition whatsoever.
Forget about Disney’s depiction of Cinderella, Meyer’s title-character Linh Cinder (don’t you just love how easily that name works here?) is much more exciting! You know, instead of singing with animals and having to scrub floors (I’m not saying that’s a boring or bad thing, but I prefer my female characters a little bit more unconventional and it doesn’t get more unconventional than Meyer’s interpretation of the character, trust me), Cinder’s a cyborg mechanic mad about tinkering with anything and everything she can get in her hands. The land of far, far away is the Eastern Commonwealth of the Earthen Union, a new unified Asia that has existed for some 125+years. But next to new unions and countries having formed on earth, there’s also an entirely new kingdom on the moon – Lunar, to be more precisely! Earth and Lunar have a less than stellar relationship, and political disagreements with their tyrant queen have pained the Earthen Union for years.
So here we are, aspects of pretty much every genre ranging from dystopia to science fiction and fairy tales taking place all within the walls of the city of New Beijing – a world where cyborgs, humans whose bodies have been extended with mechanical elements, are being treated as second-class citizens since the Cyborg Protection Act, a law which not only prevents our heroine Cinder from being accepted into society beyond her mechanical skills, but also makes her a possible, albeit unwilling test subject for the union’s cyborg draft, to be examined in research for a cure for the world’s new black plague outbreak of letumosis. When Cinder meets Kai, the Emporer’s son, life seems to finally take a change for the better. But what would a retelling of one of the most famous and beloved fairy tales be without the evil stepmother that turns it all to hell, right? Trying to struggle with work, her growing (and unconventional) relationship with Kai, her friendship with robot Iko and secrets that seem to corner her every step she takes, there’s that ball to look forward to that will change her life forever – not because Kai has asked her to attend, but because even more secrets are going to be revealed when she comes face to face with Lunar Queen Levana and her mind-controlling entourage.
Cinder tended to be a little lengthy at times simply because a big part of the story was the calm before the storm, but ultimately Meyer did a terrific job of setting up Cinder’s journey, her being the red thread weaving itself through the series and its upcoming new characters, so to speak. Meyer’s stunning world-building and amazing character constructions make for an absolutely brilliant read. Cinder is misunderstood, but she’s yearning for so much more, and this smart and kind diamond-in-the-rough just screams for some amazing character development along the way. You just know that Cinder and Kai will be going through a hell of a lot of troubles and that this is only the beginning of a journey with so much raw potential, it sort of, maybe, quite possibly has become even more dear to me than Star Wars. Because here we have this amazing cyborg girl who is thrust into layers upon layers of secrets, and even though she’s been burnt her whole life, she’s determined not to give up. It’s something I’ve always loved about the original Cinderella tale, and something I am absolutely smitten with in Cinder, that the main character has always been strong and resilient, never losing focus on her dreams. And despite Kai being an Emperor’s son and all, Cinder owns this book completely. The discoveries she makes about herself and the history around her propel Kai and even funny and charming Iko into the background, and while both the reader and the main characters seem to have no clue how to initially operate in this dizzying enigma of a world, Meyer makes sure you know just enough to be begging for more – because she leaves us with that little bit of hope that we’re not just going to places next – we’re going to space!