Book Review: Cinder

When I first heard about this book, I was skeptical. Cinderella and cyborgs? Ummm, sounds crazy. 
Allow me to eat my words.
If you’re looking for another gushing review for Cinder… you’ve found it.

by Marissa Meyer

*Debut Novel*
Read on Kindle
Genre: Science Fiction, Fairy Tale Retelling
Big Themes: prejudice, plague, war/peace, duty

After a terrible childhood accident, Cinder is alive but left an orphan and part machine. A plague has reached pandemic levels, and the emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth is on the brink of death as his teenage son prepares for the heavy responsibility of leading his people when they are on the brink of war with the Lunars (humans who moved and established their own nation on the moon). Cinder is a mechanic and an outcast in a society that is prejudiced against cyborgs. When the prince shows up at her mechanics booth in the market and requests help repairing an android that holds secret information, Cinder catches his attention and becomes entangled in plots much bigger than those of her evil stepmother. (Seriously, this book is so huge and so much happens that this was a very difficult summary to write. I hope I intrigued you, not confused you)

What I Liked:

First off, one of the biggest reasons I liked this book is because it’s like nothing I’d read before. It was refreshing, original, and pleasantly different. Where have you ever read cyborgs, plague, and moon colonies paired with a prince, evil stepmother, and royal ball? Then throw in a war, some wontons (the story takes place in New Beijing) and a big question of what it means to be human… Bam! This is one crazy recipe, but Marissa Meyer got it all to work. I was left satisfied, but hungry for her next concoction.

Main Character: Cinder is awesome. She’s strong-willed, independent, loyal, and… a mechanic! Yay to girls in traditionally male occupations! And she’s got this cool little orange light that blinks when someone is lying to her!  Awesome.  I want one.  One of the things that unnerved me at first, but I later grew to like, is that her physical appearance is never dwelled upon or described in depth. At first this bugged me because I was having difficulty picturing her. I could picture her robotic arm, leather boots, gloves, and knew her hair was in a ponytail. But I had no idea what color hair she had or how dark her skin was or what color her eyes were. In the world of YA lit, especially after Edward Cullen’s bronze hair and topaz eyes were described a bazillion times, you come to expect repeated, detailed physical descriptions. I grew to appreciate that Cinder’s appearance wasn’t dwelled upon because it kind of sent a message that her appearance wasn’t the most important thing about her. And I liked that. I really liked that. And I think that message was echoed in other scenes… but I don’t want to give any spoilers…

Secondary characters: A very rich cast of secondary characters from Iko the android with a personality malfunction, to Peony the lovable little sister, to Prince Kai and his heavy responsibilities, to the mysterious and suspicious Dr. Erland. I’d love some more insight into the Lunars, but for now I think they are meant to be an enigma.

Setting: I really loved that she chose to center this story in a New Beijing. I loved the hints of Asian culture. While this book probably won’t fit the definition of hard science fiction, it was far more technical than I expected from a fairy tale retelling. There are plenty of gadget references that sound sufficiently advanced. There is an especially cool section where the rebuilding of Beijing is described and how state-of-the-art technology was hidden within old world details. There was a cool side-mention of a transatlantic maglev train. The one thing I want more info on is the Lunar kingdom. It wasn’t a place they travelled to in this book, but more details in future volumes is definitely expected.

Plot: Excellent pacing and suspense. I really don’t want to elaborate in this category because I don’t want to have any spoilers. But with a fast-spreading plague, world on the brink of war, and secret plots against the prince, you’ll have more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. There is some predictability because the story is a fairy tale retelling. There are moments you will see coming. And if you watched any Sailor Moon as a kid… one moment will definitely come as no surprise! But there is enough fresh and original material from the sci-fi concept that you will never be bored. And anticipating the “Cinderella moments” had it’s own little satisfaction when they came true.

BONUS: Thank you Marissa Meyer for writing a YA book that I could recommend to my advanced 6th graders. Some middle grade books are too easy for them. Many YA titles are too risque. There was no cursing, mild violence, and no sex (just one little kiss at the ball). It’s getting harder and harder to find books that aren’t pushing the boundaries. You didn’t cross any lines, and still managed to write an engrossing story for teens. Hurray!

I always feel like the real testament of a great story is when I finish the book and think, “Man! That was a great idea for a book! I wish I’d come up with it!” As much as I wish I’d come up with the idea for Cinder, I think only Marissa Meyer could have pulled this off. Bravo! And can’t wait for Book 2: Scarlet!

My Rating: 

A full five stars. I’m already going through Cinder withdrawal and I finished the book yesterday. I’m tempted to read it again!

This book fulfilled two of my challenges:
Debut Author Challenge
Fairy Tales Retold Challenge

13 comments on “Book Review: Cinder

  1. andreamantis says:

    Alright, that's it. I'm definitely getting this one with the Barnes & Noble gift card I just got for my birthday. Great review! And that's awesome that you can recommend it to your students! And I feel the same way about books I love – I'm always like, "Man, I wish I could have come up with that!" 😉

  2. I love reading all the reviews on Cinder. Marissa's been my friend for several years now, and the reception she's getting for her first book is so heart warming because she deserves every bit of it.She says we'll actually get to visit the Lunar Kingdom in the fourth book (!!!) which I'm really excited to see. The Lunars are one of the most interesting aspects of the story to me (though the swoon-worthy love interests definitely help). I like what you said about the physical description of Cinder. I'd never thought of it that way before.Also, I was wondering, on the Kindle did it have the same type set as in the physical books? Because I thought the typography was gorgeous in the physical books.Okay, I'm done blabbing. Great review! ❤

  3. LHughes says:

    I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did!(Aren't gift cards to book stores the BEST birthday presents!!!)

  4. LHughes says:

    I read Marissa's guest post about the writing process for Cinder and how she wrote 70,000 words, deleted it, and started again. That kind of work ethic in a writer is always so impressive, and I can tell she really earned this warm reception for her first book!I'm sooooo excited we'll be visiting the Lunar Kingdom!The pages with the Cinderella quotes were in a different type set than the other pages, but I'm guessing the other typography wasn't the same… 😦 I'm very tempted to go out and buy a hardcopy of Cinder because this is the kind of book that I'll want one of. Plus, I'd love to meet Marissa at some point and get it signed!Thanks for stopping by to comment 🙂

  5. fakesteph says:

    I requested this book from the library and am impatiently waiting to get it. I've only heard good things about it and can't wait to read it!

  6. LHughes says:

    I hope you love it, too! I'll be watching for your review to see your thoughts 🙂

  7. elena says:

    I know, I think Cinder has such a great premise! Haha, I liked the bit about Sailor Moon because Marissa Meyer being a Sailor Moon fanfic writer really showed in this book for me. It was a both a blessing and a curse in reading the book for me! I've pretty much only heard good things about it and your review is wonderful!

  8. LHughes says:

    I knew about her Sailor Moon background too, and while it made parts predictable (curse), it was also nostalgic because I liked Sailor Moon as a kid (blessing):)

  9. Hilda says:

    Amazing review, thank you! The Sailor Moon background sounds really interesting, I can't wait to read the book and fine some part to remind me of the cute anime. I've grabbed my copy of it and can't wait to start reading it! 🙂

  10. LHughes says:

    I'm hoping the sequels will have little bits that remind me of Sailor Moon too! You can definitely see how it's influenced her. 🙂

  11. Ooooo great review. You've gotten me super excited to start listening to my audiobook of it.

  12. LHughes says:

    I hope the audio book is good! It'd be cool if they did like sound effects and stuff. I'm imagining all these tech and robotic noises!

  13. Small Review says:

    I love the way you broke your review up in to sections and gave soooooo much information about the book! I adore reviews that give me lots of info without giving me spoilers. Nicely done! I also really like how your review is a mix of your response as a reader and as a writer. I'm not a writer at all, so I'm really enjoying all of the peeks you're providing into the mind of a writer 🙂

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