Author: Marissa Meyer. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Feiwel & Friends. ISBN: 9780312641893.
Personal thoughts: After reading many novels that have a great premise but poor execution, I was worried after reading what Cinder was about that, with such a strong and interesting idea, it might fall victim to the same fate. Fortunately, this is far from the case! Cinder is a truly enjoyable story and I was very impressed with Marissa Meyer’s skills as a writer after diving into the intricate world she created. The part of the novel that I found the most intriguing was her descriptions of the Lunars. Their back story and the character of Queen Levana are very interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with that the most as the series continues. I am chomping at the bit for the next novel!
Plot summary: Sixteen-year-old Cinder Linh is a cyborg. Part human, part machine, she lives as a second class citizen in the commonwealth of New Beijing, hundreds of years after the end of World War IV. Her stepmother, Adri, and stepsister, Pearl, are cruel. Constantly berating her and reminding her of her place as a metal monstrosity, Cinder’s only comfort is in the affection of her kind stepsister, Peony, and the family’s quirky but loving android, Iko. After her stepfather’s death years earlier left the family penniless, Cinder works as a mechanic in the New Beijing marketplace, fixing broken androids, hovers, and portscreens. Cinder is shocked one day when Prince Kai, the only son of New Beijing’s emperor, visits her shop with an old android that has stopped working. Cinder is puzzled as to why Kai would not take the droid to a royal mechanic, but suspects that it contains confidential information and agrees to fix it for Kai. What Cinder doesn’t know is that letumosis, a deadly plague that has killed hundreds of thousands in New Beijing alone and has infected Kai’s father, Emperor Raikan, is going to claim another victim: Peony. Inexplicably blaming Cinder for Peony’s contracting the disease, Adri sends Cinder to the palace to be a part of research conducted on cyborgs to find a cure for letumosis. As part of the antidote experimentation, Cinder is infected with letumosis so that her body’s reaction can be studied. What happens changes her life forever: it appears that Cinder is the only citizen of New Beijing who is immune to the plague.
Review: Fun and inventive, this first installment in debut author Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles is an entertaining start to what is sure to be a popular series for young adults. Set in the futuristic commonwealth of New Beijing, Cinder weaves a complex but engrossing plot, creating a cast of characters and story that is sure to last through the remaining novels in the series. As the title implies, the story is a very loose interpretation of the classic Cinderella tale. The evil stepmother and stepsister are present, as is the ball, and the handsome prince. Cinder herself, however, is far from the beautiful yet demure servant in the Disney version. A tough cyborg mechanic, Cinder doesn’t swoon at the feet of Prince Kai, nor does she take the abuse she is subjected to lying down. Cinder is determined to escape her stepmother’s house, even going so far as to restore an “ancient” gas-powered car to do so. The addition of the plague to the novel also veers the plot away from the traditional fairy tale. The fear of letumosis is something that permeates the story, creating tension that readers who have experienced a chronic illness in themselves or a family member will certainly identify with. Danger from the Lunars, the inhabitants of the moon lead by the beautiful but evil Queen Levana , adds another intriguing element to the plot. Overall, Cinder is a thoroughly enjoyable debut novel and can be easily enjoyed by a variety of young adult readers. The second installment in the Lunar Chronicles, Scarlet, is set to be released in 2013.
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting, Legend by Marie Lu, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, The Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano.
Themes: Cinderella, cyborgs, plague, fairy tales, war, royalty, dystopian.
Awards/Reviews: Starred review from Publishers Weekly. Positive reviews from Horn Book Magazine, VOYA, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Kirkus and Booklist.
Series Information: First installment in the Lunar Chronicles. Second installment, Scarlet, set to be released in 2013, third installment, Cress, in 2014, and fourth installment, Winter, in 2015.
- Why do you think Adri and Pearl were so cruel to Cinder?
- Why did Kai bring his broken android to Cinder?
- Do you think Dr. Erland is a protagonist or antagonist? Why?
- How would you explain the “magic” of the Lunars?
- How does letumosis compare to any real-life diseases?
- What would you like to see happen in Scarlet?
- Who was your favorite character in Cinder? Why?