March 5, 2012

Cinder: A Close-Up Review

"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." (from Goodreads)
Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This review has taken me a long time to write, but it's finally ready! I know quite a few snippets of this review are in white, but they contain pretty major spoilers.


Cinder: I wasn't crazy about her, but she certainly has some admirable qualities — she's quite mature and responsible, very practical and tough. She's had to fend for herself and it shows, but she does put others she cares about (like Peony) first when the situation calls for it. On occasion she demonstrated a snarky, sarcastic sense of humour that I wish we'd seen more of, but she's very serious most of the time. Indeed, I thought she was a little too responsible/conscientious at times; she could use a stronger sense of curiosity! There was one point at which she had the opportunity to learn some important information, but she decided to take the "honourable" route (spoiler, highlight to read: she had the opportunity to listen to Kai's android talk about the missing princess, and she told it to stop talking!).

I enjoyed seeing the bond between Cinder & Peony — it's clear she really cares for her and puts Peony ahead of herself. Just generally, actually, I think she's used to putting humans first; she seems to have a kind of "I'm-an-inferior-cyborg" complex that she needs to get over. It sometimes comes off as false modesty, since Cinder is often spunky and forward, rather than obedient or submissive. However, I don't think that's the intent; rather, I'm pretty sure this is meant as a demonstration of the consequences of the society's attitude that being cyborg makes a citizen inherently inferior. 

Kai: Because it's written in third-person we do get to see Kai's perspective in some chapters, and it was neat to get a peek into how he views things. Kai seemed a bit more light-hearted overall than Cinder in his approach to life, which was needed to balance out Cinder's serious nature. I thought he showed a lot of potential to be a leader, but also the naïveté and youthful nature that a prince suddenly forced to take on the role of a king would have. He also needs to challenge his prejudices and assumptions, which I suspect will happen throughout the series as he grows as a character. While they do have a few cute exchanges, for most of it, I wasn't really feeling the chemistry between Kai and Cinder, unfortunately.

Queen Levana: I wasn't that impressed with her, frankly. She's stereotypically villain-ish — overconfident and self-centred — but she didn't seem smart enough to be the all-powerful queen everyone is intimidated by. I found her annoying but not terrifying. Some plot holes also popped up with regard to the queen and her powers. For instance, why doesn't she just manipulate Kai into marrying her? He doesn't seem as susceptible as some to her powers, but I think she could probably wear him down. I mean, really, she's been trying to get this alliance-through-marriage happening for a long time now, and it still hasn't worked, so why is she persisting with approaching this through diplomatic means? You'd think she'd be tired of waiting — although she does strike me as a fairly passive character, especially for a villain. Plus, everyone seems to think she's infallible, but I think someone really should have been able to incapacitate her if they'd given it a try. Ultimately, I just didn't respect Levana, and I often like to be able to respect a villain.

Other side characters: Iko was a fun character with a lot of personality (more than an android "should" have) and I wanted more scenes with her! She had this wonderfully bouncy, peppy attitude. And Dr. Erland really grew on me. (Spoiler: I admit I didn't trust him at first and I was kept guessing a little about his role, but by the end he seemed pretty awesome. Loved the really cool mechanical gadget-hand he gives Cinder!) Also, did everyone spot the cameo fairy tale character? I loved that addition! (Spoiler: the girl from Luna with the super long hair...totally Rapunzel.)


Originally I thought Cinder was quite a creative spin on Cinderella, set in this world of intermixed fairy tales and with a complete overlay of sci-fi worldbuilding. The parallels to the Cinderella fairy tale are admittedly very loose; I would have liked the similarities to have been made more salient. But for the most part the basics are there, and Meyer adds a lot to the bones of the original, the result being a very different retelling. However, it has since been pointed out to me by a fellow reader that there are some strong resemblances to another well-known storyline (spoiler: Sailor Moon, which I am not very familiar with), so perhaps it's not quite as creative as I had first believed. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing how the series continues and the fairy tales mesh together.  

There's a lot of "sci-fi talk" in here that either went over my head or bored me. I make no bones about the fact that I am not a big sci-fi reader; I don't have much interest in gadgets and technology or aliens and death rays or anything like that. But I do enjoy fairy tales, so I thought this book might help me overcome my aversion to sci-fi. Unfortunately that didn't really happen. Cyborgs, androids and the like just don't seem to be my style, and I always have trouble visualizing exactly what's going on when there's discussion of technology. (I was a bit more interested in the biological/genetics side of things.)

I'd like to know more about the history of the world, as I thought that not all of technology is at the level you'd expect it to be this far into the future. There are different stages of technology present here (for instance, Cinder has a metal leg and hand, rather than a more life-like prosthetic, but there are also androids wandering around). Perhaps this discrepancy is due to the fact that Cinder is poor and a "second-class citizen," so she can't afford the actual good technology...but I'd still like a better explanation of how the society, and particularly the technology, developed. I'd have been more impressed if there was some more creative technology — most of it didn't seem to be projected very far into the future or reflected common sci-fi ideas (like the hovers and androids). 

I was admittedly skeptical about the Lunars and their abilities at first. I was going, "A civilization on the moon? Seriously?" But once we actually get to see some Lunars, I warmed up to the idea a little more. However, there is one aspect that I think really requires a major suspension of disbelief. Spoiler: the mutant army spotted on the moon. I found that just too over-the-top to swallow, although perhaps once it's explained and expanded upon later on in the series, it might make more sense.


I found the first two-thirds to be quite sluggish; every time something exciting happened, something else then slowed it down. Thankfully things livened up in the last third or fourth of the story, though. 

Pacing aside, I found the plot to be altogether too guessable for the most part. Early on I had guessed a couple of the secrets already (Hands? Who figured out these spoilers right away? Cinder's identity as the Lunar princess and Dr. Erland's identity as a Lunar.) The clues were just too obvious, and even when it wasn't really clear what was being hinted at, it seemed like there was a red flag to the reader going, "there is a hint of some nature here!"

I thought it showed real guts on the author's part to commit to one particular plot point that packed a punch the reader wasn't expecting (spoiler: Peony's death!). But I did find there were some plot holes throughout, and the climactic scene didn't blow me away. (Spoiler: I thought the cyborg planning kicking in at the last minute to save Cinder from shooting herself seemed a little too convenient.) I wasn't a fan of how the whole glass slipper aspect of the fairy tale — one of the most important parts — was transformed in this version. Also, I thought there needed to be more of a fight; there are lots of revelations, but I would have expected Queen Levana to make a huge commotion. However, I liked the ending and think it will segue well into the next book. 

Final verdict: 3.5 shooting stars. I wasn't very emotionally invested in the story/connected with the characters, but I'm still looking forward to the rest of the series. I think it'd be particularly interesting to see one of them set on Luna!

Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC for review from the publisher. Also, I did attend one of Marissa Meyer's signings prior to writing this review — I'd hope that has not biased it but you never know! (On a sidenote, she is super friendly, and the signing was a lot of fun.)


  1. I am *so* impressed by the depth that you go to in this review - and thanks so much for whiting out your spoilers (I wish more bloggers did this!) It's a shame the SF elements didn't work for you, but they don't suit everyone :-)

  2. I didn't think Cinder had the inferiority complex. It's just what her society reinforced and she was made a victim so that didn't bother me as much. I'm still a bit unclear about the Lunars and how that society works which I hope will be explained much later. Overall, I thought the sci fi and fairy tale elements worked well. I couldn't help but picture Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons while reading the story!

  3. I actually really liked this one even if I guessed the big secrets early on and the sci-fi stuff went over my head. Iko is adorable, and now I need to see if I can spot the other fairytale character too.

    I love fairytale retellings but I don't mind when the connections are a little looser. As long as I can tell a bit, I'm happy. I've never watched Sailor Moon so I have no idea how strong Cinder's connection was to it, but I know Meyer is a big fan of Sailor Moon. She was extremely nice when Raincoast set up a video chat with her so I'm jealous you actually got to attend her signing, Danya!

  4. I really loved Kai in the bits we got to see of him; he seemed like a good guy and I can't wait to read more about him!


I love comments, so post away!

Related Posts with Thumbnails