Published by Square Fish in 2013. Originally published by Feiwel & Friends in 2012.
A Cinderella retelling set in the future, Cinder puts a fresh spin on familiar material, but unfortunately it stays too close to its fairy tale roots to really shine. The titular Cinder is a cyborg (part human, part android) who lives in New Beijing and works as a mechanic to support her adopted guardian, Adri, and two “step sisters”, Pearl and Peony.
Cinder has a lot of wonderful world-building in it. Set in future reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, New Beijing is a jumbled up blend of old an new. There are open-air markets where vendors sell silk and honey buns next to netscreens and androids. One day the prince comes to her shop asking her to fix his personal android; naturally Cinder feels an attraction to him. Meyer’s descriptions really bring the city to life, but Cinder doesn’t stop to examine this world and its seemingly complex geopolitical landscape too closely. Instead, Meyer sticks to the familiar plot of Cinderella.
When Cinder’s only friend, her step sister Peony, contracts an incurable plague that kills within days, Cinder is “volunteered” as test subject to find a cure. Meanwhile, tensions are rising between New Beijing and the Lunars, a terrifying and powerful race of humanoids who live on moon. Their ruler, Queen Levana, wants the throne, and will do whatever it takes to get it.
In addition to its Cinderella roots, Meyer throws in some “twists” along the way, though they are far from surprising (you’ll probably guess most of them within the first chapter or two). Despite the very predictable plot, I thought the book was a fun read and Cinder a very positive female protagonist. In spite of the unfortunate circumstances that have fallen on her shoulders, she remains kind, intelligent, and understanding. In the end, she’s unafraid to do the right thing. And the fact that she’s a talented mechanic? Even better! We need more women in STEM, even if they are fictional. A lot of care went into creating Cinder, but the rest of the characters don’t feel as fully formed. I also felt like the connection between Cinder and Kai was forced at times.
Cinder has a lot of flaws, but overall the book is fun, enjoyable, and creative. I’m not sure I loved it as much as some of my friends did, but I’d still recommend it if you’re a fan of YA or science fiction/fantasy books.