Being a cyborg in New Bejing means being a second class citizen. Cinder knows it only too well – she has to work and earn not only her living but also the living of her small family, consisting of her stepmother and two stepsisters, Peony and Pearl. Fortunately Cinder is an extremely gifted robotics mechanic (not unlike little Anakin Skywalker), already renowned in the city despite her young age. One day even prince Kaito, the heir apparent to the imperial throne, pays her a visit in her little shop. He has an android to repair – an old one he keeps only for sentimental reasons. Or so he claims.
Cinder finds the prince very handsome, very kind and even funny. She is afraid to admit that she falls for him head over heels – after all she has a snowball in hell chance to be the right bride for a future emperor. She is over 36% artificial, she has no money to speak of and her stepmom simply hates her guts. Still a cyborg can dream, can’t she? Well…soon enough her dreams must disappear – Peony, the nicer of her stepsisters, accompanies her to a local landfill site and falls ill. She catches a virus of lethumosis, a mysterious disease similar to the bubonic plague – incurable and very deadly. Of course Peony’s mother blames Cinder for it and decides to make her stepdaughter “volunteer” as a scientific guinea pig. So far none of those survived. The stepmom thinks she is so clever – not only she gets rid of Cinder, she is also paid for it. Sounds like a sweet deal but…Cinder returns. And she strikes back. 😉
What I liked:
The originality. It is not easy to work with such a well-known stuff as Cinderella and still produce an original book. Every kid and their parent can correct you (or at least have some remarks) but I must admit I was sold as soon as I started this one. New Beijing. Cyborgs. A handsome heir apparent who doesn’t want to be an emperor at all. A nice teenager girl who earns her living as an open-air market mechanic instead of whining, flirting, swearing and combing her hair. It was actually funny but reading about Cinder I thought all the time about Luke Skywalker or his dad. I couldn’t help it. Luke and Cinder were both orphans raised by foster families. They both had some shadowy secrets to discover. Cinder, like both Skywalkers, had a bionic limb (but no, she didn’t get hers because she fought evil Sith lords with a light saber 😉 ) and liked tinkering with robots. She also had a snarky android friend. The book, like the Star Wars movie, was peppered with funny scenes. Still it remained original.
Cinder and her love interest, prince Kaito, are real assets here. Both, despite their young age (late teens) have suffered serious losses and have to shoulder great responsibilities. Both are pressurized into choosing between an evil and another evil. I liked their slow romance a lot – no ugly love triangle, not many adventures, a YA book with just one kiss and still it kept me riveted! Well done! Making Levana an evil Lunar queen was a great move. The author reverted the usual order, popular in such stories – here an adult woman is an aggressor and a young, inexperienced man – her victim. Mind you it is an YA book so you won’t find any sordid details here – prince Kai just grits his teeth and soldiers on, poor thing.
The pace of narration was great – not too quick, not to slow but you didn’t want to stop reading. I especially enjoyed the build-up toward that great annual ball and you see, that’s the beauty of a well-told story: you know Cinder will attend the ball although she repeatedly declines the prince’s invitation, you know the prince will finally fall for her and she for him but still you are wondering how and when and for what reasons. That’s how a good fairy tale adaptation should work.
Finally the cover art -I like it a lot and I find it really suitable, especially the title font. It took me to the Moon and back…;)
What I didn’t like:
Firstly I was a tad surprised reading that Cinder, left without any schooling or tutoring at 11, was such a fantastic mechanic. If the author made her stepfather live a little bit longer all of it would be far more creditable. Even Anakin had to be taught this and that.
I admit the baddies were a shade too one-dimensional. This novel deserved something better than an all-evil queen-autocrat or a horrible full stop horrible stepmother. I do hope though that it will be improved in next installments – it is just the beginning, right?
I also was a bit disappointed by so few world building elements and minor glitches. We know there are many cyborgs in New Beijing but we are shown just Cinder and her problems. The Lunar queen comes with a visit but we know very little about the settlements on the Moon – how they became possible at all, what discoveries and technical inventions allowed that (apart from magic that is). Once again – plenty of material to be developed in other books. Hopefully in a creative way.
I am definitely interested in reading the next part of Lunar Chronicles. Actually I am pretty curious what path Ms Meyer will choose: will she continue adapting the same fairy tale or will she tell another story? No matter what her choice is, may the Force be with her…ehem…good luck!