4 out of 5 Stars
I’ve been eyeing this book since it first showed up in bookstores several years ago. The cover was beautiful but otherwordly. And honestly, Cinderella as a cyborg? Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that concept?
Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it “a matter of national security,” but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on.
Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived.
But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.
I really liked this story even though I had some issues with it.
The story is told mainly from the point of view of Cinder, an orphaned cyborg mechanic living in New Bejing. Cinder has had a difficult life- orphaned at a young age and adopted into a family with little love for her- so she’s a realist with few hopes for the future beyond the possibility of freedom from her drudging station. The fact that cyborgs are considered second-class citizens doesn’t help the situation. When the son the the emperor wanders into her shop one day looking for help fixing his personal android, Cinder isn’t quite sure what to make of the situation.
I loved the fact that, although this is a retelling of Cinderella, Cinder isn’t your typical princess type of girl. She’s not afraid to get dirty and do hard work to get what she wants. Since she’s a mechanic, she’s more likely to be covered in grease with her hair up in a messy ponytail, rather than mooning over pretty dresses and royal balls. But her best friend, a tiny android named Iko, is more than willing to make up for Cinder’s lack of femininity, leading to amusing results.
Cinder is set in the Eastern Commonwealth, a territory made up of what used to be eastern Asia, so the story incorporates some elements of these cultures. Though I was somewhat disappointed that often the cultural elements seemed shallow at best, usually limited to clothing and food rather than social nuances and traditions. The novel is futuristic, taking place several hundred years from now, and displays several interesting technologies, medical advances, and a new deadly disease that’s plaguing humanity. Although this information was fairly well incorporated throughout the book, I felt like some of the science should have been fact-checked more closely.
Despite some missed opportunities, the story is beautifully written and action packed. The novel roughly follows the story of Cinderella, making it slightly predictable, but not so much so that it took away from the story. The character interactions range from adorable to hilarious, and horrifying to heartbreaking. Although Cinder falls rightly into the category of YA, there are several instances of psychological abuse, violence, and death throughout the story, so be warned.
Overall I enjoyed this easy read and would recommend it for any fairy tale lovers out there. Four out of Five Stars!
Happy Summertime Reading!