Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Grades 7 and up. Feiwel & Friends, January 2012. 390 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.
What if Cinderella was a cyborg?
(I mean, seriously, if that question doesn't intrigue you, I don't think we can be friends.)
Life in New Beijing isn't easy for Cinder. Cyborgs are considered second-class citizens and Cinder's expected to support her stepmother and stepsisters with the mechanic shop she runs at the marketplace. Add to that an incurable plague pandemic and the Lunars poised for war at the first chance they get... But when dreamy Prince Kaito, heir to the imperial throne of the Eastern Commonwealth, stops by her mechanic shop with a broken android, Cinder finds herself swept up in political battles beyond her control. With all the dangers facing the Earthens, it seems that Cinder might be the key to avoiding a devastating war.
Debut author Marissa Meyer combines excellent world-building with a compelling plot for one seriously awesome book!
First of all, the world-building. Cinder is set in New Beijing, a city rebuilt after the fourth World War. In this future Earth, most of the continents have merged, leaving a handful of very large countries. There are also people called Lunars living on the moon. The Lunars are the biggest threat to the Earthens. They have the ability to mess with people's bioelectric fields in order to compel them to do things, feel things, or see things a certain way. Plus, their Queen is seriously evil. Like, killed-everyone-who-could-be-a-threat-to-her-power type of evil. When Prince Kai meets Cinder, his father (the emperor) is dying from the plague, even as scientists work around the clock trying to find an antidote. It's not the most politically stable situation.
I totally dug this speculative world. The setting in New Beijing with Asian influences reminded me of the setting of Firefly. There's a lot going on, but it never felt overwhelming and everything was explained organically in the story. The book also never felt dense, as it easily could have been with all the political stuff going on in this world. There is a lot going on, but the book's very readable.
From the get-go when Kai and Cinder meet, there's romantic tension building. Although Cinder knows that if Kai knew she's a cyborg he'd be repulsed by her, she can't help falling for him. It's not something that happens overnight, but an attraction that builds gradually as Cinder sees the prince several times over the course of the story. Cinder's a believable character that I can get behind. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty or say what she thinks. She sticks up for the people she cares about. She's smart and she's got a plan to escape her situation.
I'd hand Cinder to fans of Graceling by Kristin Cashore (for the kick-butt heroine, romance, and political intrigue), fans of Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman (for the Asian-inspired setting), and anyone looking for a fairy tale retelling that's different from any fairy tale retelling you've ever read.
Cinder will be on shelves January 3!