Monday, April 30, 2018

CINDER (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

AUTHOR: Marissa Meyer -- Twitter | Website
PUBLISHED: January 3, 2012 by Feiwel + Friends (Macmillan) 
GENRE: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance
PAGES: 387
SOURCE: Self-purchased
BUY IT: Books-A-Million | Barnes and Noble
Find it on Goodreads

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 should probably start this off by saying that this is not the first time that I've read Cinder. Back in the first days of 2012 when it first came out. It was just after Christmas, and Cinder was the first book I purchased with a B&N gift card for my Nook was Cinder. I'd seen it all over the book stores, heard phenomenal things about it and was really excited by it.

I tore through the book in about six hours and of course, just like everyone else, I loved it. But I loved it so much that I knew I would have a hard time waiting for the other installments. It just wasn't anything like any other series I read. So I made the conscious decision to purchase each new book in the series as it came out -- I even managed to get a signed copy of Fairest -- and then once the series was finished, I would start it all over again.

Fast forward to February 2017 when my great aunt passed away and I was suddenly boarding a flight to Dallas with the Lunar Chronicles packed in my bag. I started Cinder on the plane.

Most people who've read my blog before know I have cancer and a few other health conditions, so a flight to Texas in the middle of winter was not exactly in the plans. My immune system takes a major dip every winter. But ironically, the very fact that I have cancer is exactly why I was the only member of my immediate family to be able to go and represent the nieces and nephews from our side of the family. Besides that, my cousin is one of my very best friends, and my great aunt is her grandmother. I couldn't not go.

But I did get very tired out, very quickly and a few days, I had to stay back and just rest. Cinder was my companion for those moments.

And though I did remember lots about the book, I'm really glad I didn't just skip to Scarlet, because there were so many things I forgot and also so many little nuances that I didn't pick up on the first time around because I read it so fast. 

The common thread that runs through Cinder is the original fairy tale Cinderella. Like the original, the main character Cinder is, on the outset, nothing close to a princess and least likely to ever become one. 

The book takes place in New Beijing, a city established in the year 126 T.E., which stands for Third Era, which began after World War IV. The F.E., or First Era, is what is commonly referred to now as B.C. (Before Christ) or B.C.E. (Before Common Era), and the Second Era (S.E.) takes place after Jesus's life and through World III and World War IV. Basically, this takes place way, way, way far in the future. So far in the future that there are actually people, known as Lunars, living on the Moon, often referred to as Luna.

New Beijing is built in the area that China used to occupy, before the the World Wars and is now referred to as the Eastern Commonwealth, ruled by a king, whose son, Kai, is approaching ascension to the throne rapidly as his father suffers from a terrible plague that runs rampant across the world and for which, there is no known cure. Meanwhile, he is facing advancements from the Lunar Queen, Levana, who in order secure a truce with the people of Earth whom she's long sought to reign over, requires his hand in marriage. And she holds hostage the only cure for the plague that is killing not just Kai's people, but people of the entire world.

The only other hope for the Earthen people is possibly a myth, one that tells of Princess Selene of the Lunar people. Selene's mother was slain by her own sister, Levana, and if alive, Selene is the only legitimate challenge to Levana's reign of terror. But there is no proof that Selene survived an attack from Levana as a toddler and so information surrounding her is no more than folklore.

The title character, Cinder, is a half-human, half-cyborg mechanic whose biggest dream is to get out from under the thumb of her evil, narcissistic, self-involved step mother Adri, who makes no bones about the fact that she got stuck with Cinder when her husband, who originally adopted her, unexpectedly died. While Cinder loves her youngest step-sister Peony, her older step-sister Pearl is a younger version of Adri. All the women of this family are desperate to meet Prince Kai, and as luck would have it he turns up one day at her mechanic's booth in the city with an android that has been mysteriously tampered with -- and he becomes smitten with Cinder, unaware of the fact that she is Cyborg.

Cinder's life has always been, from what she remembers, difficult. When she finds an old broken down car, she and Adri's android, Iko, hatch a plan to runaway from the Commonwealth and leave Adri and her oppression behind during the night of the ball at the Palace to celebrate Kai ascending to the throne.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the story is that Cinder only has about five years worth of memories. The rest of her personality is inexplicably missing. She's told it's due to the fact that she was in a car crash that killed her parents and which she only managed to survive by becoming part-cyborg. Everything else is missing, as if it didn't ever even exist. This is what drives the entire novel -- this unraveling of who Cinder is, especially when she attracts the attention of a scientist working to discover a cure for the plague.

As every thread of who Cinder is begins to unravel, she falls in love with Kai, despite the fact that he has no idea that she is a cyborg and she is too ashamed to tell him. 

All the characters in Cinder are incredibly well-developed which is part of why the novel is so successful. But it's the lack of knowledge about Cinder herself that keeps it exciting. It's the constant development of Cinder blooming beyond what her station in life would've allowed for and far beyond her own expectations for her life that creates an effortless, exhilarating story. Cinder gives readers a character to root for and more than just mimicking Cinderella, provides a metamorphosis from ugly duckling to swan that can resonate with everyone -- teens and adults alike.

The world around Cinder is also extremely well-built. You can envision the landscape that the characters live with in and feel the pressure of Luna staring down upon them. It's also a story that echoes a bit of the world we currently live in -- a pressure-pact political environment where the world feels like it could be blown to bits any minute.

I enjoyed Cinder even more the second time than I did the first time. It's even more impressive when you consider the multiple element this first volume of the series houses -- it's sci-fi, it's dystopian, it's romance, it's a fairy tale retold -- and yet somehow, it is a successful example of each genre without it feeling too full or without any aspect being underwhelming. These are the kinds of books I crave and the kind of authors I look up to. That Meyer could do all these things and come up with a series that includes four novels, one prequel, and a book of short stories is so impressive to me, and I've just read the first installment.

I gave Cinder 5 HEARTS without question and look forward to reading and reviewing the remainder of the series.

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