Feiwel & Friends, $17.99/$9.99 digital, January 3, 2012
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl....
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
Talk about fresh! Cinder by Marissa Meyer is the most fun take on the Cinderella story I’ve read in a long while. Note to readers, however, that it appears to be first in a series; the story ends at a dramatic point, and the romance isn’t entirely resolved.
The opening paragraph sets everything up beautifully, turning a major aspect of the fairy tale into science fiction, a technique that Meyer uses to great effect throughout the novel.
The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean.
Meyer introduces us to the wider world with vivid detail. It’s soon clear that cyborgs are a despised minority in this society, adding to Cinder’s conflicts. However, she’s a skilled mechanic with pride in her ability, and that helps keep her from wallowing in self-pity.
With a spine-popping stretch, she pulled her dirty fingers through her hair…then grabbed her blackened work gloves. She covered her steel hand first, and though her right palm began to sweat immediately inside the thick material, she felt more comfortable with the gloves on, hiding the plating of her left hand.
Cinder’s outcast status becomes part of her situation with her stepmother, who had additional legal rights over her because she is not fully human. There are also allusions to Jane Eyre, as Cinder was adopted by a man who is now dead, leaving his wife to care for her.
[Cinder] might have pointed out that, as she was the one doing the work, the money should have been hers to spend as she saw fit. But all arguments would come to nothing. Legally, Cinder belonged to[her stepmother] Adri as much as the household android and so too did her money, her few possessions, even the new foot she’d just attached… She was cyborg, and she would never go to the ball.
…“Obey your orders. Right. Like, ‘Do the chores, Cinder. Get a job so I can pay my bills, Cinder. Go play lab rat for these deranged scientists, Cinder.’
The story wouldn’t be complete without a prince—in this case a Crown Prince, in line to become Emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth. He and Cinder meet when he brings her a broken android to mend, and they swiftly hit it off, but Cinder is wary because of her low social status, and fearing rejection, hides the fact that she is a cyborg.
He seemed taller in real life and a gray hooded sweatshirt was like none of the fine clothes he usually made appearances in, but still, it took only 2.6 seconds for Cinder’s scanner to measure the points of his face and link his image to the net database.
The traditional “going to the ball” plot is complicated by an epidemic of incurable “leutmosis” that’s raging across the world, and attempts by the Lunars (inhabitants of the Moon) to take over through marriage into a royal family. In this science fictional version of the tale, the Lunar Queen serves as an Evil Fairy, with bioelectric “magical” abilities. Cinder’s carriage is, of course, not pulled by horses, but it is appropriately archaic, and the author’s sense of fun comes through how it’s described.
What I loved most about this novel, aside from the clever reimagining of Cinderella, was Cinder’s voice and her practical personality. Her sarcasm didn’t hurt, either!
“I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”
I can’t wait to find out if she does!
Victoria Janssen is the author of three erotic novels and numerous short stories. Her latest novel is The Duke and The Pirate Queen from Harlequin Spice. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.