Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Cinder - Marissa Meyer (#1)

I saw this frequently on the blogosphere with many bloggers raving about it, on their 2012 to-reads - needless to say, there was a lot of hype about this book. Which is what intrigued me when I found a copy at my local library. I nearly put it back down when I found it but thanks to my Goodreads app, I had a look at reviews and decided to give it a go. Wow - so glad I didn't put it back on the shelf...

Synopsis: The population of New Beijing holds mostly humans and androids. Oh, and Cinder - a cyborg. A deadly plague has swept Earth and the Lunar people on the Moon are waiting for their next move to start a war. No-one quite realises that the future hinges on Cinder herself. - neither does she. She is a second-class citizen with an unknown past, with an evil stepmother for a guardian and blamed for her stepsister's illness because she is...well, different. Soon her life becomes intertwined with Prince Kai's and she becomes caught between duty and freedom, past and future or loyalty and betrayal. She must uncover her previous life in order to help the future.

Review: So obviously my first thoughts were 'Really, a cyborg that's based on old fairytale of Cinderella?' I wasn't sure. I think the thing that made me doubtful was that this sounded such a far fetched story - something no-one has done before. I was so intrigued but I didn't know if it would let me down. Looking back now, that is such a stupid thought. I don't know if this review will be sufficient in showing my thoughts on this book - I shall try.

The novel is loosely based on the classic Cinderella story, the first in four books based around our traditional fairytales. There are all the elements we recognise in there - the ball, dresses, evil stepmother and sisters, handsome prince. But then, there are new things that really make this book unique (Exhibit A: Cinder is a cyborg).
Cinder's story is really unique, really. She was adopted by a brilliant scientist who died not long afterwards and since then, she has been with her stepmother and their two human daughters, Peony and Pearl. Another twist - Peony is her best friend and the less 'ugly stepsister' of the two. Cinder's guardianship means she earns money for the household while doing chores with the help of her assistant android with a faulty personality chip, the hilarious Iko. Because of working at the market every day, she has become one of the most skilled mechanics, so it is no wonder that the Prince approaches Cinder with his broken android for help.

My favourite part of this book was the subtle homage to the late Cinderella story - not the Disney one (although I love that film), the original fairytale. The setting is New Beijing - a city rebuilt after World War Four. Of course, the original Cinderella story was set in the Eastern world so I liked this touch. The ball where the prince dances with all the legitimate young ladies - ah, favourite part of Cinderella (and of the book!). Marissa Meyer has created a book that hasn't copied word for word the story of Cinderella but based Cinder around this idea and added her own unique and quirky edge, making this such an interesting, dense novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was nice for the major countries where most books are set (America and England) to move away from the spotlight for a bit. They placed such a minor role in the book (Nice reference to English royal family - 'Queen Camilla' - if anyone catches my drift...)

The story is really engaging, especially the climatic scenes at the end. We are drip fed information and there are moments where they're just going to reveal it...and then, something happens to stop them. Yes, it is frustrating but oh my, it made me devour this novel. I admit, it takes a while to warm up, but by halfway through, this book grabbed me, swirled me crazily to know what happens, and then spat me out in the end - stunned. There are so many things discovered in this book, I wonder what new things we will find out in the next. Although, there were all these interesting cliffhangers and revelations, some of them were quite predictable, but then, some weren't. The ending of the book I didn't expect at all, but the revelation at the end I guessed early on. The last page holds the moments after the major event at the end so if you read the last page (like I did) it is hard to discover what happens throughout the book. A good choice if those reading are like me!

Cinder herself, could be seen as irritating as she is quite cynical and sarcastic. But I liked it! I liked that she was a bit different - went away from the things most girls drew towards. She wasn't fazed when the Prince casually turns up at her stall - as you do - unlike Iko or Peony. She wasn't fazed when he helps her and flirts with her. She was very cool, calm and collected and not incredibly girly like Cinderella is mostly depicted. She has attitude and doesn't mind using it on those above her. Her sarcasm provided some much needed funny moments to the book, which otherwise may have been quite intense.

Prince Kai. Well. I can see why he is seen as quite a catch. I was starting to fall for him like the other single ladies in this book. He could be played two ways - incredibly pretentious or incredibly modest. Meyer optioned for the latter and it worked really well. He was this child Prince that suddenly had a lot of responsibility with the Lunar Queen demanding to marry him. He has deal with this and is only 18. With the combined sarcasm and humour for Kai and Cinder, it made a lovely relationship to read about and some of the most readable parts of the novel for those that did not like this book. They built their relationship up from helper, friends and then more. There is an instant where it all comes together and you want desperately for it to work out.

The other characters are all lovely. Adri, Pearl and Levana I hated. I loved the characters of Peony and Iko and the way they help Cinder. Dr Erland was a strange character - I'll leave your views on him for later.
This novel holds all the ingredients for a great book and it delivers. For those who are sceptical about a Cinderella re-telling with a cyborg, just go for it. It's so worth the surprise.
Meyer, my hat goes off to you, well done for making such a lovely, surprising, thrilling novel based upon one of the most loved fairytales. I cannot wait for the next in the series.

Verdict: Bottom line? I really really liked this book.

I give it 5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 387
Publisher: Penguin
Challenges: None

The next book in the series SCARLETT will be released in 2013 (oh, so long...)

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