Marissa Meyer rides a tight wave between creating something completely new and fresh whilst acknowledging a well known fairy tale. She rides the crest with panache and perfectly bringing home the story which is loosely based on Cinderella. In her case, using Cinderella as a mere launching point is just the right tack to take. I’ve been on a YA spree of late and am perfectly happy to remain in it with writers like Ms. Meyer. Her blend of SciFi, adventure and romance is spot on. She uses well written, tight dialogue to bring out and develop her characters, deep and rich description to build her world, consisting of a future Earth and Lunar (Moon) and number of difficult scenarios to build interesting relationships. All of this wonderful writing however, is just so much gas for the engine of her fabulous story. Ms. Meyer is fundamentally a storyteller – it is the narrative arc that compels us to stay up much too late into the night reading her novel.
Before I go on, I want to give a slightly different “full disclosure” – Ms. Meyer and I are both alums of Pacific Lutheran University – Go Lutes! I didn’t find this fact out until after I read the book, so there’s really no bias towards a fellow alumnus who is a depressingly large number of classes behind mine (hint: different centuries).
So let’s step back and take a quick look at this story. Enter our protagonist Cinder; she’s the (mostly) unloved adopted daughter who, due to an accident, is a cyborg. Cyborgs are a caste below; they are not quite second class citizens. For most of her life, the only ones who care for her at all are her sister Peony and her robot Iko; Iko is probably capable of a deeper relationship than Peony. Cinder is the breadwinner in the family, working as a brilliant mechanic/electrician who skills range from fixing androids & ports (tablets) to repairing old cars. Enter one Prince, who needs his robot repaired. A whirlwind of adventure ensues involving plagues, politics and passions. One of the intriguing aspects of the book is guessing where the Ms. Meyer’s story and the famed fairy tale will intersect. Trying to guess when, where or if she’ll bring in a particular element of Cinderella was definitely part of the fun. A couple of other nice aspects of the story are that while Cinder bemoans her lot in life, she is not, on the whole, a whiner or complainer. Finally, it’s nice to have good guys and bad guys, with a few pleasant “nice guys” like Peony befriending Cinder. I know some will complain that the characters aren’t nuanced enough; they’re too black and white. None of them are perfect; Dr. Erland is particularly conflicted and willing to do whatever it takes for his, admittedly, laudable goals. However, back to the point: not every hero needs to be an anti-hero, nor do all the bad guys have to have deep-down nobility. I liked how the characters played out.
Why is Cinder such a great story? Well, it’s a brilliant premise. Oh wait, maybe her story craft is so good precisely because of her tight dialogue, world building, engaging characters and intriguing relationships harnessed to a great story idea. The true worth of the book, of course, is how these elements are all woven together. There is no great story without good writing. Cinder’s character makes sense in the context of her world, her step-mother’s near madness ties in with the old story but makes sense in the new context. The pacing of the dialog is perfect for characters in this world. It’s also seeing the juxtapositions: Cinder/Cinderella stories, modern cyborg/dusty old marketplace or devastating disease/beautiful castle. We do care for the characters and the country they inhabit. I could go on about the story, but without revealing any spoilers, I will simply say catch up on your sleep before you start and start on a Friday. You won’t want to stop.
As is my practice, I went back and forth between the Kindle and Audible versions (using the magic of Whispersync for Voice to keep moving), although I did a lot more listening than reading given the fabulous narration of Rebecca Soler. She has definitely entered my pantheon of beloved narrators. Her voice is a natural for Cinder so her talents truly shine when she has to stretch out and voice Dr. Erland, Prince Kai and the impolite tones of Queen Levana. I also love her enthusiastic Iko. She maintains each character’s voice in the the quick give-and-take dialogue Ms. Meyers uses. Overall her pacing gives you a sense of the urgency and excitement of the story while being able to follow it easily. I’m really glad she narrates the other books in the series.
I’m looking forward to Scarlet and Cress. I highly recommend Cinder to young and old alike.
Cinder @ Amazon
Cinder Audible @ Amazon