"She wouldn't fit in at a formal ball anyway. Even if she did find dress gloves and slippers that could hide her metal monstrosities, her mousy hair would never hold a curl, and she didn't know the first thing about makeup. She would just end up sitting off the dance floor and making fun of the girls who swooned to get Prince Kai's attention, pretending she wasn't jealous. Pretending it didn't bother her."
This novel is exactly what the cover image and the quote suggests: Cinder is a cyborg teenager who experiences all the typical teenage drama (what teenage girl hasn't pretended to make fun of other girls when they were really just jealous? I am finally old enough to admit that my cattiness is really my jealousy) on top of cyborg sci-fi problems on top of Cinderella problems.
The book features Cinder, an adopted cyborg, who lives in New Beijing as a part of the Eastern Commonwealth that was established after WWIV in the far future. Although Cinder is still a second class citizen in her home (evil stepmother/dead father are still a thing), she's also a second class citizen in her government: cyborgs aren't given full human rights. Although Cinder is still doing the work that her pampered step family is too lazy/bougie to do, she is a talented mechanic rather than a maid. There is no fairy godmother for Cinder; she creates her own Pumpkin and magic with her mechanical know-how. The future world of Cinder has hovercrafts, cyborg body parts, the equivalent of the iPhone27, a Lunar colony on the moon, and a Plague that is spreading.
"You see," said Dr. Erland, "Lunars are the original carrier hosts for letumosis. Their migration to the rural areas of Earth, mostly during the rein of Queen Channary, brough thte disease into contact wtih humans for the first time. Historically, it's a common situation. The rats that brought the bubonic plague to Europe, the conquistadors who brought smallpox to the Native Americans."The Eastern Commonwealth of course has a Prince, and I found his banter with Cinder to be charming and swoon-worthy rather than the typical overwrought and eye-rolly conversations that most YA romances are filled with
"Now, I don't want to tell you how to run your business or anything," he said, "but have you considered actually charging people for your services?"
"I don't want to tell you how to be a prince, but shouldn't you have bodyguards or something?"It is remarkable how Meyer has taken a story that everyone knows and given it fresh twists.
- We know that Cinder has to meet the Prince. We expect it will happen at the ball, but Meyer moves it to very early in the plot a week before the ball which leave us wondering: what is the conflict if not meeting the Prince? (this also gives them a chance to develop an actual relationship so there's not of that love-at-first-sight nonsense)
- We know that Cinder is going to end up at the ball, but Meyer puts in place enough roadblocks that make it apparent that going to the ball would threaten Cinder's life, so we have to wonder: what is going to happen that is more important than our protagonist's life?
- We know that Cinder is going to lose a shoe/foot, but the opening page has Cinder ditching her old cyborg foot for a new one, so we have to wonder: when and where is she going to lose her foot?
Cinder invokes the moral quandaries of what legal status cyborgs should have, whether it's worth it to sacrifice some for the betterment of many, how political alliances are built on shifting power structures, and whether people should marry for love or for practicality.
It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger which is no surprise since the back cover clearly advertises the sequels (Scarlet and Cress which are already out and the forthcoming Fairest and Winter). I hope that Meyer is able to keep up the stamina of the first books and tell a complete story. More disappointing than a bad book is a bad sequel.