“Imagine there was a cure, but finding it would cost you everything. It would completely ruin your life. What would you do?”
Cinder is the first installment in Marissa Meyer's young adult, science fiction series The Lunar Chronicles. Each book within the series retells a classic fairytale: Cinder is "Cinderella," Scarlet is "Little Red Riding Hood," Cress is "Rapunzel," and Winter is "Snow White." In addition to the four major installments, Meyer added to the series with Fairest (#3.5) a story of the coming-of-age of the evil Queen Levana (the Queen from "Snow White") and Stars Above (#4.5) a final set of stories to accompany the series and provide a look into the future for the characters.
This year I have been trying to catch up on young adult series I didn't have time to read while finishing grad school. The popularity of The Lunar Chronicles in addition to my own love for studying fairy tales put the series high on my list.
Because I don't usually read much contemporary science fiction, it took me a bit to fully suspend disbelief while reading the stories. I actually read the out of order--starting with Scarlet (#2)--since I was waiting for library copies to become available. I thought I'd review Cinder to provide a context for those who have been wondering about the series as well.
The world of The Lunar Chronicles takes place in a variety of locations, mostly divided between their location on Earthen Union (what we now know as Earth after World War IV) and the capital city of Artemisia on planet Luna (the now colonized Moon). Cinder begins on Earthen Union in New Beijing. In this dystopian future, the world is populated with a combination of humans, androids, and cyborgs, all of whom are facing the spread of a plague called letumosis with no known cure.
The main protagonist of both this first installment and the entire series is Linh Cinder, a mechanic cyborg who operates a stall in a street market. Cinder lives with her cruel stepmother, Linh Adri, and stepsisters, Linh Pearl and Linh Peony; Cinder's father died from the plague. One day while working, Cinder meets Prince Kai who comes to her stall for help fixing his android. Cinder hides her cyborg features (a metal foot and hand) while helping the handsome prince.
Peony catches the plague and Cinder's stepmother blames Cinder for it, believing her work in the street markets exposed her to the disease which she then carried home. To punish the stepdaughter she has never loved, Cinder is taken to the palace against her will to become a test subject for the disease. When Cinder proves immune to the disease, the researcher Dr. Erland reveals his desire to fight the evil Queen Levana and and convinces Cinder her role in starting a rebellion is paramount.
Once I was finally able to fully engage in the novel's premise, the story itself was fine: "Yes, I am reading a book about female, fairy tale superhero cyborgs in space." Overall, the plot development of Cinder was a bit uneven and it's not a genre I generally read, but Marissa Meyer does well creating cliffhanger-endings throughout the series. The conclusion to Cinder was no exception. Though it might sound surprising, at times I wished Meyer would have strayed further from the fairy tale tradition--less attraction-at-first sight and changing the traditional beautiful-gown-at-the-ball-scene into something less focused on looks. I understand these romance scenes appeal to some YA readers, but there was the potential for some more ground-breaking rewriting here.
Have you read Cinder or the entire Lunar Chronicles series? What did you think of the ending to Cinder? Would you change anything with the novel if you could?