Cinder – Book Review

Goodreads Summary:

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.

I bought this book a while back from the Book Outlet because I had heard a lot of good things about it and it was in hardback for under $3. I was intrigued, although I am not a fan of Cinderella (Disney or otherwise), and I was looking forward to reading what many people claimed was fairy tale steampunk.

The beginning of the book started off well and the momentum built the whole way, making this a fairly fast read. I was eager to figure out all the intricate details of New Beijing and Prince Kai and the disease that was plaguing Cinder’s world. Before reading Cinder, I read a little bit of the author’s website and some of her FAQs and learned that she based Cinder’s world off of China, having been there before. She claimed that she did not have an accurate memory of China and that many details of the setting, New Beijing, might be wrong.

While I enjoyed the book for the most part, I was disappointed with it, and by the end I was throwing my hands up saying, ‘Ugh, this is stupid!’ It was hard to believe a lot of the emotions being portrayed because Cinder just told them and I didn’t really see her having any basis for her feelings. She kept lamenting that her being cyborg was seen as disgusting by everyone and she often thought of herself as a disgusting creature. Of course, her stepmom saw her as such because of the trauma she went through losing her husband around the time of Cinder’s arrival, but other than that, I could see no real evidence that everyone saw Cinder or cyborgs as lowly or something to stay away from.

Also, the setting, along with the ‘culture’ of New Beijing, were flat and uninteresting. As someone who lives in Asia, I would expect a more natural blending of the cultures of Asia. New Beijing was supposedly burnt to the ground and all the Asian cultures supposedly blended together to create the city that Cinder lives in. However, the author does a terrible job ‘blending’ and mostly just inserts things about cherry trees, people wearing kimono, and eating dumplings. It was laughable at best.

I had a major problem with the characters, as well. None of them were Asian. The author kept talking about how they lived in Asia but all of the characters were described as having milky skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, etc. I suppose she meant for Prince Kai to be Asian, but she never described him as such, and it just seemed like a waste to set the entire book in Asia without a single mention of a real Asian person. I really crave diversity in the books I read, so this was really unsettling and I mostly shook my head when a new character came about.

The entire plot was good until about the last third of the book. It was mostly believable and interesting, but towards the end, it just got tiresome. I wasn’t invested in the characters because they kept acting erratically. Certain characters would be introduced in a certain way, and then they would completely go against their nature for a split second, probably so the author could spice things up, but really all this did was make me stop believing anyone as a real person.

I hated the ending and really didn’t care either way what happened, since I knew most of what I read was just leading me up to an unexciting and unfulfilling cliffhanger. I looked up the next book in the series, which is Scarlet, to see if we get to see anymore of Cinder. Apparently we do, so I might give it a read in a few months. I need a break from the Lunar Chronicles for a while. I understand that Cinder is Marissa Meyer’s first novel, but I can’t really forgive her for the way she ended it. More diversity, more believably and less tell, tell, telling would have me rate this more stars on Goodreads, but until I read some of her later work, I will be on the fence about her as a storyteller.

If you’ve read the Lunar Chronicles and love them, please let me know if they get better! I have been staying away from series for this exact reason (dumb cliffhangers and shallow characterization) but I would really like to finish this series if it gets better down the road.