Book Review: “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles, #1)

I have to say, this cover is definitely one of my faves of 2012. Love the juxtaposition of the red shoe and the cyborg leg. Another plus? My mom actually picked this one up for me BASED on the cover. Said it looked like "something you'd like". So congrats, cover people. You did a good job. 🙂

ETA: Macmillan Audio has kindly allowed me to post an excerpt from the Cinder audiobook to this blog! The link is here.

Title: Cinder (Click to add to your Goodreads!)

Author: Marissa Meyer

Available In: Hardcover, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook, Audiobook. (If you just want to try out chapters 1-5, you can get those FREE for your Kindle/Nook here and here.)

Maturity Level: YA. Some disturbing imagery and mild language, along with the usual sci-fi trappings.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoy science fiction, Fullmetal Alchemist (there are definitely a few shoutouts in here), and fairy tales.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you expect it to closely follow the format of the original fairy tale.

Linh Cinder lives in a pretty bleak world. As a cyborg in the predominantly human New Beijing, she is shunned and hated. A deadly disease is sweeping the land, wiping people out in droves, and Earth is on the brink of war with the ruthless, extremely powerful Lunars. Cinder’s only saving grace is her skill as a mechanic, and when she is contracted by the crown prince Kai himself, she falls into a terrifying political melee—and possibly, in love with the young prince.

My biggest issue with this book is that the balance between the fairy tale and the sci-fi aspect is kind of off. Don’t get me wrong, I love sci-fi—but I went into this expecting a fairy-tale retelling with sci-fi elements, as opposed to a sci-fi with fairy tale elements. Also, the world-building could use some work. I counted at least three or four different cultures that Meyer seemed to be trying to meld into the unifying society of New Beijing, but for some reason they just kind of clashed.

Wow, reading that last paragraph, you would think I really didn’t like this book. The thing is, I really DID like it for many reasons: the plague aspect was handled really well, I really liked Cinder as an MC, etc, etc. The storytelling definitely has a cinematic edge to it—I would not be surprised to see this one made into a movie in the next five years. However, the issues I outlined above did seriously detract from the story, merely because I found them jarring and somewhat annoying.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty solid sci-fi book, though it did have some issues. I was a little nervous when I discovered that this is meant to be the first in a quartet— I thought that minus the cliffie ending it could have easily stood just fine on its own—but I will definitely pick up Scarlet when it hits shelves in 2013. J

Pros

  • The plague, obviously modeled off of the sweep of the Black Death through Europe. Very well done.
  • Cinder. I thought she was a badass, and who doesn’t love a cyborg?
  • Prince Kai
  • Dr. Erland as the fairy godmother.

Cons

  • The Lunars are weak conceptually.
  • Occasional unnecessary over-description.
  • I’m not sure if this should be a quartet.
  • Melding of cultures in New Beijing is kind of awkward and heavy-handed.

Favorite Scene (s)

  • pg 349-onward. Love this as a “ball scene”.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 3.5 stars, rounded up for GR.

Final Grade:  B. Nice read, but had some issues that I simply couldn’t ignore.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Scott J. Clemons
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 02:08:04

    Wow, what a great review. I really liked the way you structured it with pros, cons, and favorite parts. Well done.

    As for Cinder, I am super stoked on this book. I’m kind of a huge Firefly fan and I totally saw the influence of the Firefly universe with elements of Chinese culture that she worked into the story. I definitely approached the book expecting “sci-fi with fairy tale elements” rather than the other way around. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much? Who knows.

    I’m curious, how did you think the Lunars could have been done differently? Was it the whole “evolved humans” angle that she took with them, or something else?

    Reply

    • Em
      Mar 23, 2012 @ 17:40:17

      Aww, thanks. I could definitely see the Firefly influence too– and yes, I’ve been a big fan of Firefly since I whipped through the first/only season last summer. And yes, had I approached it thinking “sci-fi with fairy tale elements”, I think I might have enjoyed it more– now that I’ve gotten through it once, I might go back and read it again with that perspective :3

      I just felt the Lunars were a.) massively overpowered and b.) fairly stereotypical “evolved” human/alien antagonists. To be honest, they were kind of boring to me– I paid more attention to the plague and the power struggles WITHIN New Beijing than the ones involving the Lunars 😛

      Reply

  2. Jesse @ Books 4 Teens
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 14:29:38

    Fab review – I’m really intrigued by this one – I will be reading it soon!

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Clip from the “Cinder” audiobook! « easyreadinganddamnhardwriting
  4. Cassie
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 00:41:31

    I liked this book, just finished it, but I found the same problems as you did. The Lunars weren’t exactly enough for me to be convinced they could control an entire planet. I thought parts were definitely predictable. However, it was a thrilling read and so much fun. I couldn’t stop reading and turned to the teen next to me at the computer lab while I was reading and told him to stop typing so angrily so that I could kindly read. Haha. I’m a mess. 🙂

    Reply

    • Em
      Apr 23, 2012 @ 17:32:58

      It was indeed a fun read, and I do love those, but yeah, there were definitely some issues. Sometimes, I just have to turn my inner editor off to enjoy a book, and this was definitely that sort of book.

      Reply

  5. Nikki
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 07:16:20

    I listened to this book recently while driving to and from work. I pretty much agree with everything you said, and I did enjoy it overall.

    However, have you ever read the book Tithe by Holly Black? There is a huge element in Tithe that I noticed in Cinder. Same name and same concept and everything. I don’t want to say it because of spoilers, but I just wondered if you had noticed.

    Reply

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