And I’m back! Finally have internet back up at our new place after two weeks. I’ve gotten to read a few books in that time so I have something to review. Woohoo! I don’t often times go for scifi books. My genre of choice is urban fantasy. But I had an urge to see if there was anything good at Amazon in that genre and I managed to stumble upon a winner.
Written by Marissa Meyer, Cinder is a cyberpunk retelling of the classic Cinderella tale. Set in the Eastern Commonwealth of a far distant future, Linh Cinder is a cyborg mechanic. Cyborgs are considered second class citizens in this future and Cinder is no exception. An orphan who was saved by a man called Linh Garan, Cinder is treated harshly by her stepmother Adri who blames Cinder for her husband’s death. Cinder is only allowed her mechanic shop because the money she earns goes to Adri.
Cinder is a very talented mechanic. Considered the best in New Beijing, she is the one that Prince Kai, the Emperor’s only son, is referred to when something happens with his personal tutoring android. Cinder and Kai connect on a personal level. Cinder doesn’t treat him like royalty, Kai doesn’t treat Cinder like she’s nothing. Cinder eventually agrees to see what she can do about the broken android and the pair go their separate ways.
This is just a bit different from the usual Cinderella tale in that they meet first thing and not at a ball. Kai knows that Cinder is a mechanic, though she doesn’t let on that she’s a cyborg. Cinder thinks that she’ll maybe see Kai once more when he comes to pick up his android but events conspire to bring them together again and again. And yes there is a ball, but that doesn’t happen until the very end of the book.
First, there is her stepsister Peony getting sick from a plague called letumosis. Originally coming from the Lunar population (a group of people that had, at some point, been human but had evolved over time to become a separate species that can manipulate bioenergy that appears as magic to humans), letumosis is universally deadly to those who catch it. If you’re human and you catch it, you die. Peony getting sick causes Adri, the stepmother, to be even worse to Cinder. She does, in fact, sell Cinder to the cyborg draft which has been set up specifically to use cyborgs as test subjects for plague cures.
This brings her to the attention of one Dr. Erland. He’s been trying to work on a cure since Emperor Rikan, Kai’s father, got sick. Unfortunately, he’s come up negative from twenty-seven attempts. He injects Cinder with the plague and finds…she’s immune. Some how, her body gets rid of the letumosis. Intent on using her blood to find a cure, he bullies and blackmails Cinder into willingly working with him by promising Peony would get any potential cure right after the Emperor himself.
Unfortunately for him, part of Cinder’s cyborg programming is a built in lie detector. She knows when people are outright lying or even when they’re just holding something back. So there’s something more to what Erland wants than just her blood. She can do nothing about that though, as once she agrees to become a test subject, she runs into Prince Kai again while he comes down for an update from Erland.
At this point, Kai tries to get Cinder to attend the ball with him. And…she refuses. Because she’s a cyborg and she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself. Because there’s something more unusual about her that’s making Erland lie right to the Crown Prince. Cinder doesn’t want to drag Kai into whatever is going on but that wish is fruitless.
We find out later that the reason that Cinder is immune to letumosis is because she is herself a Lunar. And not just any Lunar but the long-lost beloved Princess Selene whom many presumed dead at the hands of her aunt, Queen Levana. So of course, her path crosses with Levana at the ball. There is a mess and an unveiling and Prince Kai ends up handing Cinder over to Levana as technically, Lunars are not allowed to live on earth (there’s a whole treaty because Levana wants to keep all of her people under her thumb or kill them if they can’t).
The book ends on a cliffhanger with Cinder in jail awaiting execution by Levana and Prince Kai refusing anything to do with her (rather understanding as she did kinda lie to him). She faces two choices, given to her by the somewhat barmy Dr. Erland: stay and die or use her newly found Lunar powers (‘magic’) to escape prison and go with him to Africa. Its a chance to save Kai and indeed many others from the clutches of Levana, who wants to conquer Earth.
The best I can describe this is: Cyberpunk Cinderella. And its actually pretty good. I’m strongly considering continuing with the series but Simon R. Green has just released two new books and there’s a new Jane Yellowrock that is calling my name. But I have to say, if you like cyberpunk and you like fairy tales, you should check this out. It just grabs your attention and keeps it. Cinder isn’t a damsel in distress and I hope she continues in that vein for the other books. Rating: B+/A-. The female characters could have talked about more than Prince Kai and the ball but otherwise a very well done and fresh take on Cinderella.