“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought. This week’s “take a peek” book:
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.
Ever since this book came out in 2012, I’ve seen all of my blogger peeps raving about it and drooling over the sequels. I hadn’t gotten on the bandwagon, and thought that this was one YA series that I could sit out.
Color me silly. I was wrong.
I finally picked up Cinder when I was looking for a new audiobook to keep me company during my daily drives, and thought this would be a low commitment choice. And I quickly found myself completely hooked.
The idea of a Cinderella retelling didn’t really appeal to me. Most Cinderella stories I’ve read ended up feeling kind of sappy to me, and the idea of a poor girl saved from an awful life by fancy party clothes and a handsome prince doesn’t typically sit well with my inner feminist. Cinder manages to stick to the basic themes of the Cinderella story, but with a heroine who’s strong, empowered, and more likely to to be the rescuer than the one in need of rescue.
Cinder is a cyborg, which in this society means an outcast, less than human. Her wicked stepmother and stepsister are exactly as you’d expect, although the younger stepsister, Peony, is adorable and lovable. Cinder is a talented mechanic with a dry, take-no-bull-from-anyone demeanor. She wears heavy workgloves to cover up her mechanical hand, is often seen with oil stains all over her face and clothes, and dreams of freedom and escape, not of balls and princes.
Prince Kai falls for Cinder as herself, oil stains and all. He’s not just a pretty face either; as the heir to the imperial throne, it’s up to Kai to continue negotiating a peace treaty with the fearsome Lunar queen, Levana. Kai is smart and keenly aware of his responsibilities — and knows that his own personal desires must take second place to the welfare of his people and all of Earth.
The action is quick and the story is quite compelling. I found myself frustrated by the slower pace demanded by listening to the audiobook, so after listening to quite a bit of it at 1.25x speed (not recommended!), I finally switched over to a hard copy so I could devour the rest. The audiobook narrator, Rebecca Soler, is fabulous, by the way. She captures the personalities and intonations of each character and makes them all distinct. I loved the ironic humor in Cinder’s voice, Peony’s girlish good nature, and the android Iko, among others. Just to be clear that my switch to printed format was not at all caused by dissatisfaction with the audiobook — it was more about how I read and the fact that I have a hard time with audiobooks unless I’m driving or working out… and in this case, I wasn’t doing either often enough to let me advance through Cinder as quickly as I wanted to.
Summing it all up: Cinder is pretty terrific! The story is inspired by the classic fairy tale, but with generous amounts of originality shaping it into something new and different. The climactic ball scene and the aftermath caught me completely by surprise, as the author takes the familiar elements of the story and turns them on their head. If I’d read Cinder when it first came out, I might have been frustrated by the cliffhanger ending, but at this point, I know there are two more books available to me before I join the crowd of avid fans dying for the next release.
Excuse me, please, while I run to the library. Scarlet and Cress are calling my name!
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication date: 2012
Length: 390 pages
Genre: Young adult/science fiction