But let's be honest: you had me at "Cyborg Cinderella." ;)
To say that Cinder is a cyborg Cinderella story really doesn't do it justice, though - much like this cover:
Apparently Meyer's publisher hoped a Twilight cover clone would make us confuse her with Stephenie Meyer - a deception only made worse by the fact that not only does Cinder never wear red shoes in the book, she doesn't even have skin over her metal foot. Ug.
Quick comparison shot.
That's about where my griping ends, though, and we can't hold the cover against Meyer; odds are she didn't have a say in it anyway. Besides, cover notwithstanding, Cinder is darn close to absolute literary perfection.
You heard me: perfection.
Now, you might be tempted to think - as I did - that a cyborg Cinderella story simply MUST have an element of humor to it.
In fact, Cinder is a wholly nuanced, sophisticated, and surprisingly believable story that adheres to the fairy tale only in its most basic aspects. It then builds on those aspects, layering in a deeper, richer story with so much more at stake than romance. At times Cinder is fighting for friendship, for family, and later for the freedom of her entire planet. This is not the Cinderella who runs weeping to her room; this is the Cinderella with the strength and independence to fight for both herself and those she loves.
[To clarify: there are lighter moments of humor in Cinder, like in any good book, but the overall story isn't meant to be funny. Sorry if I made it sound too dark!]
The setting for Cinder is its own character: a futuristic "New Beijing" that reminded me strongly of the cityscapes in Blade Runner or The Fifth Element, complete with hovercrafts and cramped marketplaces. The Asian cultural elements sprinkled throughout add another layer of depth and color, as the prince won't be king some day, he'll be emperor.
Cinder herself is a mechanic - the best in the city - but she's reviled for the android limbs and programming that make her a cyborg. She tries to hide her identity behind gloves and high boots, but a chance encounter with the prince soon makes her life a lot more complicated.
Again, Meyer does a masterful job of raising the stakes: a deadly plague is decimating the country, while a hostile planet continues to threaten war. She also tries to create a mystery around Cinder's origins, but sadly gives the whole thing away on page 44 (!!) with her heavy-handed hints. I wish she hadn't made the "mystery" so obvious, but that's a minor qualm, really, and not so central to the story that it makes much difference.
I should also mention this is one of those stories that grabs you from the first line and refuses to let go, so clear your schedule before you pick it up. I made the mistake of starting it around midnight, and was close to finishing all 450 pages in the same sitting, except John started questioning my sanity around 7AM. Ha! Tired as I was the next day, my first priority after work wasn't a nap, it was finishing this book. (Don't you love that feeling?)
Cinder feels like an older YA title, but content-wise it's fine for younger kids, too; no violence, language, or sexual content. There are some heavy topics and potentially disturbing imagery, but no where near as dark as, say, The Hunger Games trilogy.
Cinder's ending doesn't exactly end, but it does reach a point where I felt pretty satisfied to leave off.
You all know how I feel about cliff hanger endings (KILL THEM WITH FIRE), but no obvious threads were left dangling, and you're given a strong sense of what's going to happen next, so it feels like a natural stopping point.
That's a tricky line to toe, reaching a conclusion while still moving forward, and I'm really impressed with how well Meyer pulls it off. I've already ordered the sequel, Scarlet, but I'm not so much desperate to see what happens next as just looking forward to continuing a great story. If only all "cliffhangers" ended so well!
So in a nutshell: definitely pick this one up if you haven't already - but maybe get a good nap in, first. ;)
Looking for more? Then check out my complete list of book reviews and recommendations right here. And as always, please tell me what I should read next in the comments!