Review: Cinder (the Lunar Chronicles)

Review by Cassandra Rai

  • Rating: 5/5 cats
  • Recommended for: Those who love Syfy (hello cyborgs), Fantasy (in the future plus some aliens), and Romance (ahh young love)

Warning: Spoilers and Novel Summary Ahead

Young adult science fiction and fantasy readers rejoice in this captivating tale written by Marissa Meyer. I’ve always been a fan of the classic fairy tale stories and love it when authors take a new approach to those quintessential legends. Marissa Meyers tells the story of Cinderella but with an interesting twist.

The story takes place in the future in the city called New Beijing about 126 years after World War 4 when a terrible plague infects the world. Our main character is a young mechanic named Cinder who is a cyborg. Cyborgs are considered lesser, insignificant individuals who are shunned by most of society; including Cinder’s adopted family (with the exception of her young step sister Peony). While I do feel the concept of the “evil step mother/family” is a little redundant, it’s necessary for the tale of Cinderella and I appreciate the uniqueness Marissa Meyer applies to it. While there’s no denying Cinder’s step mom is wicked, she is cruel due to her desperation to raise to the highest class of society and does truly love her birth daughters. Cinder’s step mother even sells Cinder to the “Cyborg Draft” which is a program set up to test potential (so far unsuccessful) antidotes to the plague. Cinder is somehow immune though and survives the process.

The charming prince (named Kai in this case) that always plays a role in the tale of Cinderella, makes an appearance when he takes his personal android to Cinder in order to get it fixed up. Kai uses this android to secretly spy/get information from the Lunars, the highly advanced alien race that lives on the Moon. The Lunars have the ability to control bio-electricity which essentially gives them mind control manipulation. I have always found the idea of mind control terrifying and Meyers takes advantage of that by showing the cruel actions that the evil Queen of the moon (Queen Levana) forces people to do.

Queen Levana rules her rein of the moon via terror. She took the throne by burning her older sister and her sister’s baby daughter (Selene) alive. No corpse was found of Princess Selene though (just some scrapes of hair and skin) leaving the possibility for a survival theory. Queen Levana uses her bio-electricity manipulation to force masses of people to do her bidding/follow her laws, implants tortuous thoughts or controls their bodies to cut off fingers/body parts as punishment, and never shows her true appearance to anyone (her bio electricity allows her to put on a “Glamor” which shows the viewer the “perfect woman”). Queen Levana hopes to create an alliance with the Earth by marrying Prince Kai (and becoming Empress of New Beijing). Kai reluctantly agrees the “alliance” when Queen Levana agrees to give an antidote to the plague (which has and continues to kill millions, including Cinder’s little step sister Peony and Kai’s father).

Kai and Cinder have awkward yet flirtatious interactions that lead to Kai asking Cinder to his inaugural ball. I’m a sucker when it comes to unexpected and underdog romances so I’m all for this, as clique as it may sound. Cinder’s original plan is to run away with her best friend, the robot Iko, since nothing is holding her back now that she’s lost her sister. I really enjoy the robotic character Iko. She has a lively and sassy personality that clashes perfectly with the fact that she is a robot. I enjoy all her under spoken comments about how “human” she acts and wishes.

Cinder’s plans to escape are hindered though when she finally fixes the Prince’s robot and discovers the disastrous plan that Queen Levana has in store for Prince Kai: she plans on murdering Kai shortly after the wedding and taking over as Empress of Earth. Cinder rushes to the ball (as a mess) to confront the Queen and tell Kai of her plan. Cinder ends up trying to attack the Queen to stop her and has to flee the scene, but is unable when her robotic foot gets caught and broken off. I loved this rendition of the classic “Cinderella dropping her shoe” sequence; I thought it was clever and unexpected that her Prince realizes she’s a cyborg because her entire foot comes off (which Kai actually holds onto).

In order to prevent the Queen from forcing Cinder to shot herself in the head, Cinder’s cybernetic system overrides. This reveals that Cinder has bio-electricity manipulation powers and is actually Lunar (explaining her immunity to the plague also). This revelation causes distrust and betrayal to go through Kai, and Cinder to be taken into custody with plans to be escorted to Lunar for execution in a few days. While in custody Cinder finds out she is actually the long lost Princess Selene, the rightful heir to the Lunar throne. She realizes it’s her duty to stop Queen Levana’s evil reign and save Kai. So begins her break out of prison, life as a refugee trying to figure out her past and future.

While I find the revelation of Cinder being the Princess Selene a little predictable (based on the fact that it’s the legend focused on in the story, she’s the main character, and that all her cybernetic prosthetics support the idea of baby Selene getting caught in a fire), I still enjoyed how Marissa Meyers twisted the idea; she created Cinder as a cyborg, raised on another planet, and with extremely powerful yet untrained telekinetic powers. I like Cinder’s rough ends and how she’s not the typical princess with her mechanical skills/knowledge, tomboy attitude/appearance, down to earth personality, and cybernetic parts. She’s a heroine worth supporting.

I love the combination of classic fairy tale and science fiction in Marissa Meyer’s novel. Cinder’s story continues in the 2nd book, Scarlet.

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