Cinder by Marissa Meyer has all of the above.
Welcome to the future. It’s 126 years after World War IV, and the world is divided up into six large nations: the United Kingdom, the European Federation, the African Union, the American Republic, Australia, and the Eastern Commonwealth. And, on the Moon, we have the Lunars, ruled by Queen Levana.
All of this is a bit above Cinder. She lives in New Beijing, the capital of the Commonwealth. She’s sixteen, and she’s been a cyborg since she was eleven, when she was involved in a hover crash that left her parents dead. Originally from Europe, her adoptive father brought her to New Beijing only to succumb to letumosis, a deadly plague that’s killing thousands around the world with no cure in sight. Cinder lives with her adoptive mother and step sisters, and thanks to her cybernetic alterations, she’s a top-rate mechanic and can fix anything from a hover that doesn’t run correctly to an android that’s crashed and won’t turn on again.
But she’s not rich. Her stepmother, Andri, never wanted her, so every bit of money Cinder earns is controlled by Andri. Cinder has managed to squirrel away enough to buy a new foot to replace the undersized one she’s had since she was eleven.
When the book opens, she’s visited by Prince Kai, who’s in line for the throne of the Commonwealth. He’s in disguise because he wants Cinder to fix his crashed android—supposedly because he’s had it since he was a kid and doesn’t want to let it go to the trash heap even though it’s an obsolete model.
Cinder suspects there’s more to it than that, but has no way to confirm it.
Yes, it’s a science fiction re-imagining of Cinderella, and it’s very well done. I read the book in less than two days and can’t wait to get on to the next one.
There’s a lot of good writing coming out of the YA field right now, as I’m sure most readers are aware, even if they’re not reading it. It started with Harry Potter, which I credit with raising the bar on YA, and it continues to this day. I’ve also been reading a post-apocalyptic series called The Conquered Earth (which I recommend as well), but I wasn’t aware of Cinder, which is the first book in The Lunar Chronicles, until my daughter asked for books two and three in the series for her birthday. Apparently the author got the idea from writing a futuristic version of Puss and Boots as a short story and now has this update on Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin (with a character who is Rapunzel), with two future books to cover Queen Levana (basically every fairy tale wicked queen wrapped up in one character), and the conclusion is titled Winter.
Quite honestly, I was sucked in from page one. Ms. Meyer (unlike another writer of that name) knows her stuff, and she immerses you in this world without a lot of draggy exposition. Like any good writer, she lets you learn things about her setting as the story progresses, and she’s very good at doing it without bogging you down. I can remember one time when she has to give you some exposition because there’s simply no other graceful way to do it in the flow of the story, and it comes so late in the book that you don’t care. You’re invested and you’re ready for the information. And even then, it’s only a couple of long paragraphs—not quite half a page.
All through this book, I kept wondering how a fifty-year-old man was able to relate to a sixteen-year-old cyborg girl, but the writing is so good that age and gender don’t really matter. Cinder is a character you can care about and root for. There was one very predictable subplot (and it had to be for me to predict it; I’m just not that good at it on a first read most of the time), but I’m not gonna tell you what it is because I don’t put spoilers in my reviews. Suffice it to say that, even though it’s predictable, I’m still left at the end of the book wondering just what the author is going to do with it—because, as she leaves thing at the end, she could go in a lot of directions with it. That left me wondering if she let that part be predictable so she could wow you with something else about it that’s not.
This is very much a serial series, so be forewarned. The concluding volume doesn’t come out for another year (November 2015), so if you don’t want to wait that long for the end after reading the first volumes, you might hold off on starting this series.
For me, it’s too late. I’m hooked, and I guess I’ll just have to wait for the conclusion.
Go out and get this one. It’s a good one.