Monday, 23 January 2012

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Warning - Spoilers below. Do not read unless you've already read the 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 centre 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.

I was so excited about Cinder when I first saw it – cyborgs? Cinderella? Deadly plagues? It ticked all my boxes.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite manage to live up to my expectations, although it was still a really good book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Let’s get what I wasn’t fussed on out the way first so we can end on the things I did love.

Firstly, by the time a book is in its finished form, I expect it to be completely proof read. I don’t expect to find words missing or random words thrown into sentences that make the whole thing make no sense at all. It worries me when I see errors like that in a finished book, because that means that in all the passes of the book no one has picked it up. Either that or I have eyes like a hawk and someone should hire me to be a proof reader.

Secondly, the big twist. I’ve already warned you and I’m going to again, do not keep reading if you haven’t read the book – spoilers lie ahead!
I worked out the twist a couple of chapters in, it really didn’t take long. And I spent the rest of the book torn between being incredibly bored that I’d already worked it out, and desperately hoping that I was wrong, and that the author was going to pull something spectacular out of the bag at the last moment. Unfortunately it turned out I was right, and because it was literally revealed in the last couple of pages it made me think that it was supposed to be this big shocking thing. And it really, really wasn’t.
I am however looking forward to seeing how Cinder develops now she has this knowledge, so I’m incredibly excited for the second book, despite the slightly let down-ish ending of the first.

Thirdly, the romance. There wasn’t enough time and development between Kai and Cinder for me to find this believable. If it had been that he was using her to try and get one up on the Queen like Cinder initially thought then I would have found it more believable, but as it was I really wasn’t convinced. Maybe in the next book there will be enough interaction between them that I’ll start to feel it, but as it was, not so much.

And finally, I was kind of disappointed that more wasn’t given to the setting. It’s set in ‘New Beijing’ and everyone has Chinese names, but nothing about it really suggests any connection to the cities roots, where it’s come from and how it’s developed. I would have found that fascinating to see more of that – we did see a little bit creep through in some of the ceremonies, and random pieces of description, but I would have liked more it.

Ok so those were the things that brought the book down for me, let’s talk about the awesome.
The plot. I absolutely loved it. It was a fantastic new spin on the traditional fairy tale, and that’s what made me pick up the book in the first place. The idea that Cinder was a cyborg was genius, it take the idea of her being a servant and physically belonging to her step mother to a whole new level which I found fascinating.

I loved Cinder herself. A smart, clever and well developed character that I couldn’t help but love and root for. I laughed at her humour, I wanted to cry at the injustices of her step mother, and be there to deliver a royal smackdown on the Queen. She really was fabulous, and it was so good to see this character who we’ve been shown in most depictions as this slightly weak princess to be, to be such a tough and independent young woman. She came across a lot older than she was as a result, and I want to see a bit more of her vulnerability, but I’m really looking forward to seeing her development in the next books.

I did like Kai, and I found some of the pieces from his point of view where we got to see the politics and outside the Commonwealth which we would have missed if we had been with Cinder the whole time, really interesting. It gave an idea of the stakes and the world outside of Cinder’s perceptions. Did anyone else have a brief moment of ‘oh, did she really go there?’ With ‘Queen Camilla’ of England?...

I did however find some of the stuff with Kai and Torin a little bit weird towards the end. I don’t know if it was just because it was seen from Cinder’s perspective, but it suddenly seemed a bit out of character. I did love Kai’s reaction to Cinder though when he found out what she was. Still wanting to protect her but at the same time unable to hide his disgust. I like it when characters are shown with their flaws, and to be unable (at least at first) to get over their prejudices.

The plot did take a little while to get going and to draw me in (about 80 pages or so) but after the ending I am fully anticipating a fabulous dive straight into the second book.

The writing was really good (other than the errors I’ve already mentioned) and set the scene and developed the characters beautifully. The pacing really picked up, and I found myself dragged into the story fully after that initial slow build up, and I couldn’t wait to carry on reading and find out what was going to happen. It’s the sort of story that takes a little while, but then lodges itself firmly inside you, making you desperate to get back to it, and constantly thinking about the characters and what’s going to happen next.

The build up and set up were really good, I loved the elements of the original fairy tale woven in without dominating the story, and I cannot wait for the second book to see where Cinder is going to go now and what she’ll do next.

Edit to include a short review of 'Glitches'
I have to say I really enjoyed 'Glitches'. It was a really good example of how a prequel story can work well both before and after reading the book it's promoting. I've talked about this recently, and I have to say that Glitches was one of my favourites.
It's gives us immediate insight into the world and Cinder herself, so that even if I hadn't read the book it still would have made sense and drawn me in, and it was really good to be able to fill in some of those gaps about when she was first adopted. I loved seeing the father, and the interactions with her step mother and the two other children.

A really good short prequel that I would definitely recommend either to try before you delve into the full story, or as another taste of Cinder's world.

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