The second I saw the cover art, I knew that Cinder was going to be a must read for me. Not only is it a fairy tale retelling, which I consider one of my personal specialties, it also happens to be a futuristic sci-fi novel. Two of my preferred genres in one? Yes, please.
The story is exactly what the cover hints at. It's the story of Cinderella, retold in a futuristic setting, in which Cinder is a cyborg. And a mechanic, among other things. She first meets the prince when he asks her to fix his android, and the two form an instant connection (not Disney instant...romance novel instant, which is a step up). The prince, Kai, is literally plagued with problems. His father is dieing, and he will soon be taking over as emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth (most of Asia, I believe). The kingdom suffers from an incurable disease, and the political threats from the Lunars. Cinder's own family is touched by the disease, and she soon becomes wrapped up in the search for a cure. Amidst all of this, a romance blossoms, and Cinder secretly wants more than anything to dance with the prince at his ball.
Awesome characters. Cinder has a lot of the traditional Cinderella traits--the dedication to hard work, patience, kindness, and humility--but she also has a bit of an attitude. She has a barely suppressed rebellious streak. And unlike traditional Cinderella, she takes actions to try to change her lot in life. I like that. Kai is a great match for her. He's charming and caring, just as we would expect, but he also shows signs of flaws and doubts. He has a huge weight on his shoulders, and he shows that strain. He puts his country and his people first. All of this has really just made me want to see them together more.
The plots and subplots are incredibly vivid and interesting. I liked the concept of cyborgs, and the idea that people would be prejudice against them felt realistic to me. I also liked that this gave Cinder's stepmother and sister a reason to hate and mistreat her, other than "I don't like you and your father is dead, so suck it." I liked the disease plot, and the teeny bit of science that went with that. I liked the political drama. I harbor a secret fondness for political drama in novels, when delivered in small doses. I like the the politics in the Kushiel's Legacy books, for example. Moving on...
The world building is simply enthralling. I want it to be a show or a video game or for there to be about 12 more books so that I can immerse myself in this world for days on end. I want to know more about the Lunars and their abilities, I want to understand the Earthen politics, I want to know more about the plague and all of the people it's affected. I want to meet more cyborgs. I want to understand all the technology, and I want to know how it is that the robots seem to feel emotion.
Ok, I know what your thinking: She's about to name something really trivial just to be contrary. Just so she doesn't have to hand out the rare and much coveted 5 star rating. Yeah that's...kind of true. But this is a real flaw, if a small one. The plot is predictable. The big reveal at the end? Not much of a reveal. I don't think the author meant it to be, though. I think we were meant to figure the mystery out long before the characters do. But the point still stands.
This book is a YA, so if you really hate teen oriented books I guess this one is out for you. But otherwise, I seriously recommend giving it a try. If you're a sci-fi fan, a fairy tale fan, or even a romance fan, you'll like this book. 4.5 stars.