Even in the future, the story begins with Once Upon a Time....
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....
Sixteen-year-old Cinder, a gifting mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past and is reviled by her stepmother. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she's suddenly finds herself at the center 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. Because there is something unusual about Cinder, something that others would kill for.
For years I've been hearing down the bookworm grapevine how great Cinder, and in extension, The Lunar Chronicles are. So I was highly optimistic about this book when I plucked it up from the Chapters bookstore shelf I found it on.
Now, I did end up enjoying it immensely when I read it, but there were some elements I didn't quite like.
I fell in love with Cinder, sympathized with her, felt frustration with her when her stepmother and eldest stepsister treated her like dirt. Felt sad when she felt sad, etc. I was totally immersed.
The story opens with with Cinder sitting in her shop stall in the marketplace, switching her cyborg foot for a new one since it's been on her since she was a kid. The old one was too small, and it was beginning to rust and become difficult to deal with. Her only company is her android companion, Iko, who is much more lively than the average android.
Suddenly, a boy trying to remain discreet with his hoodie and his bowed head appears in front of her stall and plunks an older android down on her worktable. It doesn't take Cinder long to realize who her newest customer is, and once she realizes it's Prince Kai of all people, well, her life just jumped off a cliff.
The worldbuilding that went into this story was splendid. The setting, New Beijing, was definitely something new for me but not wholly distracting, though it was kinda sad since the city sounded pretty crowded. I don't really know what to say about how far into the future the story takes place.
There were a few things that irked me. I'm such a stickler for the little details, little things that don't bother others, haha. But...
- I didn't really like how Canada, sometime in the past, had been absorbed by America. Like, I get that countries get absorbed and split over time, but the fact that America tried to absorb Canada in 1812 and failed and then, in this story, Canada is nothing more than a province... UHG.
- At least Canada's representative got a mention.
- There was a lot of the "Cinderella Story" that had been cut out. Like I expected the author to not follow too closely to the Cinderella Story framework, but there were bits I kinda wished had happened. Like maybe a Lunar fairy godmother? (okay, okay, I can see that Dr. Erland kind of filled that role by providing a new cybernetic hand and foot, but that happened after the ball!)
The main thing that kind of bugged me and kind of ruined the world of The Lunar Chronicles was the presence of the sub-dermal ID chips. I can blame the Left Behind series for inducing the major paranoia I felt when the ID chips were mentioned, because in Left Behind, the authors had it as part of the mark of the beast with the fact that you needed to have one if you wanted to be a member of society.
The chips put me ill at ease, but I was eventually able to look past it.
The world presented in this book offered an interesting contrast to what kind of world is often offered in futuristic science-fiction stories. Instead of a pristine, peaceful, united world, the world in Cinder is grungy, sick, and shattered. The Earth is ravaged by a sickness worse than ebola, with people being carted away by medical androids never to be seen again.
In the story, I stuck close to Cinder, meaning that my mind didn't wander and dwell on the world around the events of the stories. It was just so depressing. I guess I can only handle so much gloom in a story (which is why I've never been a big fan of dystopia), haha.
Dr. Erland had to be my favourite character after Cinder in the novel. At first, I didn't like him very much since he was basically the reason why Cinder had been "sold" by her stepmother, and I fully expected that he was going to start dissecting her. But then he turned out to be the total opposite of the evil head-scientist I thought he would be. He was basically the first person to actually care about Cinder since her adopted father died. And the fact that he's a Lunar hiding out amongst the humans and that he's wants revenge on the Lunar Queen due to her authorities having taken his daughter away....
I honestly can't wait to read Scarlet, Cinder's sequel. I want to know what will happen to Cinder and Dr. Erland. Is it wrong that I want to see what happens to a secondary character more than the main character? No. I often find myself in this predicament! (Dr. Erland better not die!)
Queen Levana must be stopped, and it's a moment I await with bated breath. She is such a sick, evil woman.