I've heard a lot of people rave about Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, and its sequels Scarlet and Cress, but until recently I'd held back reading them. Possibly out of some kind of strange stay-away-from-the-hype rebellion. Regardless, when my Facebook book group picked it to read, I was excited for the excuse to get it from the library.
Cinder, as you can probably tell from the title, is a loose retelling of Cinderella. We have a girl who is worked like a slave by her guardian and the guardian's two daughters. Although one daughter is friendly and kind. You have a handsome prince, and a ball. And....that's about where the similarities end. Cinder is a cyborg, fused with machine parts when she was 11, with no memories of life before. She lives in a future New Beijing, where she's a mechanic with dreams of escaping her life of servitude. Citizens in New Beijing are thinking about three things when the book opens: the Prince's annual ball, the currently incurable epidemic that plagues earth, and the unwelcome visit of the queen of Luna (the colony on the Earth's moon, populated by people who have evolved into a race with science-that-looks-like-magic, and can create glamours and influence people's minds). Cinder meets the prince when he comes to her to get an android fixed, becomes an unwilling then willing test subject for scientists looking for a cure for the disease, and becomes far more involved in Lunar-Earth politics than she'd like to be.
The story is fun and fresh, although I saw the "twist" coming a mile away. I'm not sure how surprising it's supposed to be, but for me it wasn't at all. Aside from that, the story is well-crafted and fast paced without being rushed. I like the world she's created, and while Cinder is clearly the beginning of a series, it's also a great and complete story on its own.
But one of my favorite things about the book is the character of Cinder. She desperately wants freedom, and just wants to be left alone. She's put in positions to be bold and daring, but she wants none of it. She's a true reluctant hero, but as the story progresses she finds the courage and character to do what she needs to, even at great embarrassment and personal cost. In my opinion, this makes her one of the bravest heroines I've read about in a while. And while there is some romance, this first-in-the-series doesn't have a happily ever after...yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Bottom line: a little bit fairy tale, a little bit sci-fi, and a lot of fun