I finished this book in four days, and overall I really liked it. However, it had some ups and downs, and I couldn’t quite figure out why this novel was just a good read to me, and not an amazing read, because it ticks all of the boxes of stories I usually love. Alternate fairy tales? Check. Scifi/fantasy setting? Check. Good characters? Check. But instead of going on in this section, let’s get on to the review!
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 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. – From Audible
The first thing that struck me about Cinder is the world building. It was obvious that the world and it’s setting were so well thought out. Nothing seemed out of place. Every piece of new technology made sense and was well fleshed out, and the progression of the world made sense. I love that it takes place in a futuristic version of the Earth, and it’s main focus in this novel is on China, with mentions of Europe. I thought it was a nice nod to where most fairy tales originate, and there were a lot of cute nods to Cinderella in general that were really fun to try and figure out what part of the story it was mirroring. This is a steampunk setting done perfectly, and it’s the best part of the book in my opinion.
Plot and Pacing
The beginning of the book, like the first ten chapters, were amazing. When it gets into Book 2 (The novels chapters are split up into 4 Books – ten chapters each) it started to lag. I feel like because of how sparse the original Cinderella fairy tale is, there were a lot of things that were added in as padding and development that were just a bit slow for my liking. A good example of that for me, was all of the political setup that wasn’t focused on Cinder, and instead was focused on Prince Kai, the second protagonist and love interest in the story. Those chapters were interesting enough, but also were the most dull to me and something I feel could have been either done in shorter chapters, or just hurried along a bit (we didn’t need a full chapter that was just an International Summit lol)
The middle section built the characters, and the world a lot, but I felt like instead of building on the story in the first novel, it was building towards the story for the over-arcing plot in the series. That isn’t a bad thing, per see, but at times it felt like it detracted from Cinder’s story, instead of being information we needed for the later books in the series while adding to Cinder’s story. I will say, that the last ten chapters did a great job of combining both Cinder’s story, and leading into the story in the next book, and I wish that had been present in the middle section of the novel.
Another major problem I had with the plot, is how predictable it was. There are a few reveals later in the book that they dragged on, that I had figured out way before it was revealed. As soon as they started dropping nuggets for you to try and solve the mystery in the story, I figured it out within a few paragraphs and overall that made the middle of the story really drag. Perhaps if you didn’t realize where the story was going to be going with its big reveals, the middle would have been far more enjoyable. I don’t know if it was because I’m used to this genre, and all of its tropes, or because of everything I already stated, but just something I figured I’d point out.
This is where I’m most torn. As I said in my first impressions post, I really liked the characters, especially Cinder. As the book went on, Cinder got more and more irritating to me at certain points. Like, she would go from being this strong, stubborn, independent person on her own, then when she was actually confronted with something, she’d shy away from it, or hide. The writing tried to pass it off as self-esteem issues, but it was just so jarring for me because of how frequently she’d go back and forth from being a strong character to a wishy-washy one. She redeemed herself well in the last story arc, and I’m hoping she’s a bit less wishy-washy in the later books. When she was staying true to how she was originally portrayed, I really enjoyed her and her development throughout the story was really nice (there were a lot of bits in the last half of the story where I was like oh yeah go Cinder!) so I won’t say she’s a poorly crafted character or anything, just that her growth could have gone a bit faster so it was more prevalent in the rest of the book.
The other characters were hit and miss, to be honest. I loved Iko and Prince Kai, and I thought Doctor Erland’s story arc was probably the most interesting part of the supporting characters stories (though I predicted it early on). I know we’re going off of fairy tales here, and the villains are usually one-dimensional in those, but Queen Levana is just so evil, it’s really frustrating. I know she has a book telling her story, but it got to the point where she just seemed entirely too over powered, and her as the catalyst for certain plot points because oh hey she’s evil and nothing more made the story blander than it could have been. I don’t mind an evil character that’s super evil, but I would like them to have depth without having to have a separate novel to herself to see it. That being said, I am really excited to get to her story down the line. But maybe she’s more fleshed out in later books, and I’m just jumping the gun with my judgement here, we’ll see!
The writing was overall, very good. I loved that because Cinder was a cyborg, and the story was being told from her POV most of the time, we got descriptors that fit that. Instead of “she used her eyes” we’d get things like “her visual interface displayed” and it really brought home how Cinder felt, and how unnatural she was to the world she lived in. There was a really good blend of fairy tale description, and modern story telling that made the story come to life. Even though the middle of the story was a bit hard for me to get through, the writing never faltered. It made me want to read the rest of the series, regardless of some of the books short comings.
Looking back at my thoughts on this, my main issue definitely was the pacing of this story. The beginning was amazing, the end was amazing, but that middle section was just so slow paced, and didn’t really seem to add much to the story. Instead of telling a story, or having a story arc in the middle, it just felt like every cog was moving towards setting up the ending of the series, or setting up the second book in the series, which is always a pet peeve of mine. If a book is part of a multi-novel story, I’d like the books to be able to be read stand alone, which I think Cinder only does half way. But if someone weren’t going to read the rest of the series? I could see this book being a bit disappointing. Did it do enough to make me want to read the rest of the series? Definitely. I’ve already started book 2, and so far it’s building on the first book well, and once again seems to be building to a bigger plot that’s in store for the characters. I’m hoping we get more focus on the present, and not on fully setting up events that will take place later, however, but so far it’s been enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this new mystery will unfold.
Even with all of my nit-picks and complaints, I would recommend this book. It has a dynamic setting, really interesting ideas, and really fun and engaging characters. If you like alternate fairy tale re-telling’s, steampunk, and just a really entertaining read I’d read this book!
What are your thoughts on Cinder? Have you read The Lunar Chronicles series in its entirety? Would love to know what you think in the comments!