Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Did you know that the Cinderella story is one of the world’s oldest fairy tales? The first version can be traced back to ninth-century China and was written about a heroine named Yeh-shen. Today, more than 1500 versions of the tale exist, many with a unique twist. I recently enjoyed what I consider to be the most singular version of Cinderella that I have ever come upon in Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
Cinder Linh is a cyborg – part human, part robot – who knows nothing of her birth parents or history. She is a ward of her evil stepmother, Adri, who relies on Cinder’s extraordinary talent as a mechanic to support the family all the while vilifying Cinder at every opportunity. Together with two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony, they live in technologically advanced, post-World War IV “New Beijing.” Unfortunately, New Beijing is threatened by an airborn plague called letumosis, which strikes at random and has an almost 100% fatality rate.
When Prince Kai brings a broken robot to Cinder to fix, romance is sparked between these two star-crossed, unlikely lovers. As a cyborg, Cinder is reviled by New Beijing society, and there is no one higher on the societal echelon than Prince Kai, heir to the empire. This doesn’t stop the two from becoming friends, although Cinder takes pains to hide her cyborg nature from him.
Meyer introduces another evil villain to the fairy-tale plot in the form of Queen Levana, the mind-controlling ruler of the Lunars – a colony of people originally from Earth, who are inhabiting the moon. Over time, the Lunars have evolved from human to something else entirely, with their own culture and psychic powers. Levana craves the throne and pursues poor Prince Kai relentlessly.
Cinder is a plucky heroine, who doesn’t swoon over Prince Kai’s attention. The plot is complex, with multiple threads creating fabulous tension. Cinder is the first in the Lunar Chronicles. The second book, Scarlet, is forecasted to come out in 2013 and is rumored to incorporate the story of Little Red Riding Hood.