Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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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.

Rating: ★★½

So, this book. I have lots of Thoughts ™ on this book.

First, I need to confess I was never really interested in retellings of fairy tales or, well, in fairy tales. I remember watching all of those Barbie movies when I was young and all of those Disney movies too, but I never loved them or was really affected by them. But then someone said, “what if we had queer retellings of fairy tales?” and oooh, suddenly I was very interested. I’m currently brainstorming a fairy tale retelling that is a mix of Snow White, Red Riding Hood and maybe Sleeping Beauty, so I thought it’d do only good if I read some fairy tale retellings to see what everyone was writing too.

So, my problem with Cinder begins with the fact that Meyer did a really poor job with the worldbuilding. And by poor I mean offensive and ridiculous. I won’t talk much because I’m not Asian (I recommend reading DiversiReads’s review), but there are some glaring mistakes in Cinder that are just too ugly to ignore. I know that here in the West we don’t learn much about anything Asian (here in Brazil at least we learn just the basics about Japan, India and China and that’s it), but if you are a non-Chinese author writing a story set in China… Well, maybe do your research? Like, it wouldn’t take you too long to realize that having a Japanese royal family ruling over all Asia (well, Eastern Common Wealth or whatever) and having everyone be super okay with it is a bad idea (also, same for America/Africa/Europe as a single country – I mean, I can’t imagine Latin America ever agreeing to form a single country together, let alone one with the U.S. and Canada. Just nope).

Also, the story never feels like it is set in China. If we ignore the Chinese-sounding names and one thing here and there, Cinder could’ve been set anywhere and the reader wouldn’t notice any difference. That’s how bad the worldbuilding is. If you take all this into account, plus the fact the protagonist, Cinder, “looks European” and is probably white, the books nosedives into racist territory. It’s ugly.

As for the story… Well, it isn’t bad, but it isn’t good either. It’s… okay, I guess.

I mean, Cinder is a good protagonist and Kai is a nice love interest. I liked both, Cinder as well developed character and Kai as a love interest who was not an asshole but who wasn’t that interesting either (until the ending, that is. The ending made me dislike him). The other characters were all very bland and unidimensional. The villain, Levana, was too cartoonish for my tastes, and not even for a moment did I feel like she was a threat, even though she could, you know, control people. I know this is a Cinderella retelling, but I guess I’m just past the vain woman as the villain (especially when the Cinderella in question is never said to be beautiful?). So eh, not convincing and way too cliché and I’m just really sick of it. Let women be vain (and yes, I know Levana is a tyrant. I just don’t like this trope).

The plot twist was really predictable. Like, I guessed it at 10%. It made me think of Snow Like Ashes, because well… The same thing happens there, but while it did work for me in Snow Like Ashes, it didn’t here in Cinder. I’m not sure I can explain exactly why without giving all the spoilers, but I felt like Cinder was totally, 100% thinking that its readers wouldn’t guess its obvious plot twist and depended too much on it. The ending was kinda ridiculous because of that.

The whole futuristic thing was underused too. I expected a lot more from it. It’s a really cool concept and I think the author could have done a lot more with it. But well, it is a fast paced book and, like I said, Cinder is a good protagonist – the kind you root for easily -, but not even her was enough to make this book a good book. Not even if I didn’t take the racist issue in consideration, which I’ll always do.

Overall, Cinder was a disappointment. I won’t be reading the sequel. 2.5 stars.   

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