Marissa Meyer takes on a classic fairytale and puts her own spin for her debut novel, Cinder. Set in the near future, the story follows a young cyborg who is about to get a whole new perspective on life in “re-boot” (pardon our pun) of Cinderella.
Elisa: You always seem to rope me into reading these paranormal YAs.
Whitney: That may be the case, but they’ve been winners so far. Cinder is a great read, and quite different from a lot of the stories coming out in the YA genre. Although the book has some similarities to the fairytale, don’t expect this to be “Cinderella gets transported to the future and now lives in New Beijing with a few screws in her”. This is the Cinderella like you’ve never read it before.
Elisa: You are right, Cinder is unique. And while I’m not a big YA reader, this story has a very futuristic, cyberpunk feel to it, which I love. It’s like if Neal Stephenson wrote a YA with a touch of romance.
Whitney: Right, Cinder is a cyborg, the adopted daughter of a scientist who died shortly thereafter. And now she lives with and works for his family in New Beijing.
Elisa: You know, there were moments where I forgot that the heroine is a teen. She’s very mature.
Whitney: Could it be because she is programmed that way? Okay, maybe that joke was in poor taste. The subject of cyborgs is a very touchy one in Cinder’s society. But I have to say that even my favorite YA cyborg story, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, is nothing like this tale. Except, of course, that both heroines have mechanical parts that keep their bodies alive.
Elisa: My favorite cyborg is probably Fido, the rat-like robot from Stephenson’s Snow Crash.
Whitney: I totally felt like similar to the other cyborgs I’ve read about before or not, Cinder is a cyborg. Meyer does a good job of making it clear that this girl has working (and sometimes non-working) parts throughout her body.
Elisa: Cyborg mechanics play a huge role in the story, both in how Cinder views herself as somewhat of a mutant, being part human and part robot, and how she uses her knowledge of mechanics to repair cyborgs and fix just about anything, including herself.
“Sighing, Cinder bent over the toolbox beneath the worktable. After digging through the jumbled mess of screwdrivers and wrenches, she emerged with the fuse puller that had been long buried at the bottom. One by one, she disconnected the wired that still linked her foot and ankle, each spurting a tiny spark. She couldn’t feel them through the gloves, but her retina display helpfully informed her with blinking red text that she was losing connection to the limb.”
Whitney: Which literally “works” out nicely. Cinder makes money for her stepfamily by working as a mechanic at the New Beijing market, and has gained a reputation for being the best mechanic in the city.
Elisa: Which is how she ends up meeting the prince, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Whitney: I loved that the author gave Cinder a job outside of her family’s house. Because the job really made it clear that, unlike the original Cinderella, Cinder has her own goals.
Elisa: In the first few pages of the story she has invested her own money in a foot that is the correct size. (Something her cheapskate stepmother won’t buy for her.) She’s also planning on saving up enough money to leave her evil stepmother’s home.
Whitney: I think one of the things that makes Cinder such a relatable character is that she isn’t just like the original Cinderella going, “la la la, I am totally content to stay in this undeniably awful situation where I’m being treated like dirt, la la la.”
Elisa: Cinder is one hundred times more badass than the original Cinderella. Instead of cleaning and doing household chores she’s fixing robots and getting dirty in junkyards. Toolboxes beat ball gowns any day.
Whitney: Well, that may be a matter of opinion, because when given the choice, I’m choosing the ball gown (big surprise). But I agree that Cinder’s situation is intolerable.
Elisa: And Meyer does a good job of explaining why Cinder would stick it out this long, too. At the beginning she is willing to hand over her hard earned money to her stepfamily because she feels like she owes it to them for adopting her.
Whitney: They are providing a roof over her head, but that roof is on top of a closet, and Cinder’s step mom treats her like a slave.
Elisa: Well, technically she is a slave in the eyes of the law. Legally, her stepmother, an obnoxious human being, owns her. Because cyborgs are treated as second — no, third class citizens.
Whitney: Right, the government has even been drafting cyborgs as test subjects to find a vaccine for a plague that is killing the citizens of New Beijing, they clearly have very little regard for cyborg life.
Elisa: And it’s not all bad at Cinder’s stepfamily’s house. Her stepsisters, well, one of her stepsisters, is worth sticking around for. Peony and Cinder are very close.
Whitney: Plus, Cinder’s step mom owns the cyborg’s only other friend —
Elisa: Iko! She’s Cinder’s android bff (best friend forever) and she is SO CUTE!
Whitney: Iko has the personality of a young teen who loves jewelry — which she doesn’t own — fashion — the closest she’s come is borrowing Cinder’s step-family's makeup and ribbons — and pop culture — Iko adores the country’s handsome prince, who is treated like a celebrity.
Elisa: You know who Iko reminds me of? Pintsize, the pet robot from one of my favorite web comics, Questionable Content.
Whitney: Agreed, and her personality really adds a big of levity to the story. There’s a particularly cute moment between Cinder and Iko as they talk about going to the junkyard.
“It sounds dirty and stinky,” said Iko.
“How would you know?” said Cinder. “You don’t even have scent receptors.”
“I have a fantastic imagination.”
Elisa: Iko isn’t the only character with a sense of humor, Prince Kai loves to tease Cinder.
Whitney: But that’s flirty-humor, not laugh out loud humor.
Elisa: Both made me laugh, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Whitney: I’m not saying he’s not super cute. I mean, Prince Kai left the safety of his castle (and his entourage) to track down the best mechanic in his country, Cinder, so that she can fix the android that he’s had since he was a child.
Elisa: I really think that this scene says a lot about the Prince’s personality, because he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to personally see that his old tutor android gets fixed. Plus he comes dressed as a commoner and doesn’t behave like royalty. A very down to earth guy.
Whitney: He is a very good hero, smart, funny, loyal and willing to do what is necessary for the good of his country.
Elisa: Which is a good thing, because when his father dies from the same plague that the cyborgs are getting drafted to try out vaccines for, Prince Kai becomes King Kai.
Whitney: And there’s a heartless Alien Queen just waiting to swoop down and make King Kai her future husband.
Elisa: I’m not sure if “waiting” is the right word because Queen Levanna is headed to Earth the moment she hears that Kai’s father has died. And this is no Glenda the Good Witch.
Whitney: True story, she’s straight up Evil. Not only does she use her magic to manipulate people, she is committing genocide against her non-magical servants.
Elisa: And she wants Kai as a puppet king — or her dead husband.
Whitney: But Cinder may be about to disrupt her well-laid plans.
Elisa: You’ll just have to read Cinder to find out ...
Want to read this unique tale yourself? You can pick up your copy of Cinder in stores now. And come back next week when Morgan and Whitney will be Dishing about the latest contemporary romance from Carla Neggers, Secrets of the Lost Summer.