Feiwel and Friends
Full disclosure: I've never liked the Cinderella story. Even as a kid I thought it was pretty stupid that Cinderella did absolutely nothing for herself and was basically handed her happily-ever-after thanks to a fairy godmother. Thankfully, this isn't the case here. Though a retelling of the more traditional Cinderella tale, Cinder uses the elements of the story very creatively and, best of all, gives Cinder actual backbone. She's smart and resourceful, sure, but more than that she insists on standing up for herself, which was refreshing.
This is a solidly sci-fi retelling of the tale and I loved every element of it -- the Cyborgs, Androids, and Lunars as well as the hints of fairytale -- so it's surprising and a little sad that I didn't altogether love it. My thoughts on this book are a little bit conflicted and at least some of that has to do with my own personal tastes as a reader. I like character-driven books. And, in plot-driven stories like this one, I like well-developed characters who can carry the plot, who make me care about it. While Cinder, Prince Kaito, and the rest of the characters were good, there was something missing. The book was so plot-driven and so full of nearly nonstop action that it was difficult to really get to know these characters beyond the part they played in the story. I'm sorry to say that it's a good bet none of these characters will make a huge impression on me or linger in my mind for days the way the best characters always do. The emotional scenes didn't have the impact on me that I would have expected or liked them to, and I think this is probably due to the fact that though I liked the characters, I didn't really really care about them the way you need to for emotional heft.
The book as a whole felt almost like a prequel to the story's progression in the next three books of the series, but I found myself confused about certain fairly important points regarding Cinder's world. I wanted to know why Cyborgs are considered less than human -- how much robot are they? We know Cinder's percentage, but what's the difference between the Cyborgs of New Beijing and people today who have prosthetic limbs or rebuilt joints? More explanation on points like this, which would be obvious to the characters and the writer, but not to readers, would have been nice.
However, though I was confused about some of the world-building things, the "twists" in the book were obvious from the get-go. Nothing here surprised me and on the one hand this means that Cinder's discoveries were foreshadowed well, but on the other hand... I wanted to be surprised. For as awesomely action-packed as this book was, it was also predictable to the point of almost being boring -- like I said, it feels like a prequel or prologue to the rest of the story that this series will cover.
I don't want this review to sound like I didn't like the book because despite all my issues with it, it was an enjoyable read for me. Meyer has turned the traditional Cinderella story into something fantastic and made her futuristic world completely original. Despite the predictability, it was fun noticing all the fairy tale elements that are in play and Cinder's journey is such a departure from what you'd expect from a fairy tale retelling. I'm a reader who goes for characters and their relationships above all else; the fact that I didn't really connect to any of these characters hampered my connection to the book, but definitely doesn't take away from the fact that the story is pretty incredible. It's an original world and an original concept. As with Across the Universe, I'm more excited about the full series than book one and I just hope that by the time the second book comes out my enthusiasm for the series hasn't faded away.