One word: AMAZING. It's billed as a fairy tale retelling and while I caught the references to Cinderella, Cinder is so much more than that. This one has it all--an engaging and relatable heroine, a unique plot, a prince, an evil queen, magic-like powers, cyborgs (YES, cyborgs), a futuristic setting, and a deadly plague threatening to decimate the population of Earth. Yeah, it doesn't get much better than Cinder.
Add to all this the smooth, easy writing style of Marissa Meyer and you have one of the best debuts of 2012. I'm already counting down the days until the release of part 2 in 2013. Feiwel & Friends seems to be just hitting it out of the park with their releases for the coming year.
Cinder is totally likeable. Her guardian (evil-stepmother) Adri treats her as a servant and as a burden. She has no friends save for her stepsister Peony--who contracts the plague--and a "defective" android. But she's feisty, smart, and confident even though she is trapped in a hopeless situation. I couldn't help but love her.
Kai wasn't ultra swoon-worthy, but he had his moments and I certainly found myself sympathizing with his plight--losing his parents to the plague, the burden of becoming emperor at such a young age, dealing with the demands and the threat of war from the evil Queen Levana.
Speaking of Queen Levana, I have to tell you that she is one of the creepiest villains. She's unfeeling, calculating, manipulative--all while projecting an image of perfect beauty and wearing a painted-on smile. I LOVE her.
The setting is a futuristic society in China, still reeling from the effects of World War 4 and currently suffering from a plague that kills everyone it touches. I liked the fact that while there was a mixed populace, hovercrafts, and androids, there was still a sense of Old World tradition and prejudices that made it familiar and real.
In the end, I was left wanting more. I will warn you that there is a cliffhanger ending. This story won't be resolved in one book, so don't be surprised when it happens. That being said, this is an incredible book that is not yo be missed. Covet, borrow, acquire. Do what you have to do, just get your hands on this book. You won't be disappointed.