Keertana's Reviews > Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
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's review
Jul 14, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: debut-author-2012, why-the-hype
Read from July 11 to 13, 2012

Rating: 2.5 Stars

In all honesty, the only reason this novel is receiving three stars is because the second half of the story was fast-paced, amped up the action, and was genuinely interesting. I didn’t think you could possibly go wrong with a Cinderella re-telling, let alone one involving a futuristic setting and cyborgs; unfortunately however, it turns out I was wrong. Cinder is one of those novels which had a lot of potential, but simply failed to live up to the hype surrounding it. While I enjoyed its overarching story and admired the strong – and surprisingly realistic – characters Meyer brought to life, both the lack of world-building and predictable plot ruined this novel for me.

Cinder, a cyborg, is the best mechanic in all of New Beijing. While her days are mostly spent doing various chores for her ungrateful stepmother and stepsisters, she still manages to be a mechanic. When handsome Prince Kai stops by, requesting her to fix his android, things slowly begin to change. For one, her kind stepsister Peony falls ill and is infected with a deadly and incurable disease. In her rage, her stepmother sends Cinder off to be a lab rat as she is a cyborg and is worthless to those around her. Meanwhile, Prince Kai’s father is dying from the same disease Peony has been infected with and as his death looms closer, so does the inevitable visit of the evil Queen Levana of the Lunars – people who possess magical glamour abilities and live on the moon. Levana has her own agenda and wishes to marry Kai to secure an alliance between the two planets and use her deadly abilities to take over. Yet, in the midst of all this, Cinder, who is being used to find a cure for the disease that plagues this nation, might just have more power, more importance, and more strength than she thinks. She, a lowly cyborg, may be the key to solving the plethora of problems surrounding them – if only she can understand how.

I know, I know, with a synopsis like that how could I not have liked this novel? I can sum that answer up in one word – predictability. I don’t think you have to be particularly intelligent to figure it out, but I was able to solve the mystery behind the plot of this novel less than 15% into it. In most cases, this slightly bothers me, but in the case of Cinder, I found this to be irritating to no extent. Marissa Meyer is a debut author, which is why I think her “subtle” hints at the huge plot twist/cliffhanger at the end were not-so-subtle, but I found Cinder herself to be remarkably stupid for not putting together the pieces before the last page of the story. If Cinder had somehow found out about this vital information/plot twist before the end of the novel, I think it would have made for a far more interesting and realistic plot. Unfortunately though, I find that Meyer was simply too focused on sticking strictly to the story arc of the fairy tale Cinderella herself and refused to take that creative leap of faith and change up the direction of her novel. I think readers who didn’t know the plot twist at the end would have enjoyed this novel far more than I would have since I found myself to be bored during many scenes and rolling my eyes at the obviousness of the whole situation during others – something which, I can assure you, you don’t want to find yourself doing while reading a book.

The predictable plot line aside, I also found the world-building to be strangely lacking. I love the world Meyer has created within Cinder and I thought it was not only creative, but original as well. Yet, I found that we were given practically no information at all about it! I believe that when an author is setting out to write a dystopian novel, regardless of whether or not they intend to change that into dystomance, they should first clearly outline the nuances of their futuristic world. While I understood that Cinder lived in the future, years after WWIV had taken place, and Earth was challenged by extra-terrestrial Lunars and humans suffered from an incurable disease, I knew nothing beyond that. Were the Lunars humans who had evolved to somehow channel magic? Or were they aliens? If so, were there other planets humans knew about? Even simple questions about Earth itself were left unanswered such as why the people had re-instated a monarchy rule instead of opting for a democracy which is a more popular form of government today or why, with such advanced technology, further improvements had not been made to somehow prevent the spread of this disease through some other method either than finding an impossible cure? While I hate information dumping, I still like to know my fair share of information about a dystopian setting, and I found myself to be very much disappointed by the unanswered questions Meyer left. In fact, I think many of the answers to these questions can be easily amounted to fairy tale necessities such as having a prince instead of a monarchy and only one conflicting extra-terrestrial challenge opposed to many. Nevertheless, I was unhappy by this development – or lack-of really – within the novel.

My qualms with this novel aside, there were aspects of it which I enjoyed believe it or not. For one, I loved Cinder. I thought her character was strong, courageous, brave, and reasonable. She had certain goals in mind and no one, not even the prince and her affection for him, came in the way of that which I admired. Furthermore, I enjoyed her interactions with Prince Kai. Although much of their dialogue was rather clichéd, I found their growing relationship to be nicely developed. In addition, Prince Kai himself is not your usual haughty monarchy. I liked his personality and his treatment of Cinder, despite her lowly status, was admirable. Yet, the best characters in this novel were the secondary characters themselves – Iko, an android; Peony, Cinder’s kind stepsister; and the doctor at the royal science lab. Not only did they play important roles in the development of Cinder and the novel itself, they were also exemplary, interesting, and fun characters to meet.

All in all, I guess you could say I liked Cinder. I found the pace to be quite comfortable, the characters to be enjoyable, and I loved Queen Levana as the villain as well. I also enjoyed the thorough employment of third person point of view, enabling us to see the political scheme in the palace as well as Cinder’s life. Yet, while I liked this book and can see why others will come to love it, I did not enjoy reading it. My experience was ruined by the predictability of the plot and the lack of world-building which I found to be disappointing, and I can say with perfect clarity that this novel does not live up to the hype. In fact, I doubt I will be picking up the sequel unless it is available in my library and I find myself with nothing else to read. I myself would not recommend this book, but as I seem to be in the minority with my rating, I’d tell you all to give it a try. Still, I’d caution you to go in with low expectations – if not, you might find yourself to be sorely disappointed and reduced to a pile of unhappy cinders like me.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
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Reading Progress

07/11/2012 page 50
13.0% "Cinder is Princess Selene isn't she? =.= I really hope I'm wrong because if I'm not, this will be the third book in the past week whose "twist" I have predicted less than 100 Pages into this novel...not that is depressing. :/"
07/11/2012 page 109
28.0% "Cinder doesn't remember anything before she was eleven years old and Prince Kai fears an invasion from the Lunars...could this be any more obvious? She's Princess Selene! I just know it! Now, she'll fall in love with Prince Kai and they'll actually be able to live happily ever after because they're both royalty. How. Original. =.="

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Megan Lack of world building killed this one for me, too.

Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) those ellipses after "review to come soon" are ominous! ;)

I'm sorry this one was overhyped for you! Looking forward to the review :D

Keertana @Megan: I'm sorry to hear that, but I understand completely! I'm surprised by all the stunning reviews of this one in fact - wasn't anyone else bothered by the dearth of world-building too? Good to know I'm not alone on that front though!(:

@Jessie: LOL! Yeah, they are quite ominous! I was writing my review for this last night and a lot of it is just me ranting! In fact, I'm going to lower the rating half a star since it turns out I didn't even completely like this one! :/ Anyway, I'm looking forward to posting the review up soon! Snarky reviews are always so much fun to write! ;)

Mithrendiel So I hunted down this review after seeing you comment on it in your Heart’s Blood review. I just had to know why you didn’t like Cinder. ; ) I adored the book, but you made some excellent points on its failings.

The predictability was a huge downside for me as well. I had the sense that the author expected some people to be surprised at the end with her "big reveal" on Cinder's identity, but the clues were so obvious it ended up feeling a bit ridiculous.

I don’t blame Cinder for not picking up on picking up on the clues though (however obvious). What girl raised like her would ever believe themself a princess? She was made to feel like trash her whole life. By EVERYONE. Assuming the clues presented meant she might be noble would seem like a dream too good to be true. She also did not have the view we did into the doctor’s research. From the omniscient reader’s chair, we were able to gather a lot more information.

GREAT points on the world building though. Unexplained apocalypses are the bane of dystopian writings. It’s like authors come up with these great ideas, and just roll with them, without spending the time to come up with rock solid, plausible reasons why things are the way they are. Maybe it’s just the way my brain is wired – but I need to know the answers.

Keertana Mithrendiel, what you said about Cinder really cleared things up from me. I definitely see how, from her perspective, she wouldn't pick up on the clues that she was a princess, but I almost wish the author had made it less obvious to us. It irritates me when red herrings fly all over the place and we have to constantly notice they're there, again and again and again, and then still be surprised at the "big reveal." I'm one of those readers for whom predictability is a big "make it or break it" deal, so that grated on me while I read this. I do see Cinder's perspective much clearer now, so thank you for that.

YES! Gosh, the world-building - or lack of, really - was so disappointing. I feel as if Meyer let the fairy tale of Cinderella limit what she could do with this book which is why I loved Heart's Blood so much. It is based off of Beauty and the Beast, but only loosely. For one, there isn't a beast, the curse isn't what you think it is, the villain has more depth than you anticipate, and so many other events are far more different than the original fairy tale, but it still retains that same fairy tale essence all while taking on a life-form as an original tale of its own. I think I expect too much from fairy-tale re-tellings and Cinder disappointed on that front for me. *sigh* I think you'll adore Heart's Blood though, so I hope you get the chance to read it soon, Mithrendiel! :)

Inge I've just finished the book and your reviews sums it up pretty perfectly, as I have the exact same pet peeves -- lack of world building, and figuring everything out before I'm even a quarter of the way in. There was such a lack of surprise that it was a struggle for me to get through, and it was quite slow, as well. Not to mention you could barely picture anything because nothing was explained. It was an enjoyable story, but.. that's all.

La Coccinelle I figured out the "big twist" at around the same point you did. But I kept reading, hoping there'd be a twist on the twist. No such luck.

I agree about the world-building, too. I have a hard time picturing anything in these books. And there are so many unanswered questions about the world. What caused the 3rd and 4th world wars? Why are cyborgs treated like crap? What's up with the Lunars? And so on...

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