Cinder Book Review: Can a Cyberpunk Take on Classic Fairy Tale Work?



Cinder is a gifted mechanic and cyborg is new Beijing, a city literally falling apart with an ill king, political enemies, and a plague tearing through the population. However, when she finds herself increasingly entangled with the Prince, she is going to have to start making some hard choices.

Cinder is the first book from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.


There’s something comforting about fairy tale reworkings. Mostly because, regardless of the trapping, the plot is going to follow a certain series of events until you get to what might be a twist at the end to give it a new spin. So cue the wicked stepmother (though in this case neglectful or abusive may be the better descriptor), the Prince falling in love seemingly at first sight, and the eventual ball in the final act. However, when you throw in plagues, Moon Queens and political alliances, while the story is familiar enough you won’t be feeling like you’ve read this version of it before.

There’s a lot to like it this gritty tale of romance and betrayal. Certainly the fact that the conflict extends beyond a single kingdom makes the scope of the story far more impressive from the get go. In most versions of the story there is very little known of how the Kingdom sits in relation to other countries/kingdoms so the Prince’s choice to marry a girl far beneath his social class has little overall impact other than to allow us to believe love conquers all obstacles. Even Ever After, barely addressed the issue even though technically the Prince there was betrothed to the Princess of Spain and they simply made his near wedding a comedic scene where that Princess pulled out of the ceremony, thus saving France from suffering any real consequence of the headstrong Prince’s choice.

Ever After.gif

However, Cinder is different as Kai’s choices are going to have some fairly major consequences further down the line and you definitely wonder whether you should be supporting the two getting together or not given how terribly that could work out for the Kingdom and the people. I really liked this aspect of it as it made the entire situation of a commoner and a Prince coming together seem far more grounded in reality than such a romance usually is, and yet still allowed us to get swept along as the two interacted. We always knew it wasn’t going to be so easy so the ending of this book is not exactly a let down, but it makes for a more impressive story.

I also genuinely like Prince Kai as a character. He’s young and uncertain about some things, stuck in a horrible situation, suffering from the loss of his father, and he is having to make some really tough choices. In his shoes I probably would lock myself in my room and hope it all went away (okay, maybe not, but I’d certainly want to). Yet, despite a few choice moments, Kai deals with it admirably. He may not manage to wave his and magically make things better fairy godmother style, but he’s certainly trying to find the best path through the thorns and all things considered he isn’t doing too bad a job.


Despite that, Cinder is a little bit harder to take seriously in this story. We’ve seen Cinderella in Disney form where she’s just too sweet for words. We’ve seen the sassy modern takes on Cinderella with Drew Barrymore in Ever After or even Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. We get that Cinderella doesn’t need to wait around for the guy and can make decisions on her own (but if the guy shows up and its on her terms then go for the romantic and happy ending).


But in Marissa Meyer’s take on Cinderella, we have a girl who is dejected and has all but surrendered herself to the awfulness that surrounds her. It is understandable, but it hard to get behind her as a character. Almost all of her plans and schemes are motivated entirely by self-interest and quite a few of her problems come about because she just doesn’t pay enough attention to those around her as she seems oblivious to the problems of others. By the time she decides to make a noble gesture and attempt to save Prince Kai at the ball it is very hard to care particularly for Cinder as a character and by this stage you know how badly that rescue is going to go so you mostly just sit back and wait to read how it all fell apart.

Which leads me to my other issue with the story. While it is a fast read (a day or two at most to read depending on distractions) and its relatively easy and flowing to read with a more young adult audience in mind, the writing is pretty ordinary. By that I do not mean it is bad. It flows well and moves you along. The world building is fine and you can visualise what is being described. What I mean by ordinary is that I got to the end of the book and couldn’t recall a single line of note. Not one description that I just loved and wanted to read again. Even while reading, there were no passages that made me pause after reading them and want to go back just to take in a good turn of phrase. So maybe ordinary isn’t the right word. The writing is unobtrusive, but that also makes it fairly unremarkable.

That said, the plot is pretty addictive and I am desperate to know what happens next for our cyborg mechanic and the Prince so I will be hitting the book depository sooner rather than later to pick up the next book in the series.

If you’ve had a read of Cinder, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

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Karandi James.


11 thoughts on “Cinder Book Review: Can a Cyberpunk Take on Classic Fairy Tale Work?

  1. A warning! Scarlet, the next book, starts out from the perspective of a new character. That tends to throw people off so I thought I’d mention it. I liked your review too. 🙂

    1. New character perspective is fine as long as it is clear you’ve changed the perspective. I really find it awkward when reading and realise that the story shifted perspectives and I hadn’t noticed right away.

    1. I don’t get to write them very often because mostly I just reread old books while I’m working (hard to focus on new stories and I end up getting in trouble because I read until I hit the end of the book and that sometimes means I forget about work). I’m glad you enjoyed the review and hopefully I’ll get to do a few more.

  2. This sounds like a really interesting reworking of such a familiar tale. Unfortunately I have so many novels that I still need to read in my own collection that I won’t be getting to this any time soon. I enjoyed reading this review though, nice to see you take on a book review 😀

      1. Yeah, book reviews can be tricky indeed. Usually because the stories are bigger than a movie or tv series. But you managed to pull it off quite well 😊

  3. Cinder is the weakest book in the series imo. I was super frustrated with her as a character too this entire book (I thought the middle of it was a huge drag and hard to get through because of how negative she was) but trust me, that’s part of her story arc throughout the series. It’s a huge character flaw that gradually gets less and less until she makes a pretty big decision in one of the books and then her character is a loooot better and awesome. Love Kai too! I was pleasantly surprised that he wasn’t just a boring bump on a log.

    Agree with you on the writing though, I think the style has a lot to do with the fact Meyer started out writing fanfiction. The story reads like a really good fanfic to me which I’m fine with but I could see someone being liek eh to the writing style. The plot and characters is more what I care about, not the writing.

    Scarlet is my favorite book in the series, so can’t wait to see how you like it!

    1. It’s currently sitting in my wish list on the Book Depository so once I have a bit of time I’ll place the order. Probably be close to the end of the year before I get around to reading and reviewing though.

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