Thursday, February 6, 2014

Review: Cinder

Time for a confession: I am just one of those people who is naturally averse to hype. If something is lauded as just a wonderful, spectacular piece of writing - if it's going to change your world, and be something you pass on to everyone you know - something whose bookshelf is not so much an indicator of its worth, but simply a training grounds within which the novel tested its mettle against other novels to become the champion of all bookdom... then there's no way I'm going to read it. 

I'll get around to it eventually, but I sure won't read it when all people are giving me is that it's going to rock me like a wagon wheel. I'll timidly approach a couple of well-thumbed copies at the library or somewhere, and take a glance at what every else felt was so earth-shattering. And, more often than not, when I do eventually get around to reading these special books, I end up enjoying them. And sometimes - though rarely, but sometimes - I buy into the hype. And when I buy into it, I buy wholesale, and in bulk. Costco-sized hype.

In Marissa Meyer's Cinder, the first novel in the Lunar Chronicles series, we meet Cinder, a cyborg mechanic working to support her evil stepmother and family in New Beijing. With little knowledge of her past, and only a hope for improving her future through her own mechanics skills, a choice encounter with Prince Kai and a brush with a fatal disease is enough to send Cinder's precarious life into a tailspin, involving intergalactic warfare, forbidden love, and a terrible secret within the inner workings of the empire. To save those she cares about most, Cinder must first come to terms with her own self, and her past.

First of all, Cinder's a total bad-ass, but in a lovable, fun, relatable-which-makes-it-all-the-more-heartbreaking-when-people-totally-suck kind of way. She is, honestly, just the kind of lead female characters I totally love to see, with a backbone, fierce loyalty, an open mind, a giving heart by nature, and a strong sense of self. In fact, she reminded me a little of Kaylee, from Firefly. Or maybe a cross between Kaylee and Katniss Everdeen... yeah. That's perfect.

So, beyond how wonderful it is to have the kind of heroine I haven't really seen since Tamora Pierce's Aly from the Trickster's books, Cinder had a lot more backing the story up, including excellent world-building skills, which are totally vital when you're trying to make a futuristic science fiction novel that balances the technological prowess of a master mechanic, living in a world with hyper-stylized machinery and architecture, with the already-present factor of a fairy tale's fanciful storytelling. Luckily, Meyer does an impeccable job with crafting the city of New Beijing, marrying Asian cultural icons with a futuristic slant and rounding it all out with an advanced colony of super-humanoids living on the moon. Love it.

And, of course, I'd be completely remiss without noting that Meyer is, all over, pretty stupendous for the YA genre, as well. Not only is she a master world-builder, but she rocks at constructing fast-paced, yet no less involving plots, made sure that all of the pieces that were moving at once never got lost or convoluted, populated her world with dynamic and engaging characters, and did it all in a way that was fun to read. She had me so caught up in the novel itself, that for a while, I even forgot it was inspired by a fairy tale, and when those sort of self-referential moments caught up with the plot, I was mightily impressed. Very good work!

All in all, I think that if you're into YA, and even the least bit into sci fi, and especially a little bit into fairy tales, you should definitely give this one a shot, because it definitely did it's job living up to the hype!

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