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Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

This is a science fiction story that can be considered slightly steampunk (but that is under debate). And, obviously, it is a retelling of Cinderella. It takes place in New Beijing, a commonwealth on Earth. The relations between Earth and Luna (the moon) are tense. The Lunar queen has been threatening war against Earth for decades and has unrealistic demands. She wants to be the Empress of New Beijing by marriage to Prince Kai. Prince Kai’s father, the Emperor, has been avoiding that outcome but he falls ill with the fatal plague that is killing off most of the Earthans. They call it letumosis. Linh Cinder, our main character, is a gifted mechanic, in part because she is cyborg, which gives her special mechanical abilities. She had these surgeries as a result of a hover craft accident she was in when she was younger. Although it’s not her fault she is cyborg, most people, including her adopted mother and sisters, think she is below the rest of society. Cinder is forced to work in the marketplace as a mechanic and give all her money to her “stepmother”. Her adopted father is out of the picture, as he died of the plague shortly after rescuing Cinder. It is obvious that her family blames her for this as well.

While working at the marketplace, an unusual patron comes in. Prince Kai commissions Cinder to fix his vintage android and seems conspiratorial about it. Cinder knows there’s something important about the android but doesn’t know what. The Prince doesn’t know she’s a cyborg and he flirts with her, making excuses to see her again.

The only person that doesn’t despise her is one of her sisters, Peony. When Peony finds out about the Prince’s visit she goes nuts. She’s had a crush on him forever. She begs Cinder to go to the junkyard because she’s bored and craving adventure. Cinder isn’t allowed to go to the annual ball, but she has to fix the family’s hover so they can go. Cinder and Peony go to the junkyard looking for replacement parts for the car. While they are there Peony shows signs of the plague and is taken by the authorities. Cinder is guilty because she comes up clean. Cinder’s stepmother accuses Cinder of giving Peony the plague and volunteers Cinder for plague research, where they essentially use cyborgs and force them to contract letumosis so they can experiment on them. All have died so far.

The scientists discover something about Cinder that is unusual and important to the cure and the safety of the entire planet. Cinder doesn’t know this or the fact that she is in mortal danger. At least not yet.

I think people either love or hate this book. Some have called it boring and predictable; some are blinded by love for it. I really liked it. I was a fast paced adventure with cool gadgety skills like having a light flash in your vision to alert you if people are telling you a lie. How cool is that? Yes I figured out the twist quite early in the book, but isn’t that the kind of fun knowledge you’d like to be in on to build the irony and suspense? I think teens will really gobble this book up. It also has a great (grrr) cliffhanger to lead to the sequel. Readers will also enjoy that Cinder is sarcastic, relatable and courageous. She is a character that acts on her moral values to attempt to help mankind.

The parallels are fun. Cinder is adopted by a father who is now dead. So she is stuck with stepmother and sisters. I like that one sister is her friend. The stepmother is horribly cruel and that makes her a wonderful villain even if she is rather a flat character. Cinder doesn’t actually want to go to the ball, but she has to, to “save the world.” She gets there in an old junker car that she fixed up herself, given her mechanical gifts. (No one even uses cars anymore) Instead of losing a glass slipper, her whole cyborg foot falls off. And there is no fairy godmother in this one, unless you count Dr. Erland, but he is not magical and he warns her away, not to, the ball.