The Lunar Chronicles, Book One
Review posted August 8, 2012.
Feiwel and Friends, New York, 2012. 390 pages.
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Teen Fiction
I've always loved fairy-tale retellings, but this science fiction version of Cinderella is even better than most. Once again, I stayed up all night reading to finish the book, even though I know that's not good for me. But the book was so good! Since I was able to take a nap the next day, I'm afraid my bad behavior was reinforced, and it was totally worth it.
Cinder is set in New Beijing, 126 years after the end of the fourth world war, after which the kingdoms of the earth have been at peace. They've been at peace, but not without problems. There's a plague raging, and even the Emperor of the Eastern Alliance is sick with it.
Linh Cinder is a cyborg, which is why she's a second-class citizen. She's 63.72% human, but she has some machine parts, like her left hand and foot, and some brain and sensory enhancements. She doesn't remember anything from before the accident and fire that burned her when she was eleven years old.
Since her adoptive father died, Cinder's been the one making a living for her family as a mechanic. She's a good mechanic, as her cyborg enhancements give her special abilities, but she's surprised when Prince Kai brings in an old android that needs repair.
Cinder barely heard him above the blankness in her mind. With her heartbeat gathering speed, her retina display scanned his features, so familiar from years spent watching him on the netscreens. He seemed taller in real life and a gray hooded sweatshirt was like none of the fine clothes he usually made appearances in, but still, it took only 2.6 seconds for Cinder's scanner to measure the points of his face and link his image to the net database. Another second and the display informed her of what she already knew; details scribbled across the bottom of her vision in a stream of green text.
There's something important about the android, but Prince Kai has many other things to worry about. The evil queen of the Lunar Colony wants to marry an earth emperor. But the people who live on the moon have evolved the ability to control the minds of others. If she marries Kai, she will enslave the people of his country as she has her own. But she can apply powerful pressure.
In the meantime, there is a draft of cyborg "volunteers" to test potential plague antidotes. When Cinder's stepmother decides it's time for Cinder to "volunteer," Cinder learns some surprising new things about herself. But she also runs into the prince again.
This book takes the framework of the fairy tale and plays with it. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that instead of losing a shoe when she leaves the ball, Cinder loses a foot. I admit I was sad that there wasn't a fairy godmother in this story, because I wanted that for Cinder, but it's quite amazing what she manages to accomplish herself.
And there's no Happily Ever After yet for Cinder, but the title page warned that this is Book One, so I didn't expect it. But at the same time, it tells a satisfying story, following the Cinderella basic framework, yet adding in an intricate plot all its own. The future world is credibly and skilfully built. And the romance between Cinder and the Prince is done well.
I'm going to want to read the next volumes just as soon as they come out. Though I will definitely try to start very early on an evening when I have no other plans.