Tuesday, January 3, 2012

So: Cinder.

Wicked stepsister.  Check.
Dead dad.  Check (we think).
Prince Charming.  Check.
Persecuted heroine who just doesn't fit in.  Check.
Wicked stepmother.  Check.  And double-check.

Add:  Moon people terrorizing earthlings with their psychic powers and magicked beauty and ruthlessness. 
Add: Cyborgs and androids and plagues: Oh, my!

This fledgling effort by twenty-something writer Marissa Meyer offers reasonably quick pacing and many not-entirely-expected plot twists, so it kept me interested most of the time.

What it doesn't boast is strong sentence-level writing (translation: not a single beautiful or surprising turn of phrase to be had, so typical of so much Y.A. nowadays - and, yes: back in the day it was better).  I won't quote from the serviceable but mediocre prose - you've seen enough of it by now, I'm sure - but I will share another concern I felt about this novel, even as I closed the cover on its last page:

Cinder's a cypher (in addition to being a cyborg), rather akin to Bella in the Twilight series:  Beyond a certain basic spunkiness, she's defined primarily by how she reacts to others' actions, even though her perspective is the dominant one in this fantasy/sci-fi hybrid.  And she - I suppose, in true teen fashion - often has no idea why she thinks, feels, or acts as she does.  Perhaps this allows more readers to project themselves onto her and thus stay engaged with this plot-driven novel, but I always want to "have it all" where stories are concerned and prefer my protagonists both psychologically dimensional and dynamic.

On the bright side, I think that many young teens will find this futuristic fantasy set in "New Beijing" enjoyable because Ms. Meyer sets up her heroine as the victim on many levels, thus readers will empathize not only with Cinder's lack of self-reflection and self-knowledge but also with her status as "other".  In contrast, equally young Prince Kai seems thoughtful, balanced, dimensional, and deliberate, at least when it counts plausibility-wise.  He's a heartthrob too, and I'm guessing that girls - clearly the audience for Cinder - will dream quite a few little dreams of him as they await the next two installments of this series.

A final gripe, a final grin:
a.  This book in no way stands on its own.  It simply ends only about half way through the Cinderella story plot.  Frustrating when a novel doesn't at least offer closure within one story-arch.

b.  The cover's pretty rad, though, eh?

MFB, as you can't judge a book by...
L

AND I would probably pick up the next installment just to see what happens to poor "between a rock and a hard place" Prince Kai.  So there.

4 comments:

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I've been hearing so much hype about this book, but I'm not sure I can muster the enthusiasm to read it. Maybe I'll just rely on your review and if you say the next one is fabulous, then maybe I'll pick this one up.

Why, oh why, can't we just have one big volume of YA goodness instead of being strung along in needless trilogies?

couchpotatocritic said...

Every time I turn around, I'm getting contradictory reviews about this book. Sigh... :p

Laurie said...

E - No need to muster. It'll be waiting for you here when you want it.
CPC - Sorry to add to the confusion. Mayhaps a no-risk library loan?

Laurie said...

And CPC - I checked in with myself before posting this review to be sure that I was working within and toward my integrity, in part due to your encouragement. Thanks.

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