This futuristic retelling of Cinderella is loads of fun. The story is set in New Beijing, post-World War IV. Cinder, age 16, is a cyborg; that is, because of an accident when she was little, she received a number of metal parts, and now is only 64% human. Rather than feeling lucky to be alive, however, Cinder has an image problem: in this society, cyborgs are considered anathema.
Cinder works as the only full-service mechanic in New Beijing’s weekly market, and she has a reputation as one of the best. When handsome (and single) Prince Kai, 19, brings his malfunctioning android to her for repairs, an attraction is formed, although Kai doesn’t realize Cinder is a cyborg; Cinder is convinced he would never look twice at her if he knew.
Meanwhile, a ball open to everyone is being planned to celebrate the anniversary of the end of WWIV, in spite of Kai’s father just dying of the horrible plague that is sweeping the country, and in spite of the unexpected and unwelcome visit of the evil Queen Levana of the Lunar race. Cinder can’t attend in any event; her wicked stepmother Adri would never allow it. Only her stepsisters Peony and Pearl may go.
This is the final straw for Cinder, who plots an escape from her stepmother with the help of her own android, the very human-like and endearing Iko. Adri tries to destroy Iko, and even takes away Cinder’s prosthetic foot so she can’t go anywhere the night of the ball. But then Cinder intercepts a warning meant for Kai, and decides she must go to the ball. Even at the cost of Kai seeing she is a cyborg, she has to get the message to him before it’s too late.
Evaluation: This is a very enjoyable read. The characterizations are delightful. Adri and Levana are over-the-top evil, but they’re supposed to be; after all, this is a fairy-tale retelling! Kai is charming, and I liked that his attraction for Cinder seems to be based on her being the only one in the kingdom who doesn’t fawn all over him. But Cinder and Iko are the real stars of the story. Iko the android is adorable, and Cinder is terrific: she is talented, strong, smart, loyal, not reluctant to be covered with grease from her job, and not afraid to stand up for what she believes.
But here’s the bad news: this book is only part one of a planned quartet, and it ends with a whopper of a cliffhanger. Gaaaaah! Nevertheless, I’m glad I read it, and will be happy to re-read it when subsequent volumes in the series are produced.
Published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, 2012