I’ll be honest. It’s pretty tough to convince me that the world needs another Cinderella re-telling, especially since so many stories out there are rags to riches. Re-tellings of fairy tales are huge right now, which makes sense because literary agents were actively seeking fairy tale re-tellings a few months ago. The fact that there are two Snow White movies competing in the theaters at the same time is evidence enough of the trend.
How does Marissa Meyer stack up in a world already dominated by Gail Carson Levine and Robin McKinley? What does she bring to the table?
Simple. Cyborg Cinderella.
Those two words have been all that I have needed to get students excited about the book. What’s fun is that Marissa Meyer is a Cinderella story herself. She started out by posting Sailor Moon fan fic to the Internet and then went all the way to sell Cinder, her NaNoWriMo project. I can support that.
But is the book more than just cyborg Cinderella? Gimmicks can only last so far.
The characters are interesting takes on the traditional story. By changing the setting to a future where the Earth dominions are at war with the Moon, there is a purpose behind the ball at the end – more than just, “Eh. Prince Charming needs to get hitched.” Prince Kai is a round character who is diplomatically fighting to protect Earth from a Lunar invasion. He’s not shallow by any stretch of the definition. Cinder is an accomplished mechanic that is trying to save her step-sister and can’t be bothered by going to a dance.
The relationships are definitely the focus of the novel. The Lunars can control minds, and there are some cool stand-offs using those powers, but for the most part they’re spiteful and covert. Since this is book one in a four-book series, maybe we’ll see some more overt uses.
It always amazes me in a sci-fi book/movie when the audience (myself included) connects to an alien/robot and sees humanity in them. For example, E.T. is ugly. He’s weird. And yet we love him, we care for him, and we don’t want him to see harm. Marissa Meyer wrote in a robotic sidekick that I really was rooting for. Yeah, I know. But it does go to show her talent in characterization.
This is also an interesting experiment in imagery. When I read a book, I tend to picture the setting and characters on the grittier side. I’m sure that the author of Watership Down would be surprised at the amount of battle scars the rabbits had when I read the book. Why I bring it up is that I started reading Cinder and pictured it a little on the grim (Grimm? Get it?) side. We meet Cinder when she’s detaching her foot, after all. When the Lunars show up, though, they’re straight out of anime in their descriptions. I could see them menacing Sailor Moon or the Gundam Wing pilots. No complaints from me, it just was something that caught me off guard.
Cinder looks to be a popular book. With testing going on, I haven’t been able to booktalk it, but the handsell will be easy. The cover is amazing and even caught my youngest daughter’s attention. “Dad, why is that girl’s foot evil?” “She’s not evil. She’s just a cyborg.” And that, my friends, sums up the whole conflict of the book in two sentences.