I read books of all sorts, but mostly kids' lit and young adult literature and speculative fiction for all ages—usually from a feminist perspective.
I've adopted a personalized version of the CHOICE reviews approach to recommendations/star ratings:
***** = Essential, a.k.a. truly love, absolute must-read, buy it now
**** = Highly Recommended, a.k.a. this is a really good book; I would buy it as a gift
*** = Recommended, a.k.a. pretty good; worth reading
** = Optional, a.k.a. meh
* = Not Recommended; a.k.a. this is not a good book
What is there to like?
▪ With any fairy tale or myth retelling, the main pleasure is seeing how the recognizable elements are reimagined—and some of them are quite fun. Instead of a serf/peasant-type, Cinderella is a second-class citizen in a futuristic world by virtue of being a cyborg. Her fairy godmother is an android, and the pumpkin/carriage is an old junkyard car that Cinder fixes up herself.
▪ Cinder takes it upon herself to get out of her downtrodden station, and goes to the ball to try to save the day, rather than just in the hopes of being married/rescued. Bravo!
▪ I didn't quite get a handle on what Cinder's ethnicity was, but the non-Eurocentric setting and characters is to be applauded.
▪ The celebrity adulation surrounding Prince Kai is totally resonant with current popular culture.
▪ It's the beginning of a series—if you love series.
What's not to like?
▪ The plot points are foreshadowed too heavily—none of the big "reveals" were really surprising.
▪ The threat/villain was pretty cartoonishly bad. World domination! An evil ruler! Were the villain not a lady, I could easily imagine her twirling a pointy moustache.
▪ Some elements didn't quite translate...getting excited about going to a dance seems incredibly out of place given the surrounding events in the story, and including hereditary monarchy in a future that has reshuffled global politics considerably felt a bit forced.
▪ But the main problem actually comes about through subverting the most enduring aspect of the original Cinderella tale: it's the rags-to-riches story. In Cinder, Cinder isn't just a nobody who triumphs over the station she was born to. Rather, it turns out that she's a missing princess with special powers...so she was always meant to be the savior. It's a chosen-one story, or a lost hero story, or a riches-to-rags-to-riches story. It's the story of someone born into privilege who goes through a rough patch and comes out stronger on the other side because she is privileged in the first place. Which makes it the exact opposite of a Cinderella story.
▪ As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm not a big fan of mind control as a narrative device anyway, but I'm even more not a fan of the "glamour" brand of mind-magic. Surely young women nowadays should be inspired to do more interesting things with their magic—even for villainous purposes—than make themselves be seen as beautiful.
▪ It's the beginning of a series—if you're burnt out on series.
Sisters Red, Jackson Pearce
The Wind-Up Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
What made me pick it up?
Great cover design, I'm always intrigued by fairy tale retellings, and this book got a lot of positive buzz.
Overall recommendation: Optional