Cinder – 3.5 stars (13 reviews, 4.23 avg)
I’m going to start off by saying that I’m probably not the demographic for this novel. This book has an excellent rating on Goodreads, and has gotten great reviews here on CBR. My wife loved the book, and enthusiastically encouraged me to read it. I thought it was okay. But I’m not really a fan of fairy tales, and have struggled in the past both with the romance genre and young adult fiction. So, while I wasn’t blown away by the book, my expectations were low enough to leave me pleasantly surprised by the overall story.
Set in some vague future that’s seen (probably multiple) devastating events (WWIV, most recently), the world has been reshaped into a new alliance of nations under an emperor. The only group of humans apparently not subject to this imperialism is a lunar colony that itself is overseen by a queen. Technology is fairly important in this world, but the whole thing feels more like a fantasy series than science fiction – robots and cyborgs aside. Our heroine is Cinderella, a cyborg with a mysterious past. The rest of the story is….well, entirely predictable.
Which is my problem. Its hard to get into a book when all the key events are easily seen from a long way out. Swipe text for spoilers So there’s a plague devastating the population, and tests are being run on cyborgs to find a cure? I bet our heroine will be immune. There’s an unmarried prince? I bet she’ll marry him. The Lunar colony is missing the heir, and is run by an evil queen who’s usurped the throne? I bet our heroine, who has a mysterious past and can’t remember where she comes from, will turn out to be the long lost princess. End of spoilers. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the book is paint-by-numbers, but there are few surprises.
But, the characters are fairly well developed and likable. The romance is a little on the cheesy side, but this is a fairy tale exported to a science fiction novel. What do you expect? It’s easy to root for Cinder, and I hope she finds her prince in the end (big prediction: she will). It’d just be nice for the unavoidable romance to be a bit more earned.
Some of the relationships are a little poorly developed. The Lunar/Earth conflict doesn’t seem plausible given the natural limitations of living on the moon and population differences. This is kind of shrugged off by the implication that the fourth world war devastated the Earth, and the plague has kept the population focused on other things, but I didn’t feel like enough attention was devoted to explaining how Earth could be in such a poor state that the Moon was able to so clearly surpass it.
Overall, it’s a solid book that seems to have a good fanbase. So if this seems appealing, it’s probably worth your time if you haven’t already read it.
Scarlet – 4 stars (14 reviews, 3.57 avg)
I found this a little harder to get into. While this book is certainly a continuation of the previous, we’re introduced to “Scarlet”, a revamping of the Little Red Riding Hood story (complete with a Big Bad Wolf). I guess I should expect this going forward. Though I do think it added, overall, to the world Meyer has created, the switch in story line was a little disorienting at first.
Once I got into it, though, I found it just as engaging. The expansion of the world was enough to bump it to 4 stars.
Cress 3.5 stars (8 reviews, 4.25 avg)
Cress is the third damsel in distress, and almost upon meeting her we find out she loves Thorn, the comic relief from Scarlet. At this point, I’m kind of over these books. It’s just a little too airy for me.
I’m still having trouble with the politics of this world. Emperor Kai comes off as very weak and ineffectual. When Lavana keeps an armada just out of Earthen airspace, Kai weakly approaches the Lunar ambassador and is soundly rebuffed because it’s not illegal. Pfft. Also, a compulsory marriage alliance is less effective when you know you are just going to be killed in the end. So why go through with it? The “greater good” reasoning is undermined by the “Levana being a tyrant” part of the story. Thirdly, Kai’s advisor is overly resistant to the search for Princess Selene. It may be a longshot, but it’s clearly worth it.
Overall, I liked this book, but some of the underlying issues are stating to wear on me. So I don’t think it’s necessarily a worse book than the previous two, I found it more frustrating.
And the characters don’t really seem to be evolving. Every woman is beautiful, of course. Kai never really seems capable. Cinder somehow always seems a little removed from what’s going on in the world. Dr. Erland dtill seems like Dr. Mengele. Wolf is barely even a person in this book. Thorn is an untamable rogue. Cress seems like a child. And underneath all their relationships is an unrestrained pining for one another. It’s exhausting.
So, I finished Cress in early November. I’m about a quarter way through Winter and just…..not interested in finding out what happens. Or, more truthfully, I already know what happens (I haven’t really been surprised by much), and don’t care in finding out how it happens. I was barely interested in writing this review; it’s mostly notes I wrote myself while reading them. For those who haven’t read these books – don’t let my opinion dissuade you. I can’t urge that enough. I wasn’t particularly interested in these books before reading them, and though I gave them a fair shot
I may ultimately finish Winter, but it’s not high on my list.