What I'm Reading: Cinder

Thursday, January 8, 2015


I bought Cinder by Marissa Meyer a few years ago, long before it became a popular young adult dystopian/sci-fi/fantasy series.  I don’t think I even knew that it was a series when I bought it.  I was intrigued by a modern reimagining of Cinderella, and for some reason, the idea that the heroine was a cyborg seemed really interesting.  (I’m not sure why it seemed interesting, given that cyborgs and sci-fi aren’t really my thing, but there you have it.) 

By and large, this book was a total miss for me.  It felt overly complicated and intricate, and there was too much time spent on explication.  I understand that, for many sci-fi/futuristic settings, the author needs to do some explication and world-building, and this is especially true if the author needs to set up a conflict and/or mystery.  But at a certain point, it’s just too much.  There is too much information, too many pieces for the reader to keep track of, and the story doesn’t really feel like a story, but rather just a long-winded explanation, a setup for future conflicts that will be explored in later books. 

Some of the pieces in Cinder are interesting: the plague that is spreading throughout humanity and has no known cure, the treatment of cyborgs and whether or not they have the same rights as humans, and the mystery behind Cinder and where she came from.  But none of these are fully explored or developed, and even the fairytale element ultimately feels pretty superfluous.  In fact, I think the story would have been stronger without trying to make the fairytale angle fit.  It’s distracting and unnecessary in an already overly complicated story that can’t pull all of its threats tight. 

What emerges as the central conflict in Cinder has pretty much nothing to do with fairytales or any preestablished sci-fi/fantasy tropes or mythologies.  As such, Meyer has to spend far too much time creating a completely foreign world (and not just foreign to readers, but also to the central characters) with specific rules, history, and political and cultural issues.  I thought that this piece of the story wasn’t going to be as important as, for instance, the plague or Cinder’s relationship with the prince, so I was really surprised and confused when it came to the forefront of the novel and left most other storylines behind.  By that time, I felt like Meyer had been juggling too many intricate storylines for me to keep track of them all, and with so many pieces poorly developed, it was hard for me to invest in them.  At the end of the novel, I felt like I really didn’t care about the characters or the conflicts that Cinder set up. 

While I hate not finishing a series once I’ve started it (I usually feel like I have to know what happens), I won’t be reading the sequels.  I debated for about ten seconds before I found out that the last two books in the series haven’t been released yet.  There’s no way I’ll be able to remember of all of the complicated storylines by the time these come out, and I certainly didn’t like this book enough to reread it (or those that come after it, I’m sure).

One and a half out of five stars. 

1 comment:

  1. To me this sounds like a failure of the MICE quotient. I forget who coined this idea first, it may have been Orson Scott Card, but the basics is that every story strikes a balance between four factors: Milieu (world building), Idea, Character, and Event. The pitch for Cinder seems very much an idea heavy book: Cyborg Cinderella. A twist on the classic fairytale likely to create a new perspective on old thoughts. What it sounds like you got was a milieu book – or at least a book where the balance was out of wack toward the world builiding side of things. That is unfortunate. Personally, I am a fan of milieu heavy stories, your typical space opera, epic fantasy, etc. Though those types of books tend to walk a precarious path, bore your reader to death with info dumps, or don’t explain enough for them to follow along. Sounds like Cinder missed the mark there.


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