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Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer (2012)
Cinder (2012)
by Marissa Meyer
Hardcover Edition
Publication Date: January 3rd 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Buy a copy via Amazon.
Synopsis from Goodreads.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

My Thoughts:
I love sci-fi and fairytale re-telling. With all the praise surrounding Cinder, I was certain this would be my book. It wasn’t. I enjoyed Meyer’s futuristic interpretation of Cinderella, she had an interesting concept–unfortunately the execution was lacking, especially the clumsy world building. Perhaps I’m Chinese that I am particularly critical of how my culture is being portrayed, and Cinder irritated me on that front. It was also on the predictable side, where we all knew the plot-twist before page 100–yet I was still eager to keep exploring Cinder’s eccentric characters.

Shallow World-Building, Why not set it in Europe already?: Asian Culture Goes Beyond Cranes, Kimonos, and Dumplings, People!
Like the book mentions, the culture in Cinder is really just “cobbled together from many [Asian] cultures.” Except the main cultures haplessly “cobbled” together are just the Japanese and Chinese (there are Arabic and Sanskrit influences on a few names, but that’s it)…and a large helping of Western culture. Sure, the language and descriptions have figments of Asian (by Asian, I mean only Japanese and Chinese) culture, but the way they act is completely Westernized. The concept of having a “ball” is completely Western (on another note, why someone would wear a kimono to a dance is beyond me.) So is kissing people on the hand. I am sure the music that was played during the ball was probably Bach or Chopin and not traditional oriental music. And the way Cinder talks her elders? I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but if I spoke like that, I would be thrown out of the house.

The world in Cinder had all the signs of a Western society, plus maybe a few cranes, bamboo, Buddha dolls–and dumplings.

What Happened To The Technology?!
Another issue I have with Cinder is that I didn’t believe it was set in the future at all. Apparently they’ve invented androids, cyborgs, hover cars, but why is life still so pitiful? People still have to work in markets out in the open (I guess there’s no online shopping anymore?,) actually go to meetings in person, and their medical facilities are just pitiful. On top of it, they have a disease they cant cure so people are dropping like flies. There are auto-drive functions in hover cars, but I guess not in normal cars, because Cinder still crashes into a tree.

Language: Confusing, Random Honorifics:
One of the most confusing, jarring parts of Cinder is their names, along with the honorifics. I rather Meyer forego the use of honorifics altogether since it seems to do more harm than good.
In the acknowledgements, Meyer thanks Paul Manfredi Ph.D. for his assistance in Chinese honorifics. I don’t have a doctorate degree, but I do speak fluent Chinese so I do think I am qualified to add my two cents on the use of Chinese honorifics. I think Meyer got confused between Japanese and Chinese honorifics. While both cultures use honorifics, Chinese tend to use them to a lesser degree–especially in modern times, and when they ARE used they usually denote a special relationship (along with respect). In Meyer’s FAQ section on her website, she explains the usage of a few honorifics:

For my futuristic culture, I simplified it to the following five honorifics used in the Eastern Commonwealth:

-dàren: for a high-ranking official
-shìfu: for an older male
-jūn: for a younger male
-jiĕ: for an older female
-mèi: for a younger female

Jiĕ and mèi are the two most commonly used honorifics in Cinder, and their usage always puzzles me and strikes me as clumsy (or unnecessary clunky) writing. Whatever happened to the the honorifics for royalty? How about doctors? And Mr and Mrs?

Prince Kai refers to Cinder as Lihn-mèi, but using mèi denotes a close relationship. And for a guy to use it, he is usually as close to the girl as he is to a sister (even closer than if he were to use her first name.) It is very surprising for a PRINCE to use it, and to a girl he barely knows!

Cinder refers to her mother (albeit stepmother) by her first name, which is just rude. She also refers to her father with his first name. I should just accept that Cinder has barely anything to do with Asian culture.

I admit after reading the acknowledgments, I had to wonder just how much help from the PhD Meyer got (so I Googled him.) Or if I was the stupid one who didn’t know anything about her own culture and the language she spoke fluently.

Names: Wrong Romanization/Pinyin
The names in Cinder seem to either come from Chinese or Japanese names. At first I thought the royal family would have Chinese origins since they rule New Beijing after all. But it turns out Japan must’ve taken over at some point because their names are Japanese (is this Meyer hinting at Japan’s superiority over China?.) Rikan can be both Chinese or Japanese, so can Kai. But later I find out Kai is short for Kaito–which can only be derived from Japanese romanization. Curiously, we never get his last name.

I can accept the Japanese names, but the Chinese ones are a mess. I appreciate Meyer for putting tone marks on the honorifics, but they don’t appear anywhere else. Even without tonemarks Lihn should be “pinyinned” as Lin. I’m not sure if Nainsi is supposed to be a Chinese derivative of “Nancy” whoever named her fell asleep on the keyboard, but that n in the middle should not be there. The only one that has a believable Chinese name is Chang Sacha, but then her son (Sunto) is either misspelled or Japanese. For a Chinese-based world, there aren’t many Chinese names. Or maybe Chinese names are a pain to pronounce (I know, because I gave up trying to teach people how to pronounce my Chinese name.)

I appreciated that Cinder didn’t fall in love at first glance, but I still don’t find Prince Kai that appealing. That is probably due to his inappropriate bursts of sarcasm during political meetings.

Why Do People Hate Cyborgs Again?
From what I gather, cyborgs are still human with a few prosthetics, yet apparently they are hated as second class citizens. Melo-dramatic, much? I am sure if any of those other people ever lost a limb, they would welcome a prosthetic instead of being leg-less for the rest of their life too.

Politics, MOON PEOPLE ARE OUT TO GET US. I really Don’t Get Politics. Real or Fictional.
I admit that I was left confused over how the politics work. Apparently the queen of the moon is going to wage war with Earth if they don’t give her control because she’s evil and she feels like it…yet she wants to marry a prince ten years her junior even though she has mind-control powers. Why she doesn’t use mind-control for world domination to save herself the trouble is beyond me. Why Prince Kai still thinks there’s anything worth negotiating is beyond me. Why can’t he just send a nuclear bomb over to the moon? Problem solved. But I guess he is all for “peace,” so bombs are out of the question. I didn’t pay too much attention to the political talk since it seemed to get nowhere.

I applaud the depth Meyer gives her characters. Surprisingly, I find the minor characters (Adri and Pearl more appealing than the main ones.) Despite Adri fulfilling the role as evil step-mother, I was sympathetic towards her losses (woman lost her husband and her daughter) and why she blames Cinder because of it. She was a mean grouch, but I thought she had legit reasons for her actions. Unlike the other “villain,” Queen Levana who is evil and seeks world domination because she can.

Cinder, The Mechanic with an Attitude (I think she needs anger management)
I love Cinder for her intelligence. She is a determined character that has an heart for people she loves. However, I often want her to chill out. When she meets the doctor who informs her about her past, her society, and Lunars (moon people), she freaks out and starts hyperventilating even though she thinks the doctor could be just a crazy old man. At one point she wants to hit the guy with a wrench, or shoot a bolt of lightning through his head. Poor guy.

For some reason Cinder is clueless about her own society and needs to be informed about the black market by a doctor (though I suspect he exists for info-dump purposes.) And people keep telling her national security secrets. After awhile, it gets in her head and she gives herself the responsibility to track down the enemy perpetrator by holding onto a communication chip instead of handing it to authorities. AND THE PRINCE IS OKAY WITH IT. So much for national security. She’s a mechanic, not a hacker.

Prince Kai, The Guy Who is Sarcastic in the Most Inappropriate Situations:
I am not sure being sarcastic to an “evil” queen with mind control powers is a good idea. While I think his sarcasm is supposed to be funny, I found him childish. I kept wishing he would grow up to prove himself as a great leader instead of trying to be sarcastic all the time. For a prince, he really has too much time on his hands.

Word of the Day: Thaumaturge
Thaumaturge must be Meyer’s favorite word. I can’t read “thaumaturge” without thinking “trauma-turd-ist” or “centrifuge.” Can someone tell me if using the word “magician,” “miracle worker,” or even “dowager” is too mainstream?

Plot-Twist, I Saw You Coming From Page 100
The plot twist was predictable, but I didn’t really mind since I was interested in getting to know the world and its interesting characters. Cinder, on the other hand, took a looonnng time to piece it all together (actually, she didn’t even piece it all together, which says something about her intelligence.)

Sailor Moon!
Meyer did write Salor Moon fanfiction, and it’s evident some of it seeped into Cinder. *coughSerena…Selenecough*

I am sure I’m the minority who didn’t fall head over heels into Cinder, and I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the sloppy world-building. While I have to give props to Meyers imagination, Cinder didn’t appeal to me liked I hoped it would. I read Cinder so I could get to Scarlet, but after Cinder–I am unsure if I want anymore of Meyer’s writing. Perhaps Scarlet would be better since it is set in France (and thank God not in China.)

Rating: C