The story is set generations into our future—things have been mostly peaceful on Earth since World War IV, though relations have been strained with the Moon for decades—in New Beijing. Our heroine, Cinder, is a cyborg—her body is about 35% machine—which makes her a second-class citizen according to the law, the general populace, and especially in the eyes of Adri, her legal guardian.
Cinder spends most of her time working in her stall in the marketplace, and on the day the story opens, two life-changing events occur:
1. The swoony Prince Kai comes to her with a broken android carrying Top Secret information and is smitten by the time he leaves her stall, and
2. Her youngest stepsister is infected by the incurable plague that's been sweeping the globe for years.
From that day forward, Cinder finds herself living in an unfamiliar world filled with secrets, lies, romance, political intrigue, and mystery. As she struggles to make sense of—and survive—each new challenge in her path, a strange possibility begins to emerge: Her unknown past may be vitally important to the future of the planet.
Short version: Man, I love that sci-fi is getting huge. Cinder is loads of fun—mostly due to seeing a familiar story play out in a new setting, but Cinder herself is also a tough, smart, mouthy, resourceful heroine, so spending almost 400 pages with her is completely enjoyable—and I'm totally, totally looking forward to the next one in the series.
Longer (this might come off as spoiler-y, so feel free to skip this bit and stick with the short version above, especially since the book only pubs next week) version: While it's pretty clear where the story's going from the beginning—for one, everyone knows how Cinderella goes, and for two, if there's a Moon princess who supposedly died in a fire but no body was ever found and the main character is a girl with a mysterious past and who clearly suffered some hideous unknown accident resulting in her body being one-third machine, WELL HOW DO YOU THINK IT'S GOING TO GO?—I didn't find that the obviousness of the plotting even remotely detracted from the entertainment value. In fact, that actually made it sort of more fun.
And it was nice to see a Cinderella so capable that she pretty much acts as her own fairy godmother. (She gets help from a few other corners, but the pumpkin carriage is all her.) I really liked Cinder herself, and the romance is enjoyable, but the real standouts, I felt, were the side characters: Iko, Cinder's android; Torin, Kai's advisor; and Levana, the Moon Queen who is MADE OF PURE SLINKY EVIL.
Fun stuff, and definitely recommended to the usual suspects. I'm already hoping for a movie version.
Book source: Advance review copy from the publisher.