Though Prince Kai had long been one of Peony’s favorite topics, Cinder had never imagined that she might share the admiration.
Rereading books today is very challenging, given the numerous releases that make my TBR shelf unmanageable. I’m sure that many bookworms have the same struggle. But books like The Lunar Chronicles seem to be an exception to my reluctance. I loved the series the first time I read it, and now that I’ve revisited the first novel, I find the story quite timely in that it accurately reflects our society and current global issues.
Cinder is a loose retelling of Cinderella, a beloved fairy tale. Cinder, the main character, is a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing, the capital of the Eastern Commonwealth (which is basically the world’s ruling nation). Like her namesake, Cinder has a cruel stepmother who makes her life miserable. But the plot is much bigger than that because a pandemic called letumosis might destroy everything that Cinder holds dear. The emperor soon dies because of the disease, leaving his son, Kai, to find a cure before it’s too late for everyone. A solution eventually presents itself, but neither Kai nor Cinder are eager to accept it. Levana, the tyrannical, brainwashing queen of the Moon has the antidote. However, she’ll only share it with Earth if Kai makes her his empress.
If anything, COVID-19 made this book more enjoyable. Because of this very real virus, I deeply understood the characters’ anxiety as they did their best to survive each day. And isn’t China, an economic giant, one of the countries working on a vaccine in real life? The parallelisms were impossible for me to ignore. I also had suspicions about the source of letumosis, and they were in line with my conspiracy theories on the coronavirus. For example, both pandemics affect the lower classes the most. In dystopian novels, governments intentionally create and spread illnesses to eliminate the weak members of society. So if letumosis were man-made, could we say the same thing about COVID-19? It’s a dark and silly idea, but I do think it’s possible. Who knows? We might already have a Queen Levana in our midst. Hahaha.
What’s nice about Cinder is that the bright and charming protagonists counterbalance the shadow of the fictional pandemic. Cinder and Kai’s very first interaction was a perfect meet-cute, setting the stage for a wholesome relationship. Kai wasn’t aware of Cinder’s unusual extremities, so that was part of the intrigue. Cinder was human in all the ways that mattered. But would Kai be able to look past her metallic facade? After all, most people ostracized “expendable” cyborgs and even used them for clinical trials. Cinder’s horrible stepmother did the same thing! With that said, Kai was one of the few people who genuinely cared about our dear heroine.
Queen Levana was the opposite, always finding ways to get rid of Cinder. For some reason (which was super easy to guess), Levana was determined to detain Cinder and bring her back to the Moon. Was it simply because Cinder was the mirror to the ugliness that Levana yearned to hide? Every Lunar was born with a gift that enabled them to manipulate a person’s “bioelectricity.” They could override your agency and force you to feel, see, and do things. Levana was infamous for using her gift to make others see her as heartbreakingly beautiful. And to her indignation, Cinder was immune to her glamour. Regardless of the malice between Cinder and Levana, their “unknown” connection was one of the highlights of the story.
I’d love to rave more about The Lunar Chronicles, but I should save my thoughts for my reviews of the next installments. My rating of Cinder remains five stars. No book is perfect, but this one is like the literary version of comfort food. I encourage you to read the series if you haven’t (like where have you been???). And if you have, now is the perfect time to reread it!
P.S. Kudos to Iko for being the funniest android ever!