Cinder is a teenage mechanic living and working in New Beijing. An orphan, she lives with her legal guardian, Adri, and Adri’s daughters, Pearl and Peony. She doesn’t remember anything about her past or the operation that turned her into a cyborg. Every day, Cinder works in the local market fixing androids and other electronic devices with her trusted android Iko by her side, returning at night to a difficult home life with Adri and Pearl. Her lone ally in the house is the sweet and gentle Peony. One day, the handsome Prince Kai comes to Cinder’s booth asking if she can fix an android he calls Nainsi. An immediate attraction develops between Cinder and Prince Kai, but Cinder refuses to acknowledge her feelings because she’s afraid the prince will reject her once he finds out she’s a cyborg.
Prince Kai is also struggling with a few problems of his own. His father, the Emperor Rikan, has been stricken with a seemingly incurable plague called letumosis, also referred to as the Blue Fever. If Rikan dies, Prince Kai will become the Emperor and even more attractive to the Lunar Queen Levana. Before he fell ill, Emperor Rikan and Queen Levana had been negotiating an alliance. The prince, however, is suspicious of the motives of the queen, a crafty and vain woman who was implicated in the deaths of her sister, Queen Channary, and her niece, Princess Selene, the rightful heir to the queen’s throne. Prince Kai believes Princess Selene may actually be alive, and he’s desperately searching for any information to confirm his suspicions.
When Emperor Rikan dies of letumosis, Queen Levana travels to New Beijing to discuss the alliance with Prince Kai. Levana’s idea of an alliance includes marriage to Prince Kai, and she uses the threat of war to secure an engagement. Meanwhile, Cinder discovers information that could be useful to Prince Kai while working on Nainsi. Will Cinder reach Prince Kai before the coronation ball, where he will announce his engagement to Queen Levana?
Cinder is an inventive twist on the classic tale of Cinderella with great characters and fast-paced action. Cinder is an appealing heroine who uses her intelligence and creativity to solve problems. Prince Kai is a noble hero who tries to stay one step ahead of Queen Levana’s schemes. The attraction between Cinder and Prince Kai is obvious from their initial meeting, but I liked how Meyer kept the subplot fresh by adding a few unpredictable complications. Queen Levana is an intriguing villain who uses the power of illusion to manipulate people. The science fiction elements of the story work really well with the allusions to the fairy tale Cinderella, especially the way Meyer handles Cinder’s preparations for the pivotal coronation ball. Cinder is full of more characters and storylines than I could comfortably fit into the synopsis, but Meyer adeptly uses these elements to establish the basis for the next book in the series.
The Lunar Chronicles continue with Scarlet and Cress.