Friday, August 9, 2013

A Recycled Fairy Tale

Marissa Meyer’s Cinder is a recycled fairy tale that adds a dash of light science fiction and a whole lot of intrigue to the classic rags-to-riches love story. Most of the time-honored elements are here:

  • Wicked stepmother: check. Audrey’s a small-minded, bitter, prejudiced woman who spoils her own daughters while sending Cinder out to support the family. 
  • Wicked stepsisters: almost. One wicked stepsister and one who’s Cinder’s only human friend.
  • Wicked queen: check. Oh, wait, that’s from another fairy tale—but it’s true nonetheless. The Lunar Queen who rules over the strange mutant population on the moon is truly evil, and she has her sights on charming Prince Kai, who is heir to one of the most powerful empires on Earth. 
  • Pumpkin coach: check, seemingly courtesy of Volkswagen.
Half the fun of this read lies in identifying the fairytale elements—the other half is in finding the twists. The most obvious twist is Cinder herself: not just an unloved orphan with undersized feet, she’s also a cyborg. And only one of her feet is undersized—the child-sized prosthetic one that her wicked stepmother was too cheap to replace. Cinder’s not just a cleaning wench, either—she’s a mechanic, skilled in fixing everything from portscreens to magbelts to medbots. And fortunately, she’s not insufferably perfect-- Cinder’s got completely justifiable anger issues, and she’s not afraid to share.

Full of snappy dialogue and inter-satellite intrigue, Cinder is an amusing rehash of the old tale. It’s the first book of Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles:

  •  Cinder, based on Cinderella 
  •  Scarlet, based on Little Red Riding Hood
  •  Cress, based on Rapunzel (not yet published)
  •  Winter, based on Snow White (not yet published)

I enjoyed Cinder a lot, and recommend it to readers who like recycled fairy tales, and readers of young adult fiction. It did leave me with some questions—most notably, why does the populace dislike cyborgs so much? In Cinder’s world, so-called cyborgs are such second class citizens that they’re used for medical experiments, and it’s hard to imagine any society condoning such a thing when all it takes to be a cyborg is an accidental loss of limb. I hope there’s more background on this in the later books.

Looking for more recycled fairy tales? One of my favorites is Deerskin by Robin McKinley.  Or anything by Charles de Lint, (some based on fairy tales, all excellent.)  Or try Alex Flinn's Towering, a new take on Rapunzel.

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