Cinder, a cyborg who works a humble little mechanic booth in New Beijing, has her life turned upside down when the prince of the Commonwealth, Kaito, comes to her booth seeking her expertise. With the repair of Kai’s droid and her stepmother Adri’s own taxing demands as the grand ball draws closer, Cinder tries to keep her life going. But when her stepsister Peony contracts the fatal letamosis virus, Adri sells Cinder to the palace research facility, where they race to find a cure by testing them on cyborgs. There, Cinder learns things about herself she didn’t think was possible, and while she tries to escape her life in New Beijing, the Lunar queen Levana comes to visit, and her visit doesn’t much good.
Cinder follows the POV of the titular character and Prince Kai, but the focus is mostly upon Cinder and her struggles to make sense of her world and herself. The main antagonistic force and its threat lies in the background, out of focus and you know it’s there, and it makes each clue and plot twist intriguing until it all culminates in the climax. The book takes a bit of Cinderella flavor, with some sci-fi thrown in. While you can spot the Cinderella elements, it’s not loud or focused on that type of story, but has its own storyline to follow in addition to the framework of Cinderella.
The development of Cinder was lovely. She’s a confident girl, with a streak of rebel, but deep inside, she’s still a little bit insecure, usually when it comes to her cyborg-ness. I liked how open and friendly she was, too, and not moody or sullen. She had a sarcastic side, which was often amusing, too. Cinder has a big heart, but sometimes it takes her a while to really open up.
Levana was an interesting villain, and she made an intimidating presence. I listened to an audiobook, and the reader gave her voice and smooth, feminine, almost gentle tone, and it enhanced the power and influence the Lunar queen had.
Favorite characters of mine often tend to be either loners (think Dustfinger in Inkheart or Aragorn in Lord of the Rings) or mentor-types (Like Mott in The False Prince trilogy). This time, it was a character from the latter category. Dr. Erland wasn’t quite a father-figure, but he was a great mentor figure for Cinder. I loved his character, and his little quirks and somewhat mysterious backstory. He became an anchor, of sorts, in helping Cinder process the things she learned about herself. Even when she refused to accept it, Dr. Erland remained as someone who would support her when she had need.
Violence/gore: Nothing of major note, I don't believe. Robots cut into the wrists of the dead to remove their chips, which is described a little. A character tries to shoot another, and a third steps in the way of the bullet, which hits their shoulder.
Profanity: Cinder uses the d-word a few times.
Sexual content: Cinder kisses Kai.
Other: Scenes with letamosis victims/symptoms may seem a little unnerving, but it's nothing gory at all.