“Do your kind even know what love is? Can you feel anything at all, or is it just… programmed?”
*Small disclaimer before you read: I am in no way trying to discourage anyone from reading this book, nor am I trying to claim that people that have read the book shouldn’t enjoy it. I am merely sharing my opinion on the novel, despite it being one that isn’t shared by many!*
For me this novel was a classic case of brilliant concept, mediocre execution. This is a re- telling of the classic fairy- tale Cinderella placed in a sci-fi setting; the dystopian city of New Beijing. I feel that perhaps I fell prey to the huge hype surrounding it because upon finishing I was left feeling thoroughly disappointed. This was a novel that had so much potential concerning the world- building, political intrigue, and the unique cyborg characters but every single aspect of the book felt flat to me. It was full of cliches, and the predictability was off the charts. It was, however, a creative idea and I can see why so many loved it, but for me there were too many issues that I just couldn’t ignore.
I’ll start by talking about the characters. Not one of the characters felt three dimensional, they all felt incredibly flat and I found it increasingly hard to connect with any of them. The main character Cinder was lacking emotional depth and I felt that her only real purpose was to fit the ‘Girl Finds Out She Was Special All Along’ trope, and Meyer therefore didn’t feel much need to flesh her out beyond the trope the original character was created for. This is a mistake made in Kai too, as we see him do nothing more than play into the good person does good things trope. His character was also questionable in that he didn’t appear to have been groomed for his role as heir at all which is generally expected given that he was…. the heir. In contrast, he is presented as very irresponsible and frankly childish, telling secrets to the girl he has a crush on despite hardly knowing her!
And that’s another thing I had a problem with. The whole relationship between Cinder and Kai felt unnatural and very insta- lovey (which is the worst trope I could possibly think of). I didn’t understand the basis of their relationship because there barely was a basis; they interacted about 3 times (and these were the blandest interactions in the history of interactions), and then they fell in love. I feel that perhaps my lack of interest in the relationship was partly down to not feeling connected to the characters at all, and I can’t help but feel that all of this was only heightened by the awkward dialogue and prose.
I could excuse bad characters and even a bad relationship had the world- building and plot been executed well. But they, in my opinion, were not. The world- building was the aspect of the story that had the most promise yet it was the aspect that failed the most spectacularly. The novel takes place in New Beijing, giving it the potential to be a brilliant story featuring the culture and customs of an Asian dystopia. However, we see none of the custom, culture, history or even the visuals of the setting which makes for a novel that could be set practically anywhere. This left me with the sense that Meyer merely slapped the Asian label onto the novel and decided that was enough.
Moreover, I can understand that heavy description and world- building can bog down a narrative and slow the pace, but this wasn’t even a story with that fast of a pace. The plot dragged for the majority of the novel, and I felt that Meyer stuck too close to the original tale and implemented none of the creativity that is present in the concept. This brings me back to the predictability of the novel. In sticking too rigidly to the original story a level of predictability is expected, but I found that the heavy foreshadowing was perhaps too heavy, as the major plot twist of the novel was made incredibly clear from the start!
As if the above wasn’t enough, there is a gaping plot hole that I just couldn’t get my head around. Why make the cyborgs a second class citizen? The creation of these cyborgs is supposed to represent the leaps and bounds being made in science, yet the products of these great achievements are poorly treated. Why? This is something Meyer never really gives a reason for, creating yet more wasted potential. Had Meyer explained the reason for this, she could’ve explored the idea of humanity more, and what it takes to be human. But she did not do this and so the questions remain as to why this society acts the way it does.
Overall, I personally found this novel very bland and under- developed. This novel however, is clearly not objectively bad; plenty of people absolutely love this and the sequels. I feel that perhaps it was just a case of wrong person, wrong book, alongside a case of incredibly high expectations created by an enormous amount of hype.
I would love to know how others feel about this novel, as I know there’s a huge disparity in people’s ratings of it!!