My experiences with YA fantasy have consisted largely of crushing disappointments. It's an old story that you're probably familiar with: a new YA fantasy book with a pretty cover gets launched into the bloggersphere. Everyone hypes it up and raves over the cover and the summary. The book comes out. The initial reviews are all raving and overwhelmingly positive - and then I come along to burst your bubble and give it a one star review.
I tried to read CINDER three times, and kept putting it down in the same spot. Another plucky heroine wallowing in strife? Oh God, spare me, I thought. But then CINDER was chosen as our 2017 Scifi-Futuristic theme read in my romance group, and I thought to myself, "Okay, Nenia, the jig is up. You have to read it now. Maybe it won't be so bad."
And...to my surprise, it wasn't.
Don't get me wrong. That beginning is still tedious and awful. The book doesn't really pick up until Cinder is sold out by her wicked (very wicked) stepmother to the New Beijing government to test a cure for the plague that is ransacking the city. Poor Cinder is imprisoned and injected with the virus that's almost certain to kill her...only it doesn't, and that's where it gets interesting.
My favorite aspect of the book was probably the court intrigue. Queen Levana was an interesting villain, and I liked how she showed utilized her power. Hers is an iron hand in a silk glove. You feel the soft touch before you feel the vise grip underneath. Kai was also a good hero, I thought - not so much as a love interest as a leader who wanted to do right by his people, but felt conflicted about it at the same time. As a love interest, yes, he's very much the dreamy prince but the insta-love between him and Cinder was a bit eye-roll worthy. They didn't have any "moments" or chemistry that made me think that they needed to be together at all costs, unlike, say, Nevada and Rogan from the Hidden Legacy series, which I ship harder than the shippiest of shippers at the National Shipping Convention.
I figured out the "twist" around chapter two or three, but I figure that this book is aimed at a younger, far less cynical audience, so maybe that "twist" will surprise him the way it did not surprise me. It was a good twist, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out. I - and you, too, if you decide to read this - will have to wait until book two for that, though, as this book ends on the most wicked and unfair of cliffhangers. Right dead in the middle of a pivotal turning point, really. You're welcome.
Overall, though, CINDER was a pleasant surprise and a welcome change from the slew of disappointing reads that have demarcated my 2017 reading year. I'll be checking out book two soon to see if the series really does get better as everyone says, because if it does - watch out!
3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars