Although it packs in more genres than comfortably fit, this series opener and debut offers a high coolness factor by rewriting Cinderella as a kickass mechanic in a plague-ridden future.
Long after World War IV, with a plague called letumosis ravaging all six Earthen countries, teenage Cinder spends her days in New Beijing doing mechanical repairs to earn money for her selfish adoptive mother. Her two sisters will attend Prince Kai’s ball wearing elegant gowns; Cinder, hated because she’s a cyborg, won’t be going. But then the heart-thumpingly cute prince approaches Cinder’s business booth as a customer, starting a chain of events that links her inextricably with the prince and with a palace doctor who’s researching letumosis vaccines. This doctor drafts cyborgs as expendable test subjects; none survive. Cinder’s personal tenacity and skill, as well as Meyer’s deft application of "Cinderella" nuggets—Cinder’s ill-fitting prosthetic foot (loseable on palace steps); a rusting, obsolete car colored pumpkin-orange—are riveting. Diluting them is a space-fantasy theme about mind-controlling Lunars from the moon, which unfortunately becomes the central plot. A connection between Cinder’s forgotten childhood and wicked Lunar Queen Levana is predictable from early on.
Despite the simplistic and incongruous-feeling telepathic-enslaver theme, readers will return for the next installment in this sharp, futuristic "Cinderella" tale. (Science fiction/fairy tale. 12-15)