Clearing her throat, Cinder refocused on the android. She found the nearly invisible latch and opened its back panel. "Why aren't the royal mechanics fixing her?"
"They tried but couldn't figure it out. Someone suggested I bring her to you." He set the foot down and turned his attention to the shelves of old and battered parts--parts for androids, hovers, netscreens, portscreens. Parts for cyborgs. "They say you're the best mechanic in New Beijing. I was expecting an old man."
"Do they?" she murmured.
He wasn't the first to voice surprise. Most of her customers couldn't fathom how a teenage girl could be the best mechanic in the city, and she never broadcast the reason for her talent. The fewer people who knew she was cyborg, the better. She was sure she'd go mad if all the market shopkeepers looked at her with the same disdain as Chang Sacha did.
Author: Marissa Meyer
From Goodreads: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
Notes: To be honest—perhaps too honest—my first thought upon reading the first page of Marissa Meyer's popular sci-fi/fairy tale was immense relief. It seems so long since I found a recently-published young adult novel written in third person and past tense. Thank heaven, the comfortable old narrative modes still hold some life and popularity.
Cinder is set in futuristic New Beijing, the details of which interested me much more than Meyer managed to provide for. I wanted to feel China, to track with the thought patterns of an Eastern culture and get some sensory intake from the city. Little of this was offered. I never did figure out how universally I was supposed to picture the setting and people as Chinese. The names are too mixed in influence to even guess; there are few physical cues to aid the reader, and next to no cultural ones.
That said, what Meyer did rather well was imagine life as a cyborg. Linh Cinder—surname first, China-style—doesn't remember life before the fusing of her badly damaged body to a futuristic set of mechanical parts: a robotic foot and hand, a control panel connected to her brain, a lot of internal wiring. Her experience is relatably human, with the additives of a computer feed into her thoughts and eyesight and an understandable teenage fear of being not human enough. While I occasionally found her choices less than believable—for all the fluttery interest she shows in Prince Kai, she is terrifically lackadaisical about fixing his android—she was very readable and sympathetic.
The juxtaposition of science fiction and fairy tale was fantastic. It's hard to point out and praise specific details without giving spoilers, but Meyer threw a deadly plague, an aggressive lunar colony, and cybernetic technology into the Cinderella story—cliffhangering it at the end to make room for three more fairy tales to come—and, in reverse, succeeded in imposing magic into sci-fi as well, which is hard to do believably.
Cinder's real identity came as no surprise to me, but the ending did. It had some nice finesse to it, but it made me want to yell. I railed at the abruptness for about a day, and then I went and tracked down the sequel, Scarlet, which I intend to read shortly. Of course, the way of the serial suggests I'll be waiting a couple of years and two more books before the last big element of Cinderella's story comes into play.