Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Feiwel and Friends, 2012
YA; Fairy Tale; Science-Fiction
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
As a prolific reader of Cinderella retellings in particular as well as fairy tale retellings in general, I knew this was a book I had to give a try. In my opinion, the Cinderella elements seemed a bit shoehorned in, perhaps as a gimmick for readers. The strengths were definitely in different areas in my opinion.
One of those areas would be love interest Prince Kai, soon to be emperor of the Commonwealth where the story takes place. Lately I've found myself super frustrated with YA love interests and that didn't really happen here. Instead I saw a young man bravely facing his responsibilities and the pressures of external threats and a devastating plague.
Another strength was the villainess, the terrifying Queen Levana of the Lunar, a people who live on the moon who is intent on marrying Prince Kai in order to take over his kingdom and subdue the entire planet under her rule. She has already murdered her family including the real heir to the throne, her niece, and controls everything with her bioelectrical powers (basically magic to you and me). She has a willing army, probably unleashed the plague on the population, seems to hold all of the cards and to be at least a step ahead of everyone else-that's scary!
Now I didn't not like Cinder but I didn't love her as much as I loved the other two characters I mentioned. In fact I ended up liking her nice stepsister Peony and her android assistant Iko more-both seem very young and sprightly. Meanwhile Cinder is a cyborg orphan who was briefly the ward of a man and is now the loathed ward of his wife. She is also a mechanical genius and like many Cinderella retellings, she meets the prince before the ball allowing them some time to get to know each other instead of falling in love at first sight. I wasn't very convinced by the attraction he does claim to feel but I still like them as individual entities.
But I didn't think much of its fidelity to the original story (Grimm, Perrault, or Disney) for two big reasons. The first is the threat of the Lunar Queen, an understandable change as she is very compelling and threatening as well as a good addition to create enough conflict to sustain a multi-part story. But I don't remember any external threats in the Cinderella stories; the evil person should be the stepmother. The other reason was that Cinder has no memories of a life before being with the stepmother; in the Grimm version, she remembers and honors her mother which leads to her attendance at the ball. Here at least it seems like she may eventually be able to access memories.
A few last notes: there is a bit of mystery around Cinder's origins but I found it fairly obvious (as have other reviewers). I found the world building to be average; it's supposed to be set in New Beijing, which I assumed would mean a very Chinese environment but it seemed pretty American to me.
Overall: Fairy tale retelling seems to have been a hook to garner an audience when its action and futuristic setting should have been plenty.