Cinder is probably the best mechanic in New Beijing. She's also a cyborg. As cyborgs are generally shunned in society, she tries to hide this fact from as many as possible. The kind man who adopted her years earlier died shortly after, leaving her the ward of his cold and uncaring wife. She expects Cinder to work to support her and her two daughters, never showing the "unnatural" girl any appreciation or affection. Cinder is surprised to find the Prince Kai, heir to the Imperial throne, at her booth one day, urging her to fix one of his androids, but reluctant to share why it matters so much to him.
Scientists are working ceaselessly to find a cure for the deadly plague that's affecting the population, and when Cinder's stepsister is suddenly taken ill, her stepmother "volunteers" her for medical testing. Drugged and taken away in restraints, Cinder tries to escape the testing facility, but is with a strain of the disease, and shortly after released by the head medical expert. He reveals that Cinder is immune to the plague, and makes her promise to help him find a cure. As the stepsister who's ill is pretty much Cinder's only friend in the world, Cinder readily agrees. Working with Dr. Edlund, she keeps running into Prince Kai, whose father, the Emperor, is also ill with the plague, and eager for the doctors to find a cure.
Dr. Edlund agrees to pay Cinder for her assistance, and with the money Cinder plans to refurbish an old car, grab her sidekick android, and escape her stepmother's reach once and for all. Her growing feelings for Prince Kai are definitely complicating things, especially when Kai asks her to be his date to the annual ball at the palace. Dr. Edlund is acting strangely, and clearly knows more about her than he's willing to reveal. Why is he so determined that she stay far away from the palace when the Lunar Queen is visiting? Why is Cinder immune to the plague?
I love fairy tale retellings, and while I normally don't read a lot of sci-fi, this book was difficult to put down. The concept of Cinderella as a cyborg was a really cool one, and the futuristic world conjured up by Meyer is really well rendered on the page. The supporting characters are all well developed too, and I was genuinely affected when good (and bad) things happened to them. Cinder's a wonderful character, although I suspect only the really slow kids at the back will be genuinely surprised at the shocking revelation of her true identity (this is NOT a spoiler - Meyer leaves anvillicious hints throughout the story).
My main gripe is that the ending is rather sudden, and very open ended, and the next book isn't out until next year. As far as I can tell online, there will be four books in total in The Lunar Chronicles
, and as far as I can tell each new book will be another fairy tale retelling. Not sure how she's going to tie each new book into the current story line, but with such a promising beginning, I'm choosing to be hopeful that it'll work out.