[Monday Reading] Cyborg Cinderella and Tainted Royalty in Speculative Fiction YA Novels: “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer and “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Widget Handcrafted by Iphigene for GatheringBooks.

Widget Handcrafted by Iphigene for GatheringBooks.

I find that these two novels go quite well together as they both show an alternate universe of relatively-strong female characters and both have been nominated for CYBILS: Cinder in 2012 for Teen Fantasy/Science Fiction, and Aveyard’s Red Queen nominated for 2015 Cybils YA Speculative Fiction. While Cinder features a fractured version of  the fairy tale Cinderella, the reader gets a somewhat-dystopian vibe in Aveyard’s Red Queen.

IMG_7407Red Queen

Written by: Victoria Aveyard
Published by: Orion Books, 2015
Review copy provided by Pansing Books.

First off, I have to say that I am definitely not the audience for this particular novel. The book also came at a not-so-good timing with me all aglow about The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo which I still believe to be one of the best YA fantasy-trilogy, at the moment (not counting Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Company series which is middle-grade fantasy).

As I was reading it, I kept thinking that I am already familiar with this kind of narrative, except that it has been written better and more cohesively-presented in other stories. While not an orphan like Alina in The Grisha Trilogy, the main protagonist in this story, Mare Barrow also just discovered her hidden powers when she was in the middle of a life-threatening situation that required her survival skills to kick in.

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In this fantastical universe, the Silvers (aptly called such because of the colour of their blood) have powers – believed to be better evolved than the Reds, who happen to be just the regular average person.

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The reader immediately sees the parallels between the Silvers in this story and the Grisha in Bardugo’s Grishaverse. Throw in different households/royalty-elite vying for power and alliances and a dash of betrayal, and you have a juvenile version of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones (only with more indecisiveness and teenage romance).

Like most protagonists in fantasy novels, Mare does not seem to fit in as she eventually appeared to be neither Red nor Silver, which reminded me a bit of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (also a CYBILS Finalist for Teen Science Fiction in 2012) who is half-dragon, half-human. While I generally like characters who are ambiguous and find themselves in the in-between, I did not particularly like Mare’s character whom I thought of as resentful and small-minded.

The so-called Resistance, led by Farley, mostly made up of Reds and the hybrid Reds/Silvers are also very loosely characterized here, with very little depth. And the meme below which is a direct quote from the book, pretty much sums up why the entire ‘operation’ did not seem very viable for me.

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And believe it or not, there are not just two but three young men (two of them Princes at that) vying for Mare’s attention in this novel. That being said, my 14 year old girl enjoyed it, most of my book club members (consisting of tweens and teenagers) were very enthusiastic about this novel, again telling me that I may not be the audience for this novel. It is also quite the page-turner, as I managed to finish it in less than a week’s time, I think. Still worth checking out.

Cinder: The Lunar ChroniclesIMG_7601

Written by: Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel & Friends/Square Fish: An Imprint of Macmillan, 2012
Review copy provided by Pansing Books.

Unlike Red Queen, it didn’t take a lot for me to get into this novel which I found to be quite ingenious in its ability to turn over the Cinderella fairy tale on its head. I mean, Cyborg Cinderella – why has no one written anything like this before, right? It makes so much sense!

The 387-paged novel is divided into four books – more like sections really – which has quotes from the original Cinderella – and sets the tone for the eight-or-so chapters within that book or section. I like how Meyer juxtaposes the original with her retelling – signifying a tighter narrative, which truth be told, I thought could still have been scaled down somewhat.

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The words uttered in the image above are from Cinder’s stepmother who is as hateful as the one in the original fairy tale. However, one of Cinder’s step sister, Peony, is the redeeming quality here with her kind heart. Instead of mice and birds for company, Cinder has Peony and Iko, her android/robot.

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I also particularly like the fact that Cinder was shown to be a mechanical genius with a mysterious past – the nature of which I kind of predicted a few chapters in; but still, the way that it unfolded demonstrated good pacing. What I didn’t like was the way the Prince was depicted – and how his attraction to Cinder seemed contrived, all-too-sudden, and just-not-credible. But again, this is the adult me speaking. I am sure that a lot of teenagers would swoon at the fact that Prince Kai confides in and flirts with Cinder even as his father, the King, just died and the Lunar Queen (who intends to marry said Prince) is about to invade Earth and put the entire galaxy under her control. I mean, no biggie, really.

Regardless, I thought that this was a commendable feat in world-building, and I do look forward avidly to reading the rest of the books in the series.

Currently Reading…

I have been traveling over the weekend as I was invited to be one of the guest speakers for the EdukCircle International Convention in Manila. It was great to see my old haunts and great friends during my 3-day visit.

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Whee! I finished reading Lumberjanes, Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen, Maarta Laiho. Graphic novels make the greatest travel companions.

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Finished this novel while at the airport on my way home: Paper Towns by John Green. There is a lot of eye-rolling involved, admittedly (I really am not a John Green fan, and this solidified it) – but it’s part of my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge as I compare this book with the movie, which I hope to do for our current reading theme.

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I am reading just finished reading Neurocomic by Dr. Matteo Farinella and Dr. Hana Ros – also for the Read Harder Challenge 2016.

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Cinder counts towards my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: (1/24) Read a Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic Novel.

  1. Paper Towns was recommended by a friend but I’m not sure i’d enjoy reading it. Nice list! Happy Monday!

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  2. I was curious about Paper Towns after all the movie buzz, but not sure if I’ll read it. I suspect I’d be rolling my eyes too, so maybe I’ll just see the movie if I get the chance.

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  3. Well done on the Read Harder challenge, sounds like you are doing well! I love to Moomin pic.

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  4. Cinder does okay in my library, but in general, the YA books don’t. I’ve avoided The Red Queen so far. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather read a football book. I might have to pick it up. You had a very diverse reading week!

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  5. I am going to give Cinder a try — thanks for the tip. The cover of Neurocomic is cool! My kids love John Green books, videos, and movies, so they are looking forward to Paper Towns (the movie).

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  6. I’ve read Red Queen – and am looking forward to the second in the series coming out next month – and quite enjoyed it. Being a YA book, I’m not the intended audience, but I do enjoy a YA read every now and then, and this was one of them. Because I don’t read a ton of dystopian novels, I found the overall story to be quite unique but I have heard a lot of reviews regarding it being similar to other books within its genre.

    Cinder I have not read, but I do hope to borrow The Lunar Chronicles from my local library at some point this year. Well, I have to check they have it first. But I do hope to read the series at some point.

    Happy Reading!

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  7. I can’t wait to read Cinder and The Red Queen! I’m hoping to get to both of them this year. Thanks for the reviews!

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  8. Loved your review of Angkat. My students are wrapping up their Asia Cinderella readings right now, and they really enjoy all the variants and cultural differences.

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  9. i really enjoyed Cinder and Paper Towns, though I haven’t liked anything else by these two authors, go figure lol. Have a great week!

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  10. First off I want to say thank you for your honest reviews! Although I have The Red Queen on my list of books to read, I’m not going to rush to get at it. I do hope you enjoy the rest of the Lunar Chronicles as much as I did. I’ve found John Green to be hit or miss. I loved Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, but not much else.

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  11. I likely wouldn’t have been the target audience of The Red Queen even when I was (age-wise) the target audience of The Red Queen. I love fantasy, but I can’t stand it when an author keeps inserting a love story into an end-of-the-world story, especially a love….square? Save the world (or your kingdom/people/species/whatever), THEN find a boyfriend/girlfriend, you’ll be less distracted that way 😉

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  12. I actually won Cinder long ago, gave it to one of my students, & never read it, maybe still won’t, but I know many love this series. I still have The Red Queen but a friend (adult) said it was terrible, so now hearing you write, I may have to find another student to give it to. Too many good books are available, right? Happy Reading, Myra.

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  13. I found both The Red Queen and Cnder to be quick reads that were hard to put down, but I am definitely a Cinder fan. I enjoyed the rest of the series just as much if not more. The way Meyer weaves together different fairy tales to create on overarching storyline is impressive. My favorite,though, may be Scarlett, or is it Cress, or even Winter?

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  14. Cinder sounds interesting! 🙂

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  15. I do want to read Cinder eventually. It seems to be one of those better YA fantasy. I’m excited to go back and visit the Philippines next month!

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  16. […] Cinder: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer […]

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