One of my prolific reading teen patrons recommended this ("It's really cool. You should read it!") when I told her that I liked Alex Flinn. The premise seemed a little bizarre, but I checked it out and got to reading.
I was pleasantly surprised: this is a very organic combination of sci-fi and fantasy themes, melding a traditional fable to a pan-Asian futuristic skeleton. The book itself is a cyborg, bits and pieces of other concepts, and it works quite well.
I like Cinder more than I like many incarnations of Cinderella, who is alternately passive, masochistic, and self-flagellating as she allows her agency to be stripped away. Exceptions to this are usually in YA, come to think of it: the trope of the passive Cinderella is subverted in Ella Enchanted and Just Ella, and inverted in Bewitching. So perhaps it comes as little surprise that the latest adaptation of Cinderella's story features a determined heroine with a (literal) backbone of steel. Yes, her stepmother rages against her and controls her life. However, in Meyer's tale, this is because Cinder is a cyborg, a sort of under-caste of laborers relegated to dependent status.
If this weren't an adaptation, it would still be a fun story. Cyborg mechanic meets prince, fixes his android, learns that she is a key pawn in an interstellar espionage operation, combats the day to day effects of prejudice, lack of agency, and existence in a pandemic-touched society. Throw in some nonsensical court politics, dedicated scientists, and several nods to current status quo (disenfranchisement of the disabled, overcrowding, AIDS, the beauty myth, streamlined information, internalized racism, the draft, the list goes on) and you have a very well-planned, well thought out narrative. I'm almost afraid to talk about it too much for the fear that I'll give the plot away.
The nods to the Cinderella story are amusing and well-timed. In fact, several become plot elements that exasperate Cinder, causing her to wonder why everyone is so caught up in going to the stupid festival/ball when there are obviously more important things to think about. The carriage made me laugh aloud, and the shoe was clever indeed. There were some plot elements I figured out fairly quickly, but they didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel.
There is some moral ambiguity here as well, just enough to point to some interesting shades of gray in the upcoming novels. I, for one, will reserve the book as soon as it comes out.