Before I get to the point, I feel that I need to put out a few disclaimers, to level the ground - I don't want to come out as unfair.
* I am not, and have never been, very much into fairy tales. Except those of Hans Christian Andersen, but this is a completely different topic. Even as a kid, fairy tales were not something that I gave a lot of thought. I read them, heard about them, adults read them to me, I went to see them in theatre (on one memorable occasion even in opera - and coincidentally, that was also an interpretation of Cinderella) and so on; I didn't dislike them, but they didn't really affect my life in any way - once the direct connection with the tale was over, it was pretty much gone from my head. Later on, I remember thinking how both the curse and blessing lie in the simplicity of fairy tales - on the one hand, they are promising, hopeful and in a very generic level, relatable for everyone; on the other, they are totally unrealistic and for me personally, also boring (due to lack of any kind of depth). I won't deny the importance of fairy tales as such in our culture, though; they are definitely influential and a good match for many people.
* So far my experiences with YA lit have been underwhelming (I've read around 10 more recent YA books, or so). I try to keep an open mind when approaching each new one, but I have begun thinking that YA probably just ain't my thing.
* I didn't read this book for the pure reason of possibly being able to bash it, though (:p), it's one of the five YA books I left into my science fiction reading list back in November.
* I feel uncomfortable when it comes to the whole concept of "retelling" stuff, which seems to be trending right now. I know that hardly anything in the world is completely new, unique and original, but somehow I feel strange about the whole thing of putting it this ... well, blatantly.
That being out of the way, I think I can say that I didn't enjoy Cinder a whole lot. I was hopeful at first though because more than once in my life I had discovered myself from thinking - what if you had a fairy tale, but someone took it and turned all those flat characters into more multi-dimensional ones, added a little bit of spice and personality to the setting and overall, turned it into a quite decent story? I still think that the idea has quite an appeal.
So in Cinder (which of course is a retelling *smirk* of the fairy tale Cinderella), the action has been brought to future, Cinder(ella) is a cyborg, and there is life on the Moon. Sounds fantastic! Only, did I get more fleshed out characters and rich setting? I felt like I didn't. Characters are still pretty much only two kinds - the really bad ones, and the really good (albeit at times a bit confused) ones. There is a case of instalove, which, I guess, this book can get away with, being based on fairy tales, which are like the mother of all mothers of instalove. The most disappointing was the setting and the world, though. I was quite excited about the prospect of New Beijing, I mean, all the opportunities! But did I learn anything about New Beijing? Nothing springs to mind when I try to envision it based on how it was in the book. It was just the setting, I can't remember even a single description about the place.
Overall, for me, this was the textbook example of a book of missed opportunities. The idea of cyborg Cinderella, Moon Queen and New Beijing - fantastic! And then, nothing happened. I almost felt like I was reading that same old Cinderella fairy tale, only it was about 300 pages longer. Also, the blessing and the curse of this particular book - basically you can see all the "plot twists" from three miles away. Which is okay, because it is a fairy tale, but it doesn't really make a chair-gripping read.
So it was 2/5 for me, but most people it seems have enjoyed the book (and its sequels), so don't let that discourage you. If you have no problem with fairy tales, YA, and the concept of retelling, it's possible you'll like this book.
I've only read one re-telling, but it was an adult one, While Beauty Slept, and I was really surprised I liked it as much as I did. Cyborg Cinderella really doesn't sound up my alley though I must admit, even being a bit more of a YA fan than you! Thanks for the honest review :)ReplyDelete
I think I'll still try a retelling targeted to adults, might have better luck!Delete
I can relate to most of the things you say about fairy tales. All that "be submissive and it'll pay off or else you'll become an evil stepmother" stuff... would put me off, even as a little girl.ReplyDelete
And given that I'm not much into retellings, I don't think this is my cup of tea at all.
So many people love these books but yeah, if you have same reservations as me, I'd be a bit careful when approaching those. :)Delete
I have to admit that I use you as little bit of a guinea pig in these matters - I don't read YA but every so often I see so many reviews of one book and I think I may like to read it. This was one of those books, but reading your review has reminded me that I don't tend to like YA and I don't think this will be something I'd like. I really like retellings (of anything, not just fairy tales), but only when they're done well. Thanks for the review :DReplyDelete
Happy to be a guinea pig, although it doesn't mean of course that what I don't like, you might not enjoy! Though knowing your tastes in general, I'd doubt if I would recommend this one to you. :)Delete
>>on the one hand, they are promising, hopeful and in a very generic level, relatable for everyoneReplyDelete
I feel like you were reading the wrong fairy tales, hahahaha. I love fairy tales because they're so damn creepy. I like the creepiest ones the best, honestly -- The Six Swans is my favorite because it ends with such an ambiguous degree of happiness (she's still stuck married to a guy who was going to execute her; her brother's stuck with a swan's wing).
Anyway, I don't think this is a prime example of what YA's capable of. I enjoyed it because I was exactly in the mood for it, but it wouldn't be the book I'd recommend to a reluctant reader of YA.
Jenny, you are absolutely right - I should have been more clear. I meant fairy tales that are known by nearly 100% of western population - for example, the ones that Meyer's tales are based on (I think those are Cinderella, Red Riding Hood (?), Rapuntzel and Snow White, or Hansel and Gretel, the Ugly Duckling). I'm not sure about The Six Swans, but I know this particular tale definitely did not come up often in where I lived and among people that surrounded me.Delete
An interpretation of the swan tale I read in an Estonian folk tale book when younger, and it was spooky - like other things in these books. I feel like tales with a little pagan touch are definitely more intriguing for me - like some old Finnish tales I also read about. These, I think, don't need retelling in any case because they are good for what they are already (also Hans Christian Andersen - not everything there is what you'd read your kid before bed time I think).
I am sure it's not the best example of YA, and this is why I will keep reading a YA book now and then. I can't say I am reluctant, because I always approach new book with excitement, but I think I have to work harder on taking YA for what it is and not having unrealistic expectations for these books. I mean Harry Potter is absolutely fantastic - why can't there be more books like these :)
I knew I was right to be sceptical of this series! I've seen so much buzz about it on blogs but I had a feeling that it wouldn't be for me. I shall be steering clear!ReplyDelete
It was hard for me to decide whether to read this series or not but I decided to give it a go because non-YA readers seem to enjoy it as well. Alas, it wasn't a match for me.Delete
Thanks for the review of this book... I'm not into plot twists that can be spotted from 3 miles away! I also don't like characters that are so black and white... We're not all 'good', nor all 'bad' but somewhere in between. I also like characters that are both good and bad as it makes them more realistic. Don't you think so too?ReplyDelete
I absolutely agree. It's hard to write a "bad" character without it becoming unbelievable, I think, and also, hardly anyone is bad to the core, so I generally prefer grey characters almost all the time. The same goes for the "good" characters - perfection doesn't really exist and so many things depend on who and how is looking at them.Delete
Oh, interesting review! And a pity you didn't like it. I've seen the blurb and I thought it was interesting, but without more fleshed out characters - what's the point? Although I understand it might be difficult to psychologically explain all the motivations of the characters in fairy tales, I'd really love to see that done well! :)ReplyDelete
It might be just me, Ekaterina - if the premise seems interesting it's worth checking it out. Maybe they were more fleshed out (well they were a bit at least, for sure - but not enough for my taste), and I just didn't see it. I've read about some adult fairy tale retellings being around, so maybe these would be better match for me personally :)Delete
Hmm so many people have raved about this book and it's refreshing to see a mildly negative review on it! I have been thinking about reading it but found that I have recently been disappointed with some YAs.ReplyDelete
I have also seen most people really liking this book (and series) so maybe I was a bit over-expectant? And that lead to disappointment. But the problems I had with the book remain, of course, whether the hype was there or not.Delete
Some re-tellings just really suck and I have to say, that I think the YA snob came out in me when I saw this cover and just kind of rolled my eyes... I don't know why. I mean, cyborg Cinderella WOULD be cool.ReplyDelete
That being said, I do like Mercedes Lackey's Tales of the 500 Kingdoms series - it's a lot of retellings and a bit of sappy romance in each one, but she usually puts interesting twists on some of the fairy tales out there.
I have seen so many people praise the cover and I just don't get it - to me it looks butt ugly. Thanks for the recommendation - I am definitely interested in reading a retelling that is a bit more than just the same story stretched over 300 pages.Delete