When Linh Cinder first meets Prince Charming, I mean the prince (who is indeed charming), she is covered with the grease of her trade. They are equally suprised to meet. Cinder is barely able to believe the prince and heir to the imperial throne is in her tiny stall in the crowded marketplace; when she recovers from her shock and remembers what etiquette and protocol dictate, she finds herself unable to rise, as she has removed her too-small prosthetic foot in anticipation of the slightly-used but better-fitting foot her android assistant is bringing her. Cinder is sixteen and a cyborg, but that's not what surprises the prince (since he doesn't actually know about her extensive non-human parts, both internal and external). No, what surprises Prince Kaito is that the mechanic who has been recommended to him as the best in the imperial city of New Beijing is a girl.
She's a girl, we soon learn, who lives with a foster mother who resents her and makes Cinder work as a mechanic, turn all her earnings over, and won't even let her buy new parts as her body grows. She's a girl with two foster sisters, Peony and Pearl, who are eagerly preparing for New Beijing's annual ball. She's also kind of a bad-ass, who thinks for herself and plots an escape from her intolerable situation, since no fairy godmother or charming prince is going to do it for her.
Marissa Meyer's futuristic fairy tale is set far enough in the future for it to be 126 years after the end of World War IV. The Earthen people have realigned themselves into just six large countries or republics, and there has been a colony on the moon long enough for the Lunars to have evolved into a people possessing mind-bending magical powers. A simmering resentment exists between the people of Earth and those of the Moon, and war is imminent.
This is not your mother's Cinderella.
Cinder, the first in a projected tetralogy called "The Lunar Chronicles" is a fairy tale for the Hunger Games set. Our heroine is no passive Bella, eager to be consumed by her wan lover's world. No, she's a fighter, a scrappy computerized Katniss, a doer who will not be anybody's victim and who will fight for what's right. Marissa Meyer's Cinder is richly realized, using contrast--the lushness of the imperial palace and its gleaming, sterile scientific wing versus the dust and grease and mud of the marketplace where Cinder works, the glittering gowns of the wannabe princesses at the ball versus Cinder's dirty, tattered hand-me-downs--to great effect. Some of the characters are subtly drawn and deeply conceived: Cinder, Iko the android, Dr. Erland, and some are deliciously caricaturish: Adri, the evil stepmother, Queen Levana of the Moon and her minions. The action ramps up steadily throughout the novel, and by its end, after secrets have been exposed and hidden powers revealed, the excitement has built up to a nearly intolerable level, leaving this reader, at least, eagerly awaiting Scarlet, the next installment.