“A forbidden romance. A deadly plague. Earth’s fate hinges on one girl …”
I’m not really into dystopian novels but I DO love fairy tales, so when a friend offered to lend me the first parts of this series, I couldn’t resist. And I’m very glad I didn’t because once I started reading, I simply couldn’t stop and spent a whole weekend doing nothing else. Literally.
Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter are of course retellings of the old fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White. Although the author has created an entirely new world in the future, the basic elements of those stories are all still there and it is utterly brilliant!
The first book seemed the slowest because of having to set the scene, but the world-building is very well done and it’s not long before the reader is hooked, looking for all the familiar scenes from Cinderella – the evil step-mother and sisters, the prince, the ball, losing a shoe … They’re all there, but with a fabulous new twist, and at the same time you are sucked into a completely fresh story which forms the main plot for the entire series. I am in awe of the way the four fairy tales are seamlessly woven into this one cohesive strand that makes for a thrilling read, while each retaining their own well-loved characteristics.
The first (and main) heroine is Cinder. Here’s the blurb for book one:-
Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation. Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover the secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.
(A slight warning – the stories are rather gory with violence, torture, mutilation and deaths, so they’re not for the squeamish. At the same time you are aware that somehow it will all end happily, despite all the blood – these are fairy tales after all.)
As the series gathers momentum, Cinder collects a ragtag band of friends and allies in the form of Scarlet, Cress, Winter and their love interests, plus a loyal android by the name of Iko who sometimes steals the show. The romantic elements are extremely well done, with four absolutely gorgeous heroes, (any one of which I’d be thrilled to have a happy-ever-after with!). The guys are very different, but they all have that certain something that attracts you to them; they are strong, confident and the chemistry between them and their chosen heroine is nothing short of electric. I will admit that after reading the first book I was disappointed not to have a conclusion to Cinder’s love story immediately, but that was before I understood that these four books are not stand-alones, they have to be read together as though they were one, very long story and Cinder’s plot strand runs through all four and concludes in the last one.
That, however, in a nutshell, would be my only complaint about this series – and I’m afraid it’s a big one and one I’ve voiced before. I do not like to be coerced into buying books! But that is precisely what happened here.
Having sat up into the early hours of the morning to finish book one, I found it ended without a satisfactory resolution and if I wanted to know more, I had to continue with book two (which coincidentally wouldn’t really make sense without having read book one). Now luckily this time I had book two to hand, having been lent the first three by my friend (and I have a Kindle so was able to purchase book four immediately), but if I’d bought book one I would have stopped reading at this point and wall-banged it. I’m sorry, but I really feel that this new trend of forcing readers to buy books by not finishing a series instalment in a satisfactory way is daylight robbery. IMO it is possible to give each book a “satisfying-for-now” ending, while still making it clear the story continues. These are not cheap books (£4.99 even for an ebook version of the latest) and I could have been in the position of not being able to afford all four. Therefore I strongly feel that publishers should put some kind of warning on this type of series so that the readers know what they’re letting themselves in for. And if I’d bought say book three and read that first, I would have been utterly confused and felt very cross.
So although the series as a whole was totally brilliant and I absolutely loved the characters, the sassy dialogue, the world-building and the very convincing villain, I am deducting one piranha for the fact that I felt manipulated into reading/buying more books than I had counted on.
All in all, though, if you’re looking for a dystopian series with romance, adventure and nail-biting suspense, these are the books for you – I can’t recommend them highly enough! And I have to add that the covers are absolutely fabulous – love them!