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Cinder - Marissa Meyer Read an expanded version of this review at http://infinitereads.com!

Concept: 5
Writing: 3
Character Development: 4
World-Building: 3
Plot: 4
Pacing: 4
Ending: 4
Cover Art: 4

Lihn Cinder isn't covered in ashes, she's covered in grease, and she likes it that way. She's not her stepmother's maid. She's the most gifted mechanic in New Beijing. Unfortunately, every univ she makes goes to the stepmother who legally owns her. Cinder is no Cinderella, though. She's looking for a way to break free. In the meantime, her hands are rather full. First, handsome Prince Kaito, the man every girl in the city would give her right eye just to meet, shows up unannounced and asks her to fix his personal droid. As if his down-to-earth charm and the droid's peculiar malfunction weren't distracting enough, plague has hit New Beijing. Cinder's gentle stepsister falls prey to it, and the spiteful actions of Cinder's mother catapult Cinder into a dangerous situation. Meanwhile, Prince Kai has his own problems: The Queen of the Moon has come for a visit, and she intends to have his hand in marriage. With the power to hypnotize masses of earthlings to do her bidding, superior technology, and a sophisticated army at her command, the Queen is a very persuasive woman, but Kai distrusts her. He's also nursing a crush on his new mechanic, unaware that she's part machine herself. Can Cinder avoid the plague, save her stepsister's life, evade the wrath of the Lunar queen, ditch her stepmother, save her country from a fatal alliance with the Moon, and tell Kai she's a cyborg without losing him forever?

Despite the large number of plotlines, this story never bogged down or lost me, and that's largely because Cinder is such a fun heroine. She's bright, resourceful, unafraid to talk back, and handy with a socket wrench.

Kai makes a wonderful Prince Charming. He's got the traditional conflict between his country's interests and his own constantly swirling in his head, but he's a conscientious and responsible royal who knows he's got to place his people first. He's courteous, charming, and smart, even if the weight on his shoulders sometimes stalls his brain. In short, he's the only person in the kingdom who should get to be Cinder's fella.

I loved the supporting cast, especially Cinder's sassy droid helper Iko, who's much more forthcoming about Kai's effect on her circuitry than Cinder. .

My one complaint is New Beijing: while Cinder's personal world, its inhabitants, and their technology is presented with clarity, and the political scene is explored, I was never able to effectively imagine New Beijing. The scene never really gels. The characters' lives are detailed, but the world-building got left out in the cold. Hopefully Meyer will take up the slack in book two. I can't wait!

*I received a copy of Cinder from Netgalley. No money changed hands in the course of this review.*