Some books are so hyped that you're afraid they're never going to live up to expectations, and that was definitely something I thought was going to happen with Marissa Meyer's Cinder.
Thankfully, my fears didn't materialise.
Cinder is a retelling of the classic fairytale Cinderella, but it's not a retelling you'll recognise. Yes, there are stepsisters, a stepmum and a prince, but Cinder is a cyborg, she's living in New Beijing, there's a mysterious disease that's been killing people for years, and there's a colony on the moon (Lunars) ruled by an evil queen call Levana.
Meyer has created a tightly formed novel, the first in a series, following the trials and tribulations of Cinder. Where Cinderella in the original story was a damsel waiting to be rescued, there's nothing helpless about Cinder. Sure, she's locked in a situation she doesn't want to be in, but she fights at every step to make her life better - something made all the more admirable considering the miserable existence she lives.
The strong prince role still exists in Cinder, but Prince Kai is far more complex and far more human than the floppy haired fairytale princes that adorned stories from childhood. The world within Cinder is not idealised in any way, there's no redemption for uglier characters, no forgiveness or looking past bad deeds, and certainly no happy ending.
Cinder is an engaging, thought-provoking novel and it made me wonder whether society (and the gender balance within it) would be different at all if children were told stories where it was okay to be different and where people pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, rather than told saccharine-filled, idealistic, unrealistic fairytales. That's a discussion for another time though.