Check out our episode here! Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Once upon a time, there was a girl who was despised by her stepmother and treated poorly. She worked all day as a mechanic only to give her hard earned money to her stepmother. But that girl wasn’t only a girl. She was a cyborg. And a Lunar. And a princess. But she doesn’t know that yet. Cinder is in her mechanic booth in New Beijing, tinkering with her rusted old foot, waiting on Iko, her family’s android assistant and her best friend, to bring her a fancy new foot. While she’s cleaning her ankle circuits and ignoring the judgy people next door who hate her because she’s a cyborg, a guy drops an android on her work table. Cinder’s visual interface lets her know that this isn’t just any ol’ guy, though. This is super hunky Prince Kai, but he’s incognito at the moment. He asks her for help repairing his favorite nanny android, Nainsi, that he’s had for nearly 20 years, “for sentimental reasons,” he says, but that’s a lie and Cinder knows it, thanks to her optobionics and that visual interface she has. She agrees to fix the android just as Iko reappears with a new foot. What awkwardly perfect timing because Iko is adorable and crushes on the prince, but also, I mean, Cinder doesn’t want to give away the fact that she’s a cyborg to the prince since everyone hates them. Then a scream cuts through the market and everyone is evacuated because one of her judgy booth neighbors has contracted letumosis, the plague.
Cinder and Iko head home after the plague outbreak. When they arrive, they find Adri, Cinder’s evil stepmother and her two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony, getting fitted for dresses to wear to the ball. Cinder finds that she’s not getting a dress for the ball because it would be too expensive and she hasn’t fixed their hover car yet. She would complain, but nothing would come of it and she knows it. Legally, Cinder belongs to Adri and Adri likes to remind Cinder of it, often threatening to sell her and Iko off for parts. Adri relents and tells Cinder she can go to the ball if she fixes the hover first, but oh no, that’s a lie. In the background, there’s a news report of the letumosis outbreak that just happened at the market. Prince Kai is promising to find a vaccine for the disease that his father, the emperor, has contracted. Later, Cinder, Iko and Peony go to the junkyard to look for replacement parts for the hover car, but while they’re there, Peony contracts the disease and is taken away to the quarantine. Adri, hateful as she is, blames Cinder for Peony contracting the virus even though testing shows Cinder doesn’t have it and sells her to the palace for research. Of course she doesn’t want to be sold for research, so she fights, then is tased and knocked out.
Cinder wakes (reboots?) from a dream where she’s on fire, one she’s had tons of times, but finds she’s strapped down in the research facility. Dr. Erland, the head researcher, was pleased to find out Cinder was 36.28 percent not human because apparently that makes her a great test subject (or you know, something else entirely, hint hint). The doctor tells Cinder that she’ll be injected with letumosis and they’ll study her as she progresses through the disease, test out their most recent antibodies and if they work, she’ll get to go home. Yeah, if they work. Dr. Erland and his assistants are examining a holographic image of Cinder, watching the letumosis spread, and see that she has what looks like a chip embedded in her nervous system. Well, that’s just odd. It’s also odd that the disease is disappearing. Rapidly. Without having received the antidote. Oh wow. She’s moved to another lab where she’s met by Dr. Erland who tells her that she’s immune and offers to pay her for her assistance in developing a vaccine. He asks about her past and she explains that she was in a hover accident when she was 11 that killed her parents and left her with a control panel, a cyborg hand and a cyborg foot and no memories of any time before that. She was then taken by her new guardian, Linh Garan, to his home in New Beijing. He died from the plague a few days later, leaving Cinder with her new stepmother and stepsisters. Cinder agrees to help develop the vaccine if the first dose will go to her stepsister Peony. He agrees, except that Peony will get the second dose, the first must go to the emperor.
Prince Kai is getting very worried about his dad. He decides to go to the lab to talk to Dr. Erland about his condition. On his way, he runs into Sybil Mira, the head thaumaturge of the Lunar queen, Levana, who is on Earth to discuss an alliance between Luna and the emperor. Levana has wanted a marriage alliance with the emperor or his son but they have not agreed, thank goodness. Kai believes that Princess Selene, the Queen’s niece and true heir to the Lunar throne is still alive somewhere and discusses this with Torin, his father’s adviser. The Princess supposedly died in a fire when she was three, but her body was never found… only her hand and her foot were. Ohh… you don’t say! Back in the lab, Dr. Erland asks to run a test on Cinder to see what that chip in her neck is, which makes her immediately pass out, and when she wakes up, Kai is there! Dr. Erland lies to Kai about why Cinder is there, cue orange light in Cinder’s vision, not telling him that she is immune, but instead that she’s there to do work on a droid. She promises to get to work on Nainsi soon and heads back home, all the while making plans to fix up a car she found in the junkyard earlier with Peony, take Iko and run away.
That night, the emperor dies. Kai is devastated and it only gets worse when Levana messages him and tells him that she’s coming to earth to express her condolences, and her congratulations on him becoming Emperor. He knows that she’s going to try to force an alliance while he’s in mourning and the commonwealth is in chaos. I mean, she’s only been threatening war with Earth for like 12 years. I’m sure whatever she’s going to do on Earth now is going to be fine. The next day, Cinder gets a notification that Peony has entered the next stage of the disease so she goes to visit her, promising she’ll bring an antidote and that she’ll get to dance with the prince at the ball. While she’s at the quarantine, the baker that mocked her in the beginning dies and Cinder sees a droid remove the lady’s ID chip. Uh, that’s weird. She leaves from the quarantine to go to the palace to see Dr. Erland, but runs into Kai instead. He walks her to the research facility, telling her about Levana visiting and her dastardly plans, then asks her to go to the ball with him. Whoa! She turns him down though. He wouldn’t really want to go with a lowly cyborg mechanic.
Cinder asks why Dr. Erland didn’t tell Kai about her being immune or a cyborg. He doesn’t want to reveal her immunity until they can do something with it and he doesn’t want to tell him she’s a cyborg because it’s not really his business. She also asks about the droid taking the ID chip and he mentions that thieves and fugitives buy them. And sometimes Lunars because they don’t have ID chips… Cinder doesn’t understand that, why would a Lunar come to Earth? Dr. Erland explains how it’s really difficult for Lunars to escape to Earth and you rarely see them. He tells her about how Lunars have a gift of manipulating bioelectric energy and use it to make people see what they want them to see and feel what they want them to feel. He asks why she’s so interested in Lunars all of a sudden and she says it’s because Kai said Queen Levana was coming. He gets nervous and tells her she has to leave immediately because her blood tests concluded that she is a Lunar shell, a Lunar that is not affected by bioelectric manipulation and if the Queen finds her, she’ll be in danger. Yikes. He tells her that that’s why she is immune to letumosis, because it started on Luna. He tells her she’ll be in danger because if the Queen realizes that Cinder is a Lunar fugitive, she will kill her.
Cinder can’t leave because she hasn’t fixed Prince… no Emperor Kai’s android, so she goes home and gets to work. While working on Nainsi, she discovers a hidden direct communication chip inside and that’s not something one normally finds inside an android. She gets her to reboot and Nainsi starts spouting information about Princess Selene having been brought to Earth four months after her “death” and how she was suspected to be with an ex-military pilot named Michelle Benoit. Whoa whoa whoa. Cinder asks Nainsi about the direct communication chip, which she knew nothing about which means Kai didn’t put it there. So who did put it in there and why? She takes Nainsi back to the palace even though Dr. Erland told her to stay far away from Levana, and well, Levana sees her pretty much immediately. There are lots of people protesting the queen until they’re… not? Levana is brainwashing all of the protesters and soon Cinder’s lie detector kicks in and she realizes she was being brainwashed, too. Oh man. Wait… Didn’t Dr. Erland say she should not be able to be manipulated by the Queen because she is a shell? But she was manipulated. What does this mean?
Levana demands that Kai find the Lunar fugitive girl in the crowd immediately and if he doesn’t, she’ll send soldiers to find her. That’s not good. She also reveals to Kai that she brought him a gift, one cure for letumosis. Nainsi arrives then which angers Levana, so Kai takes the android away. Nainsi says her records are intact and Kai wants to continue his search for the missing princess immediately. He calls Cinder in and they talk about the direct communication chip and what Nainsi had discovered, that the princess is still alive. He determines that the chip is Lunar, and that Sybil, Levana’s thaumaturge, must have put it in Nainsi to spy on Kai and the emperor. Kai starts flirting with her then and asks her to the ball again and she shuts him down, again! If he wouldn’t want to go with her when she was a cyborg mechanic, he really won’t want to go with her now that she’s a Lunar cyborg mechanic. She gets woozy and so he takes her to see Dr. Erland and then reveals to them that Levana gave him one antidote. He gives it to the doctor and then leaves to go do Emperor things. Cinder and Dr. Erland talk about Levana seeing her even though he told her to leave. She asks about not really being a shell and he tells her about her guardian implanting a chip that blocks the Lunar gift. Oh! So that’s what that thing is that’s in her spine! They talk more about Lunar gift and Dr. Erland reveals that he, too, is Lunar, and that time she passed out in his office her Lunar blocking chip became damaged, so her gifts are coming back to her. He also reveals that the queen killed his daughter who was a shell and so he hates her and wants to find Princess Selene and that Cinder is very important to him, not because of her immunity to letumosis but because ….
Alert! Peony has now moved to stage four letumosis, which means she’s going to die soon. Dr. Erland gives Cinder some of the cure that Levana gave Kai to give to Peony and she rushes off, but doesn’t make it to her in time. Adri has been messaging her for a while but Cinder didn’t respond, you know, because her sister, the one that actually liked her, the one she promised would get to dance with the prince, just died, so Adri sends androids to arrest her. She escapes, but before she does, she gives the cure to a boy in the quarantine and takes Peony’s ID chip. Meanwhile, Kai has a meeting with the leaders of other countries around the planet and discovers that Levana has a weird army on the moon, poised and ready to go to war. Great! A message comes to him then about a disturbance at the quarantine and a boy that seems to be recovering from the disease. When Cinder gets home, Adri is furious at Cinder for stealing money to buy herself a new foot so she takes it away as punishment. She also sold Iko for parts. Luckily she didn’t sell off her personality chip, which Cinder keeps. Now all Cinder wants is to escape, so she again plans to fix up that car she found and leave.
Before she can get the car fixed, she’s working in her booth again and Kai stops by to bring her a gift. He asks her to the ball again and she declines again, so then he invites her to lunch. Clearly he wants to spend time with her, but she won’t have it. He tells her that he plans to announce his marriage alliance with Levana that night at the ball because even though Nainsi knows that Princess Selene is still alive somewhere, there’s no way he could find her before the ball and his coronation and that too many people are dying so he has to give in. Dr. Erland hasn’t been able to duplicate the cure Levana gave him and there’s nothing else he can do to save his people. Just as he’s leaving, stepsister Pearl comes to her booth and is garbage to Cinder right in front of the prince, who shuts her down for being rude and leaves. Pearl’s not finished with her garbageness though and ruins the gift he brought to her, which turns out to be a beautiful pair of gloves. She mocks Cinder for thinking that she, a cyborg, could have any sort of relationship with the prince. She plans to tell Kai all about Cinder being a cyborg that night at the ball. Which, who cares? She’s not going to the ball anyway and she’s running away.
As she’s preparing to leave, she gets a message from that direct communication chip she found inside Nainsi. It’s from a Lunar girl with lots and lots of hair who has been held captive on a satellite by the thaumaturge Sybil Mira. She’s been forced to spy on Earth’s leaders for the queen and she reveals that the queen knows that Kai knows that Princess Selene is still alive and she’s going to kill Kai right after they’re married and wage war on Earth. Fantastic. Cinder says she’ll tell Kai, so puts on the dress made for Peony, finds her old foot, puts on her ruined gloves and drives her busted pumpkin of a car to the ball. But she promptly crashes and has to walk to the ball in a rainstorm. She looks GREAT by the time she gets there, but when she’s announced as Kai’s personal guest, all eyes fall to her. She thinks that Pearl has revealed her secret to Kai, but it seems she hasn't yet, so Cinder and Kai dance. She tells him all about Levana’s plan. Torin the advisor comes to tell Kai he’s being an embarrassment and it’s time for him to do his duty but before he can go, Cinder kisses him, hoping that the queen will see and stop the alliance because of her. Nope. Instead Levana reveals that Cinder is Lunar. She also reveals that Lunar shells are responsible for spreading the virus, to which Cinder reveals that she’s NOT a shell. Levana says that harboring a Lunar is grounds for war and that if he doesn’t turn Cinder over to her, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Cinder’s bioelectric control chip burns out then and her cyborg parts take over. Her retina scanner shows her just what Levana looks like and … she is ugly. Cinder tells her so, in front of everyone, which enrages her, and she tries to make Cinder kill herself with a guard’s gun, but again, she breaks free of her mind control, tries to shoot the queen, then runs. Or… tries to run, but her little foot falls off. Levana convinces Kai that he never cared for Cinder and that she was really controlling his mind with her Lunar gift. He has her taken into custody. He still refuses to marry Levana though, so at least that’s good. While she’s in prison, Dr. Erland comes to visit her. She is still technically working with him to find a cure after all, but instead of doing anything having to do with the cure, he brings her a new hand complete with lots of tools and a dart gun in the fingers and a new foot and tells her she needs to escape because she is Princess Selene.