I recently re-read Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and it was better the second time. It had already been a good book, but now it was a great one. What caused that to happen? I already knew what was going to happen. Could it have been that I have a new appreciation for retellings, particularly subtle ones set in non-traditional settings just because I wrote a book like that? Perhaps, but I think it’s because I noticed how many things Meyer did right, and one of those is the way she treated her revelations.
First, readers know Cinder has a metal foot (the cover, duh). There are no surprises when we find out she is a cyborg and a mechanic, even one who meets the prince to fix his android. However, we are surprised when we learn cyborgs are treated like society’s slaves. The entire setting is a reveal, actually. It’s like a futuristic steampunk set in Asia after World War IV when Earth has only 6 countries.
Letumosis is killing people wantonly all across the planet, and the emperor has fallen ill. Stakes are raised when Cinder’s little sister catches the disease. Then we learn Cinder is immune. This is our first big shock. Right when we think Cinder might die, she doesn’t.
Next, the Lunar queen decides to come for a visit, and the readers are convinced she is evil, as are all lunars. Cinder keeps running into the prince while helping the palace doctor with plague research, and the prince invites her to the ball (not knowing she’s a cyborg). Then Cinder discovers she is a Lunar shell (unmagical but born on the moon). She is convinced she is unlovable, especially by the newly-orphaned prince.
Next, Cinder fixes the prince’s android, who tells her the prince is searching for the long-lost heir to the Lunar throne. Cinder visits the palace to return the prince’s android, only to discover she can be affected by magic. Not only that, but the Lunar queen recognizes Cinder as a Lunar. At this point, Cinder discovers the doctor is Lunar as well and that all Lunars are immune. Plus, she can do magic to other people, change their minds, mold their thoughts.
Cinder’s little sister dies from Letumosis. Her step-mother dismantles Iko, Cinder’s android friend.
Then her step-mother steals Cinder’s foot so that she can’t even walk. Cinder learns the Lunar queen is planning to kill the prince and wage war on all of Earth. She crashes the ball, faces the queen, loses her small foot on the palace steps, and is arrested. This is the low point in the book.
Then the palace doctor reveals that Cinder is the long-lost missing heir to the Lunar throne and helps her escape.
Do you see what Meyer did? She revealed Cinder’s secret past slowly. There are several things that make Cinder special, and the book would not have been fun if we learned them in a different order. If we knew Cinder was heir to the Lunar throne from the beginning, we would have known she was Lunar already and would have been unsurprised by the other two. That’s like gazing at a Christmas tree and then being told to now enjoy one of the light bulbs on it. You cannot do your big reveals before your little ones. Each reveal spiraled back to who Cinder was and how she was special in a bigger and better way.
Plus, Meyer raised the stakes each time before the reveals. If we learned Cinder was immune before hearing the emperor and her sister were sick, it would not be a big deal. If we heard Cinder was Lunar before knowing how evil the Lunar queen was, it would seem like nothing. If we knew Cinder could do magic before we saw the queen use it to brainwash a crowd and nearly make someone commit suicide, there would be little excitement. Lastly, if we knew Cinder was the heir before we knew the prince was so desperate to find her and before we knew the Lunar usurper was going to wage war against the Earth and before we knew the Lunars had invented Letumosis . . . this book could have felt like non-fiction for as dry as that would be.
Fantasy authors do reveals in waves (or spirals, I can’t decide which describes this better, maybe xsinx function?), but sometimes I feel like God reveals things in His Word in waves.
I don’t how many times I’ve read Romans 5:13, but it hit me this week. It’s so interesting how that can happen sometimes, when a verse just smacks into you, and you have to sit back in awe at the mighty awesomeness of God (remember, He made Marissa Meyer, who made Lunar Chronicles, see?).
“for before the law was given, sin was in the world” (NIV). This shows that it doesn’t matter if you were told to or not, it’s still wrong. If you speed just because you can’t see a speed limit sign, you’re still breaking the law. God’s law doesn’t change nor depend on whether you know it or not. It depends on righteousness and truth.
“But sin is not taken into account when there is no law” (NIV). Okay, I don’t know what to make of this half of the verse, but it hit me all the same. It made me sit and think about God and salvation and Jesus’s Resurrection as I was trying to fall asleep.
Because Jesus is more special than Cinder.