Marissa Meyer

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Cinder Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Marissa Meyer's Cinder. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Marissa Meyer

Meyer was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. As a teenager, she wrote Sailor Moon fan fiction under the pen name of Alicia Blade. She subsequently attended Pacific Lutheran University, where she received a degree in creative writing, and then earned a master’s degree in publishing from Pace University. After graduating, Meyer worked as a book editor for five years in Seattle. She was inspired to write Cinder after participating in the 2008 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) contest, in which she wrote a story focusing on a futuristic version of fairy tale “Puss in Boots.” After publishing Cinder in 2012, she went on to write Scarlet, Cress, Winter, and Fairest for The Lunar Chronicles series. Those novels adapt the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White, and the Evil Queen, respectively. In 2016, Meyer wrote Heartless, a stand-alone novel focusing on the Queen of Hearts from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She then published the Renegades trilogy (Renegades, Archenemies, and Supernova). Her most recent novel, Instant Karma, was released in 2020. Meyer lives in Tacoma, Washington with her husband and two daughters.
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Historical Context of Cinder

Much of Cinder is centered around letumosis, a highly contagious and deadly disease that’s plaguing the Earth of the novel. Although the book is a work of science fiction, the letumosis plague bears similarities to real-life contagious diseases like the 14th-century Black Death pandemic and the 2009–2010 H1N1 flu pandemic. (The latter occurred just a couple of years before Meyer wrote Cinder.) Like H1N1—commonly referred to as the “swine flu”—letumosis is an airborne disease. In the later stages of the disease, patients also develop a high fever and bruise-like patches on their body, symptoms that are similar to the Black Death that killed millions of people throughout Eurasia and North Africa in the 1300s. Furthermore, Cinder features a group of oppressed people (cyborgs, or humans with robotic body parts) who are discriminated against. The way cyborgs are treated in the novel is similar to real-life instances of racial discrimination and other forms of prejudice. One example of this is the discrimination that African American people endured under the Jim Crow (segregation) laws in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The dangerous medical testing that the government forces cyborgs to undergo is also reminiscent of the unethical and invasive experiments that various marginalized groups (notably, prisoners in Nazi concentration camps) have been subjected to throughout history.

Other Books Related to Cinder

As its title suggests, Cinder is an adaptation of the classic fairy tale “Cinderella.” Meyer has stated that she used two versions as her primary source material: the first was Ye Xian, a Chinese version of the tale (which is why Meyer sets the tale in a fictionalized, futuristic version of Beijing). The second was Perrault’s Cendrillon, a French version that includes the well-known additions of the Fairy Godmother, the pumpkin that transforms into a carriage, and glass slippers. The other books in Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles series (which follow Cinder and other characters adapted from fairy tales) are Scarlet, Cress, Winter, Fairest, and Stars Above. Other young adult adaptations of “Cinderella” include Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass, Betsy Cornwell’s Mechanica, and Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. Cinder is also part of a wider trend of young adult fiction that adapts classic sources: Robin McKinley’s Beauty is an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast; Somaiya Daud’s Mirage is based on The Prince and the Pauper; Jay Kristoff’s LIFEL1K3 is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet; and Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne is based on Jane Eyre.
Key Facts about Cinder
  • Full Title: Cinder
  • When Written: 2011–2012
  • Where Written: Seattle, Washington
  • When Published: January 3, 2012
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Novel; Science Fiction
  • Setting: New Beijing, The Eastern Commonwealth
  • Climax: Cinder goes to the ball and warns Kai of Queen Levana’s plot to kill him; Cinder confronts Queen Levana
  • Antagonist: Queen Levana; Adri; Sybil Mira
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Cinder

Notable Names. In Cinder, Queen Channary, Queen Levana, and Princess Selene are all part of the royal family of the moon colony Luna—and their names are particularly apt for where they live. Channary derives from the Khmer words for “moon” and “girl,” Levana derives from the Hebrew word for “moon” and “white,” and Selene derives from the Greek word for “moon.”

COVID-128. In May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Meyer wrote the short story “COVID-128.” This story is about how her characters would cope with another deadly plague, just as they confronted letumosis in Cinder.