As Cinder begins, a cyborg girl named Linh Cinder is unscrewing her mechanical foot. When she yanks it off, she feels relieved. The human parts of her body have long outgrown the cyborg parts, and this foot has been far too small for years. She sits back and waits for her friend Iko, an android, to return with a replacement foot.
Cinder is a gifted mechanic, and also the only mechanic who keeps a booth at the busy weekly market in the city of New Beijing. Her work is highly respected, but she is not. The people of New Beijing are prejudiced against cyborgs—people who, due to accident or disease, have had some of their natural body parts replaced by mechanical ones. As Cinder waits for her foot, she receives a glare from Chang Sacha, the woman who owns the bakery across the street. “It’s not like wires are contagious,” Cinder mutters bitterly to herself. Nevertheless, she keeps the stump of her right leg out of sight and she wears a glove to cover her metal right hand. Most people do not know she is a cyborg, and she wants to keep it that way.
A customer arrives and tosses a broken android onto Cinder’s table. Cinder takes in his “copper-brown eyes…and lips that every girl in the country had admired a thousand times.” She knows exactly who he is, but the netlink in her brain automatically informs her anyway: he is Prince Kai, the handsome eighteen-year-old prince of the country known as the Eastern Commonwealth.
Cinder blinks to remove this information from her vision and, keeping her missing foot out of sight, stands up to make an awkward bow. Prince Kai explains that he is looking for Linh Cinder, the mechanic, to fix his personal android, Nainsi. He seems surprised when he learns that the most respected mechanic in his kingdom is a teenage girl.
As Cinder works, her own android, Iko, arrives at the booth. She brags that she got an excellent price on a slightly used cybernetic foot....
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Cinder and Iko hide in the back of her shop until the marketplace clears of everyone except the emergency crew. When the crew is distracted for a moment, Cinder and Iko steal away, carrying the prince’s android with them.
At the large apartment building she calls home, Cinder goes down to the basement storage area. There she is allowed to keep a small workspace. She deposits Prince Kai’s android and a few other odds and ends on her work table. Then she climbs upstairs to her apartment.
When Cinder arrives home, she is surprised to find her stepmother and her two stepsisters being fitted for brand-new gowns. They do not acknowledge her. Only Peony, the younger of the two stepsisters and Cinder’s only human friend, smiles in greeting.
Cinder knows that the dresses are for the annual ball that Prince Kai holds every year. Adri, Cinder's stepmother, usually finds an excuse not to let Cinder go. Cinder asks if she can have a new dress. Adri replies that she cannot afford such an expenditure at the moment. This infuriates Cinder, who reflects that she is the sole breadwinner for the family and thus deserves a new dress more than anyone else. But as a cyborg, Cinder has no rights. She, and the income from her mechanic's shop, both legally belong to Adri.
As politely as she can, Cinder asks if she will be allowed to go to the ball at all this year. Adri says yes, but Cinder's cyborg brain interface makes an orange flashing light in the corner of her vision. This tells her that Adri is lying. Cinder knows she can do nothing about it, so she hides her disappointment.
Just then, Prince Kai appears on a TV-like device called a "netscreen" to give a speech about letumosis. He reminds the people that his government’s scientists are doing all they can to stop the plague. His own mother has already died of letumosis and his father is dying now too. Adri’s husband, an inventor, died of it as well, just after he adopted a little cyborg orphan girl named Cinder.
After Prince Kai’s address, the newcasters discuss the need for plague research subjects. Everyone who undergoes this research dies, so almost nobody volunteers. Every day, the government drafts one cyborg to act as a guinea pig for the scientists. Cinder feels queasy at the thought that she could be killed just because she has mechanical body parts. But if her name is drawn someday, she will not be able to do anything about it.
Downstairs in her workshop, Cinder prepares for a trip to the dump to look for spare parts for her family’s broken hovercraft. As she does so, she thinks about the ball and imagines dancing with Prince Kai. But she knows that this is a stupid thing to think about. After all, her status as a cyborg would make her feel out of place and Adri will never allow it anyway.
Iko asks why Cinder works so hard to earn money and repair broken machines when Adri refuses to do anything nice in return. Cinder says that she has no choice. Adri is short on money, and she is always threatening to sell Iko for spare parts. Cinder could not bear to lose Iko, so she tries to keep her stepmother relatively happy.
Changing the subject, Cinder points out that it will be wonderful to have the apartment to herself for one evening while the rest of the family is at the ball. Just then, Peony appears at the doorway of the workshop and says that she could use some time alone, too. She complains that her mother is driving her crazy. Adri is obsessed with the idea of finding a husband for her elder daughter, the seventeen-year-old Pearl, at the upcoming ball. The family's expenses will be easier to manage with one less mouth to feed.
Peony is still wearing her brand-new ball gown, and the hem brushes the grimy floor. Cinder advises her to be more careful, but Peony, who is far less practical than her stepsister, waves the warning away. This makes Cinder a bit grumpy. She envies her sister's new dresses and wishes she had one of her own.
But Peony is so sweet, nobody can be angry with her for long. She complains that her mother is unfair to Cinder, who deserves nice things as much as anyone else. Then Peony gives Iko a pretty ribbon, stolen from the dressmaker’s scraps, to wear as a bracelet.
Peony asks if she can accompany Cinder and Iko to the junkyard. Cinder says that the trip will not be fun, but Peony is desperate to get out of the apartment for a while. Eventually Cinder agrees, but she tells Peony to change out of her ball gown first. Inwardly, Cinder reflects that she is eager to tell the story about the conversation with Prince Kai at the market. Peony, who has a huge celebrity crush on the prince, will be excited to hear all about him.
At the junkyard, as Iko and Cinder look for broken-down hovers to scavenge for parts, Peony pumps them for information about Prince Kai. She makes a plot to be present when Cinder returns the android. She thinks that if she meets the prince before the ball, he will surely notice her and dance with her in front of everyone. “Pearl will be livid,” says Peony, evidently enjoying the idea of making her sister jealous.
Iko eagerly joins in Peony’s girlish chatter. Encouraged, Peony says that Prince Kai is planning to choose a bride from among the young women he meets at the ball. Cinder thinks this is ridiculous. Prince Kai is only eighteen; he is unlikely to marry for several more years. Peony huffily says that this rumor is better than the other active rumor on the net. Apparently some people think that Prince Kai is planning to marry Queen Levana.
At the sound of Queen Levana’s name, Cinder shivers and looks up at the moon. People from Earth colonized the moon many generations ago. Since then, the Lunars, as the moon people are called, have evolved strange mind control abilities. They are known to use these abilities mainly for greed and deception.
Queen Levana rules the moon, and she is the cruelest Lunar of all. She supposedly murdered her own sister, Queen Channary, in order to obtain her throne. Afterward, to consolidate her power, Queen Levana is believed to have murdered her three-year-old niece by burning the child alive in her nursery. Conspiracy theorists think that the girl may have been rescued, alive but badly injured, and brought to Earth. Cinder doubts this story, but she does not doubt that Queen Levana is evil. She would be Cinder's last choice for empress of the Eastern Commonwealth.
Continuing her search for spare parts, Cinder finds an extremely old vehicle hidden under a pile of rubble. At first she thinks it is a hover, but soon she realizes that it is an actual gas-powered car. It is an ugly, pumpkin-orange hunk of junk—but to Cinder it is beautiful. She says it should be in a museum. Iko and Peony do not share her fascination, and they both complain that they want to go.
Cinder is too fascinated by the car to leave right away. She ducks under the hood and takes a look at the ancient engine. She hatches a harebrained scheme to fix it up and drive it out of New Beijing—maybe even all the way to Europe. Iko and Peony complain that this is a stupid plan, and that they want to leave. Reluctantly, Cinder agrees to go.
Just then, Cinder notices an odd mark on Peony’s collarbone. Peony shrieks, thinking it is a bug, but it is something far worse: a red spot rimmed with a purple bruise. This is a distinctive symptom of letumosis. Peony is infected with the plague.
The letumosis rash is visibly spreading over Peony’s body. Cinder does not want to accept the truth, but the netlink in her head takes over her thoughts. It diagnoses Peony’s illness and provides statistics about the many hundreds of thousands of people who have contracted the letumosis plague. Every one of them has died.
Sobbing, Peony tells Cinder to stand back and avoid infection. Cinder stammers that she has to call an emergency hover—a sort of hovercraft ambulance. As she sends the message, she wonders whether she is responsible for this misfortune. After all, she was at the market today during an outbreak. Perhaps she is infected but not yet showing symptoms. She should have allowed herself to be taken to...
(The entire section is 415 words.)
As Cinder walks home, the interface in her brain repeatedly replays the horrible images of the last few hours. Just before she reaches her building, she stops in her tracks, overcome with dizziness and a desire to vomit. She is about to face Adri and Pearl. “What am I going to tell them?” she asks.
Iko does not have an answer, and neither does Cinder. The two of them make the long climb to Adri’s apartment in silence. When Cinder steps through the door, she is surprised to see her stepmother and stepsister sitting on the couch, with two med-droids beside them. At first, Cinder thinks they may be infected, but then she sees that they are both holding cloths over their mouths. This suggests that they are still...
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Dr. Dmitri Erland, the lead doctor for plague research in New Beijing, sighs with annoyance. His latest plague research subject is a man in his thirties who is only 6.4 percent cybernetic. This is not the sort of subject Dr. Erland is looking for—but he cannot admit that to anyone. He tells his assistant, a young woman whose name he cannot remember, to send the man home. He is too old to be a research subject.
Dr. Erland’s assistant is clearly angry about this. Thirty-two is not old at all, and she thinks Dr. Erland should use the resources he has. The cyborg draft is a good program. After all, cyborgs are not human, and the government pays large sums of money to the families of the subjects who die.
(The entire section is 413 words.)
While unconscious, Cinder has a nightmare about burning up in a fire. She has some variation on this dream every time she falls asleep and she often wonders why. She lost her hand and leg in a hover accident, so it would make more sense to dream about that than a fire.
Cinder awakes to find herself tied to an examining table in a brightly lit medical laboratory. She struggles but cannot pull free of her restraints. When she turns her head to the side, she sees her reflection in the mirror that lines one wall of the room. Her gloves are off and her pant legs are rolled up, exposing the distasteful fact that her body is largely machine.
The voice of Dr. Erland greets Cinder through a speaker and...
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Book Two of Cinder begins with the viewpoint of Dr. Erland, who stands staring at a computerized bioscan of Cinder’s body. She has just been injected with letumosis, and he is eager to see what will happen next. The plague pathogens are tagged with markers that make them visible to the scanner. Onscreen, many little dots move through Cinder’s veins, beginning the process of infecting her. Absently, Dr. Erland mutters that each dot is “like a vicious green firefly.”
Li and the other assistant are not terribly interested in the progress of the plague through Cinder’s body, as it is something they have seen many times before. However, they are very interested in her hardware, which is among the most...
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Cinder lies on the exam table, terrified, waiting to feel the effects of the plague. She demands to know when she will receive “the pretend antidote,” but nobody responds to her question. After a while, the voice of Dr. Erland comes through the speaker, asking the med-droid for another blood sample.
The med-droid jabs Cinder’s arm yet again and she winces, thinking that the bruises from all these injections and blood samples will last for several days. Then she remembers that she will almost certainly die before the bruise has time to heal. She is shaking in fear, but she maintains her sarcastic façade. “You’re going to at least try to save my life, right?” she asks.
(The entire section is 438 words.)
When the fog clears from Cinder’s brain, she thinks that she must have suffered a programming error. The orange light in the corner of her vision goes out and her body feels heavy and sluggish. She has no desire to resume her attack on Dr. Erland.
Dr. Erland shows Cinder a scan of her body and explains that the letumosis virus, which he injected into her veins less than an hour ago, is gone. It takes her a minute to believe that she does not have the plague, and that she is not contagious. Her first reaction is relief, closely followed by suspicion. How could she be cured?
Patiently, Dr. Erland explains that Cinder is immune. She did not think this was possible, but he is quite sure of himself. He quizzes...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
In the royal palace, Prince Kai stands outside of a glass quarantine wall and looks in at his dying father. The emperor only has a few days left to live. Torin, his adviser, says hesitantly that it is time to start preparing Kai to become emperor. Kai refuses; he is not ready. He decides to go down to the research facility and ask whether Dr. Erland has made any progress.
In the elevators on their way to see Dr. Erland, Kai and Torin meet a woman named Sybil Mira. As always, Kai shivers when he sees her. She is a Lunar—a person from the moon. Lunars are greedy, cynical people who use their mysterious mind control powers to get whatever they want.
Sybil Mira is a representative of the Lunar queen, Levana....
(The entire section is 516 words.)
Cinder is busy talking with Dr. Erland. He explains that the surgeons who made her a cyborg must have been the best in the world. Many female cyborgs are infertile because of complications with the operation, but Cinder’s reproductive system is perfect, unscathed. On the other hand, many other parts are altered. Her eyes, for example, lack tear ducts.
Cinder is fully aware that she cannot cry, and she has long been annoyed by this because she wishes she could express emotions more like other people do. She tells Dr. Erland that she is “incapable of blushing” as well. He seems surprised by this, so she explains that her mechanical parts cool her down rapidly whenever she feels any strong emotion. Dr. Erland finds...
(The entire section is 408 words.)
When Cinder awakes, she finds Dr. Erland and Kai kneeling over her. Dr. Erland seems unperturbed as always, but Kai is extremely agitated. He apparently saw Cinder pass out, and he demands to know what Dr. Erland was doing to her. Calmly, the doctor claims he was trying an ancient technique called chiropractics to help with a crick in her neck. Cinder listens dully, noting the orange light in the corner of her visual interface. He is lying.
When Kai helps her up, Cinder notices with surprise that she is feverish and sweating. This should be impossible; normally her system prevents her from feeling hot, just as it prevents her from blushing. But right now she has a more pressing concern: Dr. Erland knows that...
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Cinder wends her way through the research wing of the palace, trying to find her way out. When she comes to a bank of windows, she stops and looks down on New Beijing. She normally thinks of the city as dirty and ugly place. But from above like this, it is beautiful.
As she looks down on the city, Cinder realizes that she has to go home to Adri and Pearl. She needs to protect Iko, who is likely to be sold for parts if Cinder is not there. She also promised the prince she would fix his broken android, which is still in the basement. Besides, where else could an orphan teenage cyborg go?
Even as she sets out, Cinder resolves not to stay with Adri long. She will save her money and bide her time, and eventually,...
(The entire section is 438 words.)
That night, a frantic Prince Kai dashes through the halls of the palace. He arrives too late at the quarters where his father has been quarantined. The emperor is already dead. In his grief, Kai blames himself for not being by the emperor's side at the final moment.
Kai wants to be alone to grieve, but Torin says that they need to call a press conference and announce the emperor’s death to the country. Hearing this, Kai realizes that he has not only lost a father; he has also gained an enormous responsibility. Now that the emperor is dead, Kai is the sole leader of a whole country.
This realization is reinforced moments later when Queen Levana calls. Neither Kai nor Torin is sure how she knows about the...
(The entire section is 484 words.)
In the morning, Cinder is awakened by an automatic message saying that Peony’s illness has entered its third stage. Last night Cinder stayed up late pushing her getaway car from the junkyard to an unused corner of her building’s parking garage, and she is exhausted. Nevertheless, she drags herself out of bed, grabs a blanket for Peony, and makes her way to the quarantine facility.
Because letumosis is so contagious, family members of the plague victims are not allowed to visit the quarantine area. A sign outside announces that only androids and patients may enter, but Cinder walks confidently past it. She is surprised when none of the med-droids try to stop her, but on reflection she realizes that she may be the...
(The entire section is 425 words.)
A med-droid stops Cinder on the way out of quarantine. Now, for the first time, Cinder feels a little nervous. She explains that she is not a patient, and she invites the med-droid to test her blood. The android takes a long time to complete the test, and Cinder begins to panic, wondering if she is susceptible to the disease after all. Ultimately she tests negative, and she is allowed to leave.
On her way to the palace, Cinder looks eagerly out the windows. As she admires the beauty of the gardens and the pagoda-style roof, her netlink informs her that the palace is a state-of-the art building meant to imitate architectural styles from before World War IV.
In the palace elevators, Cinder meets Prince Kai. As...
(The entire section is 410 words.)
Cinder has no idea why Prince Kai has asked her to the ball. She tells herself that he cannot possibly like her; he probably just wants to avoid the silly girls who ordinarily fawn over him in public. She mentions this theory to Dr. Erland, but he seems uninterested in the prince’s feelings.
Dr. Erland examines the results of Cinder’s blood tests. She presses him to explain why he has not told the prince about her immunity, and he says that Prince Kai would make an announcement about it on the news. Dr. Erland does not want this to happen until he knows more about Cinder and her immunity. This makes sense to Cinder, as does the doctor's claim that her status as a cyborg is her own business.
(The entire section is 632 words.)
Prince Kai stands in the hot sun on the palace landing pad, watching Queen Levana’s shuttle arrive from the moon. The shuttle is made of an unfamiliar material that shimmers in the bright sunlight, and it is covered in runes Kai cannot read. He reflects that the ship is smaller than he expected, considering the importance of the person within.
It is extremely hot on the landing pad, and Kai is sweating badly. He does not like looking at the bright ship, and he wishes that the queen would hurry up and disembark. However, he knows that his own feelings matter little. He forces himself to act patient and composed.
Eventually Queen Levana’s bodyguards emerge from her ship. Moments later, Queen Levana steps...
(The entire section is 436 words.)
As Book Three of Cinder begins, Cinder sits in her workshop worrying. Life at home is as hard as ever and her car is not yet ready to go. She hopes it will be ready in time for her to leave town on the night of the ball, when Adri and Pearl will be distracted—at least until morning.
The thought of the ball makes Cinder’s mind leap to Prince Kai. She knows that she was right to refuse to attend the ball with him, but she cannot help wishing she could have said yes. Life would certainly be easier if she were not a cyborg—and Lunar.
By now Cinder has accepted that she is Lunar, and she sees it as more reason than ever to run away. If anyone found out, Cinder would almost certainly be handed over...
(The entire section is 429 words.)
As Cinder approaches the palace, her mind is full of Dr. Erland’s warnings about the Lunar queen. While Cinder is breaking her promise to stay away, she sees no other choice. After all, Prince Kai’s android seems to contain valuable classified information about Princess Selene’s whereabouts. Besides, Cinder wants to see Kai again.
When Cinder arrives at the palace, she finds a huge crowd gathered in the square to protest Queen Levana’s visit. The chaos makes it difficult for Cinder to approach to the gate. When she finally arrives, a suspicious guard refuses to let her in. Nainsi flashes her ID chip, which automatically grants her admittance. Nainsi tells Cinder to wait. Prince Kai will surely send an entry pass...
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Prince Kai sits with Torin and Sybil Mira inside the palace, listening to the crowd chant its protest against Queen Levana's visit. He is dismayed at how easily Queen Levana stops them with her mind control. He was privately hoping that she would fail.
Kai’s dismay increases when Queen Levana rushes inside and accuses him of violating the treaty between Earth and the moon. When he asks what she means, she explains that she just saw a Lunar fugitive among the protestors. Kai does not believe her. He has never heard of Lunars entering the Eastern Commonwealth, let alone New Beijing, and he finds the idea “absurd.” But he knows that it is important to keep the queen happy, so he promises to look into the matter....
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Outside the palace, Cinder is lost in thought. Is she really a shell? Is she really a Lunar at all? She forgets all about her desire to see Prince Kai until an android arrives to escort her to him. Cinder is afraid to encounter Queen Levana again, but her desire to see Kai outweighs this fear. She follows the android into the palace.
When she sees Kai, Cinder explains that a direct communication chip was interfering with Nainsi’s programming. Kai finds this odd; he installed no such chip, and he does not know why anyone would. When Cinder tells Kai about the strange appearance of the chip, which was made of a strange black shimmering material, he guesses that it is Lunar. After all, Lunar ships are made of the same...
(The entire section is 517 words.)
Prince Kai takes Cinder into Dr. Erland’s office and explains that she fainted again. Dr. Erland promises to help, but he does not seem terribly concerned. Cinder notices that Kai is now looking at her differently, as if she is fragile. She finds this uncomfortable.
Before leaving, Kai gives Dr. Erland a small vial. He explains that it is an antidote to letumosis, a gift from Queen Levana. He asks Dr. Erland to try to duplicate it. The doctor promises to do his best, but it is clear that he is not optimistic.
When Kai leaves, Dr. Erland shouts at Cinder for coming to the castle today. He reminds her of the risk to her life. Cinder tells him that it is too late; the queen already saw her. She demands to...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
After leaving Dr. Erland’s office, Prince Kai attends a video conference with representatives from all the countries of Earth. Since World War IV, the people of Earth have consolidated themselves into just six countries. These countries are peaceful allies—but now they face the threat of war with Luna.
The other leaders of Earth are not surprised that Queen Levana wants to marry; everyone knows that Levana wants an alliance with a royal family from Earth. Only the Eastern Commonwealth and the UK have monarchies, and Kai is the only unmarried male who currently has direct control of his country’s throne. This makes him Queen Levana’s only viable option.
At the beginning of the video conference,...
(The entire section is 423 words.)
The quarantine warehouse is much more crowded with letumosis patients than on Cinder’s first visit. She rushes inside and searches for Peony, who now shows all the signs of stage four letumosis: she is blue and has cracking skin and yellowed fingernails with blackened tips. Cinder tries to make Peony sit up and drink the vial of antidote. Peony is too incoherent to respond.
Cinder’s attempts to help Peony are interrupted by a series of communications from Adri. Cinder is too busy to answer, but Adri keeps trying. Annoyed, Cinder switches off her comm link. She holds the vial to Peony’s lips and begs her to drink, but Peony does not do it. She mumbles for her mother and loses consciousness.
(The entire section is 421 words.)
During dinner in the palace dining hall, Prince Kai and Queen Levana eat shrimp wontons and discuss war. Queen Levana says that Earth is prone to warfare because, unlike Luna, its government is fragmented into many countries. She goads Kai, suggesting that her world is better because the people live in peace, unified under one government, without disagreements.
Kai forces himself to keep calm. Queen Levana’s words make him angry, but he knows that she is trying to bait him. He remembers the pictures of mutant soldiers on the moon and reminds himself that, if he makes diplomacy mistakes, that army may attack Earth.
A group of servants enter the room carrying plates covered with silver domes, which they set...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Cinder stalks into her apartment and demands to know why she was arrested. She is not a criminal, and she was not even doing anything wrong. She does not intend to put up with this kind of treatment any longer.
Adri responds to this speech with a speech of her own. She has been tracking Cinder’s ID chip and knows that Cinder went to the palace, took a hover ride, and visited the warehouse district today. Adri asks what she was doing and how she got the money to pay for a hover. Cinder makes up a few lame excuses, but Adri dismisses them as lies. She says that from now on, Cinder has lost all trust. She will no longer be free to come and go as she pleases.
As it turns out, Adri is not only angry about...
(The entire section is 458 words.)
Book Four of Cinder begins back in the marketplace. Cinder sits in her shop, hiding her footless leg under a table, turning away all customers. Tonight is Prince Kai’s coronation and ball, and she is not going. The car is ready, and she is going to flee in it. She will drive all the way to Europe if she can. She has her own money now because Dr. Erland set up the bank account she had asked for. She is taking Peony’s ID chip and Iko’s personality chip. Cinder will never get Peony back, but she hopes she can find an android body somewhere and bring Iko back to life.
Cinder is startled out of her thoughts by Prince Kai. Grinning, he leans over the counter and says he has been having technical difficulties....
(The entire section is 575 words.)
Cinder has no ride home from the market, so she has to walk. She limps badly without her foot, so she is tired and sore by the time she arrives home. Even then, she does not get a chance to rest. Pearl, still angry about the encounter with the prince in the market, immediately puts Cinder to work doing petty little jobs.
As Cinder works, she and Pearl bicker. Pearl claims she is going to speak with Prince Kai tonight to tell him that Cinder is a cyborg and a thief. Annoyed, Cinder goads Pearl, saying that Kai would have danced with Peony tonight had she been alive. At this, Pearl turns red and says that Cinder has no right even to speak Peony’s name.
Like Adri, Pearl believes that Cinder is to blame for...
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Cinder does not return to the apartment until she is sure that Adri and Pearl have left. Then she limps up the stairs, ignoring the pitying looks from the other inhabitants of the building, all of whom are leaving for the ball. She goes to her room and collects the few belongings she plans to take with her when she flees. She stores Iko’s personality chip and Peony’s ID chip in a compartment inside her cybernetic leg.
Before making her way to the car, Cinder stops in her workshop. She cannot take most of her heavy tools, but she rifles through her shelves for a few odds and ends. In the process, she finds her little foot; it is too small for her but she had worn it for years. She told Iko to throw it away long ago,...
(The entire section is 469 words.)
Cinder puts on Peony’s wrinkled ball gown, her grease-stained princess gloves from Kai, and her too-small cybernetic foot. She looks disheveled and dirty, and she can barely walk. She is not sure the palace staff will even let her in, but she has to try. She sets out in her pumpkin-orange refurbished car and drives to the palace.
The car barely works, and just before it reaches the palace, the brakes give out. To stop herself, Cinder smashes into a cherry tree. A downpour has just begun, so she gets drenched on her walk to the gates. She is already so dirty and stained that being wet hardly makes any difference—but she still feels embarrassed as she enters the palace dripping dirty water and limping on her...
(The entire section is 413 words.)
All the ball guests stare at the wet, mud-spattered, grease-stained, ratty-haired mechanic girl standing at the top of the stairs. Kai’s mouth actually drops open. Pearl, beside him, turns red with embarrassment. Searching the crowd, Cinder finds Adri looking mortified as well.
Cinder is in a tight spot. Pearl has probably told Kai she is a cyborg. She has no way to escape town now that she has crashed the car, and there is no chance that Pearl and Adri will forgive her for tonight’s embarrassment. Most worrying of all, Queen Levana may return to the ballroom at any time—and when that happens, Cinder will probably die.
In spite of all this, Cinder does not regret her choice to come to the ball tonight....
(The entire section is 413 words.)
In spite of Cinder’s warning, Kai decides to go ahead with his decision to marry Queen Levana. At this point, war may be inevitable either way. But at least if he marries her, there is a chance that she will share the antidote to letumosis with the Eastern Commonwealth. Many lives will be saved, even if his own life is lost.
Kai climbs onto a stage at one end of the ballroom to make his announcement. Cinder watches him, certain that she must somehow stop him from making this wrong choice. Without really thinking, she dashes after him and—in front of the assembled crowd—kisses him. Then she says loudly that Kai cannot marry Queen Levana if he is in love with someone else. Kai looks perplexed, and the crowd...
(The entire section is 425 words.)
Queen Levana repeats that if Kai makes her empress, she will allow Cinder to live. Cinder, who understands that Levana would use this position to wage war on all of humanity, tells Kai to say no. It is not worth starting a war over an insignificant person like Cinder.
Kai paces the ballroom, looking from the queen to Cinder to his frightened, confused guests. He says that he knows Queen Levana is more powerful than every country on Earth combined, and that he cannot prevent her from ruling her own people as she sees fit. Yet he has promised to keep his people safe, and he cannot marry a woman who would treat them the way Queen Levana would. Their marriage agreement is off, no matter what the consequences....
(The entire section is 544 words.)
Cinder sits alone in a brightly lit jail cell. For some reason, she keeps reliving the moment when she first met Kai, the way he smiled at her on that first day in the market. She tries not to think about anything that happened after that. Now that she is going to be executed, there seems little point in worrying about the grief, embarrassment, and betrayals she has experienced over the last few days.
Outside the cell door, there is a commotion. Cinder perks up, thinking that Emperor Kai may be coming to visit her. However, it is only Dr. Erland. The guards tell him that he needs a special permission to enter, but he refuses to leave. He uses his Lunar glamour to brainwash them and allow him inside.
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Cinder thinks Dr. Erland is making a sick joke but he assures her that this is not a joking matter. Like Kai, he has been searching for the Lunar heir for years. He knew that she was a cyborg because she had been badly hurt in Queen Levana’s murder attempt back on Luna. He knew from his investigations that she was in the Eastern Commonwealth. She was the reason he began drafting cyborgs for plague research—because he was looking for a teenage cyborg girl who might be able to depose Queen Levana. Cinder is sickened by the idea of so many cyborgs being killed just to find her, but Dr. Erland assures her that his choices are his own fault, not hers.
Continuing his explanation, Dr. Erland says that Queen Levana has...
(The entire section is 421 words.)