The main characters in Cinder are Cinder, Kai, and Queen Levana.
- Cinder is a sixteen-year-old cyborg. Despised by her stepfamily and shunned by a society that treats her as a second-class citizen, Cinder continually struggles with self-confidence and fears of rejection.
- Prince Kai, and later Emperor Kai, rules the Eastern Commonwealth. He is kind and self-sacrificing, and he agrees to marry Queen Levana to save his people.
- Queen Levana is the beautiful and ruthless queen of the moon. Having already dispatched the rightful heir to the lunar throne, Levana wishes to leverage her mind-control abilities and powerful army to conquer Earth.
Last Updated on September 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1255
A cyborg named Linh Cinder is the novel's protagonist. She's sixteen years old and works as a mechanic, though most of her earnings go to her stepmother, Adri. Cinder has been told that at age eleven, she was in a terrible hover crash that killed her parents and necessitated the extensive surgeries that left her a cyborg. She was then taken in by her uncle Garan and left to his wife's care after his death. Adri and Cinder's stepsister Pearl resent her presence and look down on her, but her younger stepsister, Peony, is kind to her. Because cyborgs are considered second-class citizens, Cinder technically belongs to her stepmother, and Adri volunteers Cinder (against her will) for the medical trials being done to find a cure for the plague. Unbeknownst to the public, the medical trials for plague research are actually an attempt to find the lost heir to the Lunar throne: Princess Selene. The doctor conducting the trials discovers that Cinder is the lost princess, and she eventually comes to realize that everything she thought she knew about her parents and her life before the accident was a lie. Though she's extremely practical, capable, and compassionate, Cinder has few friends. She struggles with her self-confidence and fears rejection from others, going to extreme lengths to conceal the fact that she's a cyborg from those around her—especially Prince Kai. As she learns more about her past, Cinder becomes more self-assured and gains confidence in her abilities, culminating in a public stand-off with Queen Levana.
Prince (later Emperor) Kaito is the heir to the Eastern Commonwealth. He's a popular, handsome young man who meets and befriends Cinder when he takes his android to her for repair. He eventually falls for her and, not realizing she's a cyborg, invites her to the royal ball. Kai is kind and willing to do anything to protect his people. He even agrees to marry Levana—and forfeit his own life in doing so—to procure an antidote for the disease that is ravaging the Eastern Commonwealth. Kai genuinely cares for Cinder, but he feels shocked and betrayed when it is revealed at the ball that Cinder has been concealing the fact that she is both a cyborg and a Lunar. In the aftermath of the ball, Kai turns Cinder over to Queen Levana, who insists on putting Cinder on trial. Cinder manages to break out of prison at the end of the book, and Kai is left unsure as to whether his feelings for her are real or the result of her Lunar powers of manipulation.
Queen Levana is the Lunar queen and the one behind the letumosis plague. Cruel and powerful, Levana assumed the throne after her sister (the direct heir) and her niece, princess Selene, died under mysterious circumstances. In addition to having strong powers of mental manipulation (which she uses to make others find her beautiful), Levana also commands a formidable army and poses a serious threat to Earth, which she clearly wishes to rule. She travels to Earth to give Kai a sample of a letumosis antidote the Lunars have developed (conveniently, it's come just a little too late to save his father). She uses the antidote as a bargaining chip, informing Kai that he must marry her before the Lunars will produce the antidote for the Commonwealth. Desperate to save his people from the plague, Kai agrees, even though he knows Levana intends to kill him and invade Earth.
Dr. Dmitri Erland
Dr. Erland leads the royal plague research team in the Eastern Commonwealth. He is introduced to Cinder when she is "volunteered" for plague research by her stepmother, Adri. He is intrigued by Cinder's cyborg structure, which is much more extensive and sophisticated than Cinder initially realized. When Cinder displays an immunity to letumosis, Dr. Erland negotiates with her: she agrees to continue cooperating with the research program on the condition that Peony will be among the first to receive any antidote they produce. After conducting further tests, Dr. Erland discovers that Cinder is, in fact, Lunar and a "shell" (one who is immune to the effects of glamours like Levana's). Insisting that Cinder is in grave danger should Levana realize she's a shell, Dr. Erland tells her to flee and stay away until Levana has left Earth. Cinder eventually learns that Dr. Erland is Lunar himself, having fled to Earth after Levana ordered the death of his daughter, a shell. When Cinder is captured and imprisoned after the ball, Dr. Erland uses his Lunar powers to manipulate the guards and gain entrance to her cell. He gives her a new prosthetic hand and foot, which will enable her to break out of her prison, and informs her that she is the lost Princess Selene. Throughout the story, Dr. Erland functions as a sort of mentor to Cinder, educating her about her cyborg and Lunar abilities. He is difficult for Cinder to trust, however, as he frequently withholds information and remains secretive about his motivations for helping her.
Iko is an android and Cinder's best friend. She helps Cinder in her work as a mechanic, and though she's not human, her unique personality chip lends her a distinctive character. Loyal, fun, and outgoing, Iko encourages Cinder to pursue Kai and gushes about his good looks. She is spirited and rails against the injustices she suffers as an android, believing that it's not fair that she is not given the same rights as humans. Iko's struggles mirror much of discrimination Cinder must face as a cyborg, and the two bond over their shared feeling of being outcasts. Adri ends up scrapping Iko for money, but Cinder manages to save her personality chip.
Linh Adri is Cinder's stepmother. Adri's late husband, Garan, adopted Cinder after her parents died several years prior to the events of the story; however, Adri does not consider Cinder a true member of the family. She resents Cinder and is cruel to her, even though Cinder is the family's sole breadwinner from her work as a mechanic. Adri rejects Cinder completely when Peony contracts the plague, unfairly blaming her for Peony's fate. In her rage, she volunteers Cinder (who, as a cyborg, is considered Adri's property) for the cyborg draft, a compulsory plague research project that no cyborg has survived.
Cinder's younger stepsister, Peony, is kind and sweet. Unlike her mother and sister, she genuinely cares about Cinder and enjoys tagging along with her. On one of their outings to the junkyard, Peony is infected with the fatal letumosis. This devastates Cinder, who wonders if her earlier exposure to the plague at the marketplace may have somehow led to Peony's infection. Cinder tries to find an antidote to save Peony—even agreeing to let Dr. Erland experiment on her further in exchange for the cure—but when she finally secures what may be an antidote, it is too late to save Peony.
Pearl is Cinder's older stepsister. Vain and cruel like her mother, Adri, Pearl resents Cinder's presence in her home and frequently mistreats her. When she realizes that Kai is interested in Cinder, Pearl becomes quite jealous and ruins the lovely gloves Kai gave to Cinder for the ball.
Linh Garan was Cinder's stepfather. He knew her true identity and adopted her after she underwent the surgeries that left her a cyborg. He never revealed her true identity to his wife Adri or Cinder, and he died from letumosis soon after taking Cinder in.