There are several interesting ideas to this book, but I think they fell short in the attempt to execute them.
Cinder is written fairly simply in a manner that doesn't leave the reader behind given such a different society. I was looking for a little more of an Asian-influence given that it's set in China, but I didn't notice much of it, if at all (Emperor, maybe? But given that it's set in the future, shouldn't the Chinese political leader be 'President,' or even the former 'Chairman?' How did they get back to a monarchy? Wait, Suspension of believe, right? It's a fairytale!).
I liked Cinder. She was quirky, fun, the best mechanic in the New Beijing (how did she get to be that way...?), and while she mourned the circumstances that left her with a prejudiced, abusive family, I never felt like she whined about it. That's a big plus in the positive column for liking this book, overall.
Prince Kai was fun as well. He's handsome, charming, light-hearted, self-effacing, and a bit of a martyr, we come to find out. With all the political training, you would think the heir to a throne would have, he was very loose in the tongue, insulting visiting monarchs, and not keeping his thoughts close to his chest. I can appreciate that in a leading character: he's a bit rash, says what he feels, but in the future leader, I look forward to him handling himself with a little more foresight and aplomb. I felt like he was given a heavy title, but not the weight that should really come with a reigning monarch. Walking around a seedy market with no guards? I don't think so. Romancing a mechanic--maybe in our modern era, but not without extreme prejudice. Investigating a missing heir--don't you have a spy network for that, not your nanny robot? It feels like some forethought was sacrificed for the ease of plot, rather than realistic elements that might have lent credibility.
Cinder offers some fun aspects: Moon-dwelling Lunar people, mechanical limb replacement (where people then are considered cyborgs and thus, not human), hovercraft and the ability to tell if people are lying with the convenience of a little, blinking orange light. I contemplated the last. Would I really want to know whether people were lying all the time in real life? There's a lot of truth in the saying: Ignorance is bliss.
My biggest frustration was Cinder's interactions with her family. She was a constant doormat. At no point did we see her triumph over her stepmother or stepsister. As a reader, witnessing her struggle, I found myself always angry and never felt rewarded for anything Cinder did. It was like wallowing through Depression reading the entire book, and I didn't like it one iota.
Not all books have to be Happily Ever After, but I'd like to enjoy at least part of the experience and not have to wait for subsequent books for feelings of minute resolution. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I believe that, series or not, books should be standalone and without any resolution, I'm left thinking 'do I really want to be sucked into a series where each book is going to feel so damn depressing at the end?'
That leaves me unsure of whether I'll pick the next book up. I'll be waiting to see what fellow reviewers have to say regarding the next book, Scarlet.