So I read Cinder alongside Throne of Glass for my Cinderella Retelling essay project thing, and there's just no contest. Cinder wins on a number of counts: it actually has some cool questions to ask about bodily sovereignty and familial relations, it features by far the more interesting and self-consistent worldbuilding, it preserves much more of the original flavour of the fairytale, and I actually want to read the next book. Right now.
The titular Cinder is the best mechanic in New Beijing (although as I write those words I realise I only have the characters' words for it; she doesn't appear to do much actual mechanic stuff). She's also a cyborg, and hated by her stepmother Adri (who is also her legal owner) for it. But then one day the Crown Prince Kai stops by her market stall to get his droid fixed, and she gets drawn into a world of politics and plague in the upper echelons of New Beijing society.
(Incidentally, I love the way that random girls can just wander into the palace whenever they feel like a chat with the royal doctor. But whatever.)
It's an adaptation of the fairytale which feels both very true to its original material - there are actually quotes from the Grimms' version at the beginning of each part of the book - and genuinely fresh. Fairytales tend to be problematic to update, especially to a real-world context (New Beijing is futuristic and sciencey, but it's still essentially Earthlike) - where do you find a prince in a world of democracy? And what can you do with the stepmother's excessive cruelty, which would be picked up by any social worker with an ounce of sense? Meyer's done a solid job of reinterpreting those troubling elements without getting rid of them entirely, which is nice, and brings something new to the fairytale. Characterisation is generally good, as well: Adri tends to the one-dimensional, but Kai and Cinder both have credible motives and agendas which drive them, not necessarily towards each other. And my heart broke for Cinder as she left that ball.
Finally, a nod to the world-building, which, as I hinted above, is intriguingly good. New Beijing's political relations with the scary Lunars (faintly reminiscent of Asimov's Spacers) were well-realised and a good way of introducing what I'm sure will be a Snow White motif in a future book into the world of Cinderella; the vaguely Star Wars-y aesthetic of the city, full of buggy, greasy, mechanical, easily breakable technology; the references to old wars and ancient history which is still to come for us. The world of Cinder is satisfyingly immersive as only SF can be.
Now, where's that sequel?