Both of these books are fresh, new, well-written additions to the MG/YA shelves. I highly recommend the two of them.
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
I have my friend to thank for lending me this one... the same friend who convinced me to read The Perilous Gard, so you see I owe her a lot.
Cinder is ... a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella, set in New Beijing, far into the future. There's a Lunar colony (with a mind-controlling ruler), a bunch of neat technology, a lightly-written romance, a terrificly sad event that I still am trying to figure out how the plot could have worked without, and a mint of good writing.
Plus, the Cinderella character is a cyborg. Yes, I said a cyborg. And the whole thing works, yes, it works! Even though I guessed one of the twists, I didn't care. There were others I didn't. Also, I appreciated the Chinese culture references throughout the book. Though I've nothing against most of the futuristic novels out there, they seem to focus on the United States, and it was refreshing to see a different setting and society. One plot point seemed a little weak to me, but that's the only objection I could think of.
There's lots to love in this book.
Even though if you carry the book around without the dustjacket, you may get asked about the "Meyer" in metallic red type on the spine... (Had to explain to a pal of mine, no, not THAT Meyer!)
Age rec: Really, this could be MG. I can't recall anything that would stop me from giving it to a middle-schooler... no mature content, not even any swearing that I remember. The only problem would be some rather chilling descriptions of the letumosis plague hospital - and, of course, the nasty behavior of a few characters.
Winterling, by Sarah Prineas
I got this one for fun from the local library. I'd read enough reviews to believe there was nothing really amazing on the plot front, but I'm glad I picked it up anyway. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it!
It's nothing too amazing on the surface... girl discovers her parents belonged to another world, finds gateway, enters, has adventures... but Sarah Prineas weaves the loveliest story together. The elements may sound cliched - an evil Lady who must be defeated, a land bound in winter, a tricky shapeshifter boy as companion to the heroine - but don't be deceived. Winterling is far more than the sum of its parts.
There's the imagery of the "dying crown" of leaves, of Fer's jacket, of the black feathers; the swift poetry of the Hunt's ride through the night; the strict rules of the land involving threes and oaths and bindings; the herbal magic, concrete and yet symbolic at the same time. The writing is simple and flowing.
For all that I thought the plot sounded cliched at first - its individual parts were not, though the main concept was... familiar. Yes, that's the word for Winterling: "familiar." But in a good way, like N. D. Wilson's Dandelion Fire felt familiar. Stories like that can be retold because they work.
And I haven't even gotten into all the neat stuff that makes this book special - the landscape descriptions, the moon reflection in the water, the subtle humor spread throughout - and the wolf guards! Those wolf guards! ...Words fail me.
Age rec: I would say MG and up. Nothing I can recall that would give any trouble.