So, throughout The Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana has been characterized as the standard villain. She’s just plain evil. But she’s also strangely cunning and calculated. So why is she so evil? What made her who she is? Who is she, really? Is she actually that bad, or is there something more to her? Now, withFairest, it’s time for Levana to get her Maleficent moment. Kind of.
The Quick Catch-Up: One upon a time, long before the events of Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles, when Kair was just a baby, and Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter had yet to be born, there lived a young, Lunar princess, and her beautiful, older sister, the queen. The princess was full of bright ideas and cared much for her home planet, Luna. But no one cared about the princess. There where whispers that she was ugly, deformed, and the princess’s cruel older sister took every opportunity she could to mock the princess. Once upon a time, long ago, the princess fell in love. But her love was unreturned and she was rejected by a man who had eyes solely for his beautiful, beloved wife. But when his wife died in childbirth, the princess saw the opportunity for her love to begin a new life with her. Yet he still did not return her love, and refused to marry her. But the princess had other plans. Once upon a time, a young princess’s older sister, the queen, fell ill and died, leaving behind the young princess and her neice, the queen’s daughter and sole heir. Once upon a time, the young princess decided she wanted to be queen, shewanted to rule the planet, she wanted to be the best, and she wanted to be the fairest in the land. Once upon a time there was a young princess named Levana. And she would reign as Queen of Luna one day.
In the end, Fairest is the story of an unwanted little girl with big ideas who wanted so desperately to be wanted that she attempted to force people to love her. Fairest adeptly exhibits Levana’s personal and emotional transformation from a little girl who just wanted to be wanted to the insecure, evil queen she is throughout the rest of The Lunar Chronicles. Readers get to see who Levana is beyond the glamour, beyond the veil, beyond the facade of The Queen, and even beyond readers’ own view of her as “the villain.” Readers have the opportunity to see the reasons and emotions behind Levana’s decisions and how she became who she is.
One of the nice things about Fairest, is that, while it does paint Levana in a more sympathetic light, it is clear that Levana is no hero in disguise; she is still, very much the villain. Fairest just shows how she got there. The story shows the more human aspects of Levana’s personality–her loneliness, her desire, her enthusiasm at times, and above all, her crushing insecurity.
A special treat for fans of The Lunar Chronicles is that throughout the story, we also catch glimpses of the origin stories of Cinder, Cress, and Winter, as well as the origin stories of many of the plot lines which play out in The Lunar Chronicles (the plague, the hybrid soldiers, etc.). Readers are able to see how all of the characters and plot lines are tied to Levana and how, in the strange, mysterious way of the universe, Levana pretty much sets up all of the events of the series (and possibly her own demise–to be seen in upsoming Winter???). This makes Fairest a very nice precursor to Winter, as it gives readers a nice reminder and review of what has happened in the first three books and fully sets up the world of The Lunar Chronicles.
As a prequel, Fairest is very well written and orchestrated in that it can be read at any point in the series, including before one begins to read any of the other books, and still make sense. Overall Fairest is a great read, for both long-time fans of the series, or readers who are just beginning the series!
The Bottom Line: Buy it, borrow it, get it–you won’t regret it!