Series: Lunar Chronicles 3.5
Published: January 27, 2015
In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?
Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.
Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.
Marissa Meyer’s unexpected addition to the Lunar Chronicles series, Fairest takes readers back to the years before Levana was queen of the moon, and before she was plotting to conquer the earth, to tell the story of who Levana really is and how the political problems of Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) all began.
Villain origin stories like this one are always risky. Authors chance either undermining the delicious evilness of their villains by saying, “Hey, look, they were once good and sadly misunderstood” or diminishing the credibility of their villains by implying, “Why, yes, they were always evil. They were definitely born that way. Inherent evilness is a thing.” Meyer nicely avoids both problems by presenting young Levana as a delightfully complex character who walks the knife edge of having good intentions while being unmistakably unhinged. Readers have the pleasure of seeing her alternately performing good actions for all the wrong reasons and performing wrong actions for all the right reasons. Sure, Levana has a tragic backstory involving neglectful parents, but Meyer does not leave readers with this overly simply explanation for Levana’s selfishness. She adds layer upon layer to Levana’s tale, including a subtle hint that her sister may have addled her brain by using her Lunar gift too much on her while she was a child, until readers can no longer point and say, “I have definitely found the one reason Levana’s a villain.”
However, Levana’s complexity and the tour through her psychological make-up is really the high point of the book. Of course, it has a plot, and fans of the Lunar Chronicles can imagine it’s quite an interesting plot, if Levana is the driving force behind it. Nonetheless, Fairest still seems to be caught somewhere between wanting to be a novella and wanting to be a full-fledged novel. The individual events of the plot are enticing, but the overall structure falls flat. The book seems too often to be signaling its connection to the other Lunar Chronicles books (“Hey, it’s baby Cinder!” “Hey, this is the start of the warrior program!”), so readers may leave with the sense that Fairest is mainly trying to fill in existing story gaps for current Lunar Chronicles fans and not really trying to stand on its own.
Fairest is imaginative and complex. In a short space, Meyer deftly builds the world of Luna and presents an array of skillfully drawn characters. Levana may steal the show, but her sister and the love interest are also strong contenders for the attention of readers. Add to this a plot full of escapades, alternately moving or shocking, and Fairest is practically destined for success. However, it still ends up feeling underdeveloped. (Note that the publisher threw in three preview chapters of Winter at the end, just to bulk the physical book up.) I gave Fairest three stars on Goodreads because one of its main appeals is that Lunar Chronicles fans will have fun “getting” all the references. Readers who start the series with this book will probably have a more subdued experience.