My thoughts while reading Fairest:
Psycho. Psycho. Psycho.
I SEE WHERE YOU’RE GOING WITH THIS.
I FREAKING KNEW IT.
Psycho. Psycho. Psycho.
OH. MY. GOD.
In this prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, the evil Lunar Queen Levana’s past is explored. Before she turns seventeen, Levana’s parents, the monarchs of Luna, are brutally murdered by a shell assassin. As her elder sister, Channary, ascends the throne, Levana can’t stand to see the nation in her hands. Channary cares more about who’s keeping her company in bed than taking care of the nation. That, and how to make her sister miserable.
Levana’s only solace is Evret, a palace guard she is hopelessly in love with. Who’s also ten years older than her. And married. To a wife who is pregnant. And beautiful.
Levana can’t compete with that. Her only power is her glamour, which she keeps up at all times to hide her hideousness, the result of a terrible incident when she was a child. She will never be truly beautiful. Or have Evret. Or be queen. But like her glamour, if Levana can’t have what she wants, she can make it happen herself.
I’m actually startled by how many parallels I can draw between Levana’s story and that of the female protagonists of this series. Levana’s childhood lacks love like Cress’s. She has fierce passion like Scarlet. And she has a traumatic past like Cinder.
What I like about the plot is that while these parallels are drawn, it completely relies on how Levana’s choices deviate from Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder’s to show build up to how absolutely insane she is in The Lunar Chronicles. And Levana makes some very poor choices.
I don’t know if I can call it a “predictable” story when it’s a prequel (so I know much of this information already). But it was fun to see everything fall into place as the story progressed.
Levana is freaking crazy. I don’t like her in this book, but I understand her, which is the point. She starts the story as impressionable, and a little crazy, but still salvageable. And then you just follow this spiralling descent into cruelty, selfishness, and delusion.
Channary also sucks in an Umbridge kind of way. She’s that character you love to hate because they show absolutely no compassion at all (save that one scene where she’s feeding the baby). It’s hard to see any of Cinder in her, because she just sucks as a human being. I sort of wonder what got her to be that way, but I digress.
All I can say is that I hope their brand of crazy isn’t genetic, or else Kai is going to have it rough with Cinder.
I pity Evret so much in this story. Levana practically forces herself on him and he’s a really sweet guy who just loves his wife and daughter and wants to keep them happy and safe.
Fairest is written in an episodic fashion, and so the plot is not as tight as the rest of the series. It’s more of a compilation of the worst decisions the villain has made, with a very loose overarching plot.
And yet, I feel like this book could stand on it’s own as the story of the decline of a well meaning, powerful, and impressionable young woman into cruelty and insanity. And I like that about this book. It doesn’t make you sympathize with the villain. It makes you understand.
I wish there was more imagery of what Luna looks like. Does the city shimmer with that weird material that their ships are made of? What do the domes look like? How do they compensate for the gravity difference? How do they maintain proper oxygen and air pressure levels so people don’t explode? What colour is the sky? For some reason, I think it’s purple.
I think there are two big questions in the book: (1) Could Levana be saved? And I think she could have been if she had accepted the love that was offered to her instead of latching onto it like a leech. That, and if she just got over her appearances. Levana makes a lot of poor choices because she’s afraid people will hate how she looks. And it’s hard to tell when it’s due to the society on Luna and when it’s due to Levana’s misjudgement.
The other question: (2) Could Evret have loved her? And while I hesitate to say “yes,” I definitely feel like their relationship could have been so much better if she didn’t manipulate him. She would have realized he would never love her the way she does him, and they’d move on to a more brother-sister relationship.
In the end, though, I feel that Levana is really suffering from an identity crisis. she doesn’t know what she is if she isn’t beautiful. She can only see what’s terrible about her because that’s literally what she can see. And Meyer makes a point that Levana understands the politics and what problems need to be addressed to maintain Luna. But she’s so focused on pride and image that she does the unthinkable.
I don’t think I’d ever want to read this again, except for baby Winter, baby Cinder and baby Jacin. And that’s not because I hate the story—far from it. The story is too good at making Levana absolutely crazy…it’s actually disturbing. Levana’s past is so full of poor decisions and bad mistakes that it makes me cringe while I read. I’m glad I read it once, because I hate and understand Levana even more now.
Recommendation: Buy. Fans of The Lunar Chronicles MUST read this book. For me, understanding a villain is necessary to really loving a book, and Fairest does all that and more.