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.
I don’t typically give out five star ratings easily. However, I have to admit, I am a huge fan of Marissa Meyer’s “Fairest.” While it took time for me to become invested in “Cinder”, “Fairest” caught my attention from the beginning.
Serving as a prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, this book is centered around the backstory for Luna’s power hungry, deceptive Queen Levana. Despite knowing how she turns out, you initially feel a sense of sympathy for Levana. Her neglectful parents have been assassinated and she’s forced to come to terms with the fact her older sister, Channary is to become the new queen. None of her reservations about her sister stem from jealousy as you would normally assume. Instead they come from their dark past and the knowledge that her sister is flighty, self-centered and lazy. All of which will guarantee that she will serve to be a lousy ruler.
Throughout the book, Meyer hints at a dark event that occurred when Levana was just a toddler. She does well not to reveal the entire story until the later chapters of the book. This works in two ways, the reader is given time to truly come to understand the psychology of Levana, thus allowing that initial sympathy to fade away. It also allows you a chance to accept her actions, despite how cruel they may be and focus on how they lead up to the world you are first introduced to in “Cinder.”
Is Levana evil?
The word “evil” seems too narrow of an idea when it comes to Levana. First of all, Levana is clearly suffering from post traumatic stress. Her constant need to maintain a glamour only helps to strengthen the damage caused to her psyche when Channary uses her gift to force her into a fire as a young child. Her mistrust of people is practically instilled in her at birth. Not because of her royal station, but because she grows up in an environment in which even a person’s appearance is most likely a lie. So what does this psychologically damaged young girl do in order to boost her own self esteem? What any normal sixteen year old girl does, she puts all of her efforts and focus into a guy.
There’s obviously nothing healthy about Levana’s obsession with Evert and every step of the way, you feel her falling further down the rabbit hole of denial. Even when presented with the reality of meeting his wife, she rationalizes that he’s merely being noble and only denying his feelings for the sake of his marriage vows. Her feelings are so clearly misplaced that she even attempts to make a move on the poor man just an hour after his wife has died from childbirth. Nonetheless, she uses her gifts to manipulate him into her life and eventually, her bed.
At the core of everything, Levana is just an insecure little girl, whose scars are far more than just skin deep. Any threat to her rise in power, is seen as a threat. Even that of innocent three year old, Princess Selene and at the end of the book, her “beloved” Evert. Levana is clearly the epitome of a great literary villain and my only complaint is that I wish the book had more than 222 pages.