Review: ‘Fairest’ by Marissa Meyer

Fairest

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.

There aren’t too many authors who are so popular that even their novellas get a traditional paperback release (most  bridging novellas are released as ebook only, or maybe POD). Marissa Meyer’s Fairest is one of these rare books and, having devoured it in an evening, I can see why.

Fairest is book 3.5 of the Lunar Chronicles. If you’re not familiar with the premise of this series, it’s basically an alternate Earth sci-fi where each book in the series is inspired by a fairytale. But the books don’t really stand alone; there is an overarching storyline, with the stories of Cinder, Scarlett, Cress and now Levana intertwining. (Winter’s story comes next.)

Levana is the queen of Luna, the moon colony; think the wicked queen from Snow White and you have her basic character concept. Pretty one-dimensional, right? Nope. The beauty of Fairest is that we get to find out how untrue that characterisation is. The story begins when Levana is fifteen and her parents are assassinated, and follows her sister’s coronation, Levana’s “romance” with the guard Evret and pseudo-adoption of Winter, the birth of Selene, and all the horrible things that follow. We get to see through both current events and flashbacks just why Levana starts out a little bit damaged … and why by the end she’s as broken as the the mirror on the wall.

The thing is, despite all the awful things Levana does and who she turns into, you can’t help but feel bad for her. She’s a product of a terrible environment, and one part of her just wants to be loved. Of course, that in no way excuses her behaviour — from murder to what amounts to rape and psychological torture — but you can’t help but think that if someone had taken her away from her family when she was a small child, she could have been a wonderful person. Certainly she’s not as inherently evil as her older sister, Channary, not at first … although that’s setting the bar pretty low.

I mentioned rape and torture. Levana is a Lunar and has the gift to influence others’ minds and control their bodies … and Evret doesn’t want to be anything more than her friend. It’s fair to say there is no romance in this book. There were times I felt physically ill at the things she did to that poor, poor man. Still, what sex there is fades to black — it is a young adult series.

All of this amounts to an amazing five-star read, because you have to admire the talent of a writer who can make you pity and loathe a character all at once. If you’ve read the other books in the series and are wondering whether to dip into the novella: DO. You won’t regret it. And if you haven’t read any of the series, start with Cinder.

Five stars

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