Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
Published in January 2015 by Feiwel and Friends
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.
Reviewed by Isabella Samuels
Fairest is a Lunar Chronicles novella, dedicated by Meyer to “the readers”, and not technically part of the series. It is, though, a must on the reading list of anyone who has enjoyed the other books, as it gives us an in depth and vivid portrait of Lunar life before we are to relish Winter next month.
However, I must, in all good conscience as a reviewer, advise you to read the first three instalments of the Lunar Chronicles before reading Fairest. As readers we are not ready to read about Levana before Cress. Fairest would not only spoil the other books but we do not fear Levana enough to need, nor want, to understand her before then.
I was concerned that, like the Maleficent film did, Fairest would ask us to sympathise with Levana to a point where we did not truly perceive her as a villain any longer. Thankfully, this was not the case. Levana is still the terrifyingly warped and malevolent queen she always was, she is just not so distant anymore. Being privy to Levana’s past does allow us to understand her motives psychologically but it often made her more frightening because we have seen her version of logic and her irrational actions as a consequence.
Meyer uses Sir Evret Hayle, a palace guard that Levana is obsessively in love with, to make us more and more wary of her as the novel progresses and Levana ages. From the tender and fragile age of sixteen, Levana is already scarred, an abused and neglected descendant of a very troubled, very perverted dynasty. Her sister Channary is the best living evidence of this, her treatment of Levana is appalling and her behaviour truly scandalous, the effect of this though is perhaps the most shocking of all. Levana has been pushed to such limits by her sister, her powerful glamour and reality become distorted in her own head, it becomes harder to tell what is the truth of her manipulation of Evret and what was really meant by the people she meets as her interpretation is so disfigured.
In anticipation of Winter, Fairest has been a great yet subtle aid in developing many of the key characters. I hope that Channary and Cinder will be discussed more. I feel that though it has been mentioned, Meyer has glazed over the fact that Cinder’s mother, too, was an evil queen, could this have an effect on Cinder? We understand Winter now, too. Having had a fleeting glance at her in Cress, we have seen her childhood in Fairest, watching her develop through Levana’s eyes so we are ready for her to take centre stage in the next book. And, I have to admit, despite disliking him before I have now warmed to Jacin as I couldn’t really be suspicious of him aged five.
Fairest shows the extent of Marissa Meyer’s talent, Levana is undisputedly the most complex character of the series and this sassy retelling would not have been