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Fairest Hardcover – January 27, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—She loves fiercely and kills with little remorse; her iron grip over the Lunar people is equal parts impressive and terrifying. Queen Levana from "The Lunar Chronicles'" (Feiwel & Friends) is more than a beautiful villain. In this prequel, Meyer explains how she went from lonely, shy second daughter to the most feared and relentless woman in the universe. Levana grew up in the shadow of her distant mother, Queen Jannali, and her vengeful older sister, Princess Channary. After the murder of their parents, Channary takes the crown and produces an heir, Selene. Having permanently assumed a glamour, or altered physical appearance, after a childhood "accident" caused by Channary resulted in a severe disfigurement, Levana coerces a widowed palace guard to marry her, bringing his young daughter Winter to the palace. Her older sister's unexpected death catapults Levana to the position of Queen Regent—but that isn't enough for the ambitious, entitled protagonist. Meyer successfully sketches in some humanity to Levana's actions. At times, her raw loneliness invokes short-lived sympathy, such as when Levana clings to a dented pendant given to her by her husband. Even if readers despise her, it is worth reading this interim background novel to gain insight into Levana's complex character. VERDICT Thorough world-building and fascinating character development will thrill fans and entice new readers.—Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX
“She loves fiercely and kills with little remorse; her iron grip over the Lunar people is equal parts impressive and terrifying. Queen Levana from "The Lunar Chronicles'" is more than a beautiful villain. In this prequel, Meyer explains how she went from lonely, shy second daughter to the most feared and relentless woman in the universe. . . . Thorough world-building and fascinating character development will thrill fans and entice new readers.” ―School Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is a very focussed character study of Queen Levana and how she turned from a naive, self absorbed young girl into the tyrant our heroines are trying to depose. There is little in the way of worldbuilding or major plot development. It remains mostly confined to the Lunar Royal Palace.
What I liked
Character development. This is the focus of the book and is excellently done. We follow Levana’s progression from a self absorbed, naive young girl to the vicious despot of the later books. I appreciated how each step and decision she took along that path was small and logical at the time but each developed her character as it turned out to be. I found her an interesting character, and at many points she gained my sympathy for what she went through.
Character cameos. Many of the characters from the later books made cameo appearances as their younger selves. Even if they weren’t specifically named as such it was great fun to spot Cinder, Cress, Kai and other characters.
Audiobook narration. Once again narration is provided by Rebecca Soler who did the narration for the other books in the series. She does a brilliant job of capturing the characters’ voices and I hope she continues for Winter, the final book in the series.
What I didn’t like
Very expensive for such a short book. This book is really a novella - barely 272 pages or 6 hours and 36 minutes of audiobook - and yet is was priced comparatively expensively. I paid the price but a bit more resentfully than for other books.
No chapter breaks. The book is written in one long narrative unbroken into chapters. Now, I am a working woman and I don’t have the luxury of settling down to long chunks of several hours’ reading. For me, the chapter breaks are valuable to give me a good place to stop.
Not Whispersync for Voice compatible. In other words, the ebook and the audiobook didn’t sync. Combined with the lack of chapter breaks, it made switching between ebook and audiobook a very frustrating experience. If you’re only enjoying the book in one medium this won’t be an issue for you, but I did contribute to my lack of enjoyment.
Less engaging protagonist. Yes, Levana is a fascinating character and yes, I enjoyed learning about her backstory. However, it cannot be said that she is immediately likeable or engaging in the way that Cinder, Scarlet and Cress are.
Less humour. One of the fun parts of The Lunar Chronicles is the banter that is exchanged between our main characters. This was missing from Fairest - Levana’s Story. Thinking back, it’s because in this book we spend very little time with characters who actually like and respect each other. This book contains the first few chapters of Winter, which I listened to, including a scene on the Rampion and I immediately felt “yes, THIS is the Lunar Chronicles I know and love!"
To summarise, while I enjoyed Fairest - Levana’s Story, for me it wasn’t a must-read part of The Lunar Chronicles. Certainly, it shouldn’t be the first book you read in the series. It does provide an interesting expansion to the series though.
I gave Fairest - Levana’s Story 3.5 stars out of five.
We are first introduced to Queen Levana, the Lunar queen, in Cinder, the first book in the series. Levana is shown as manipulative, vain, and will do anything to be the most powerful ruler among the Lunars and Earthens. As the series progresses we see many of her malicious acts to gain power over everyone and these acts seem to get worse and worse. What we don't see in the first three books in the series are the reasons why Levana is the way she is and it all stems back to her childhood.
As I was reading Fairest, I could tell it has a darker feel than the other books in the series. The book starts when Levana is 15 but there are flashbacks to when she is a little girl which help fill in some blanks about her past. I don't want to insert any spoilers in my review because, even though I didn't enjoy this book as much as the others, I still feel it's a significant addition to the Lunar Chronicles series since Levana plays a fairly large role. As the story progresses, I could see Levana having mixed feelings towards many people and situations but, as well as know, she turns out to be a fairly malicious person.
There were some instances where I actually felt bad for Levana because she wasn't initially responsible for what happened in her past and those events seemed to affect her mentally. As she gets older, she makes some bad choices and we see her leaning towards the "dark side" because she has to be the fairest of them all, just like the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, whom Levana is based on. It was those bad choices that made me not feel as sorry for her and I started to greatly dislike her character.
Overall, I enjoyed Fairest but it I didn't like it as much as the other books. However, if you have read and enjoyed the other books, I feel it's good to read this one as well to further explore Levana's character. I read the interview questions with Marissa Meyer at the end of the book and she recommends reading Fairest in between Cress and Winter, which is what I happened to do. I feel reading the other books gives readers a good sense of Levana's character and most likely urges readers to wonder why she is like that. Having a good knowledge of her character and then going back to read about her past to see how some of the puzzle pieces fit together helps to paint a picture of Levana and some of the other characters. I still recommend Fairest even though I didn't enjoy it as much and I'm looking forward to Winter but I'm going to try to hold off because it's the last book in the series and I don't want it to end!
It is interesting to see things happening and knowing what will become of them, like a man named Dr. Darnel having a shell daughter. Young Winter is also adorable. I never liked the teenage one because of her illusions and imitating a wolf, but the Winter in this book is irresistible. She runs in and out of her stepmother's closet, bringing pairs of shoes to her dad or asks him why it is always a prince that rescues the princess. As you go farther into the book, you see more of how things happened, like Levana burning Selene. Near the end, you read about how Channary, Levana's sister, tortured her by fire, which was a bit confusing at first, because Channary had died, and I didn't see why she was mentioned again.
The end is tragic and sad. This was the most heart-touching book of the Lunar Chronicles for me. The last two pages made me cry. Marissa Meyer is an incredible author and continuously inspires me. This book is worth reading.
About the book, not the story, it didn't have much humor, and it is not as long as it appears. There are no chapters, only little marks between groups of paragraphs, making sections. It is spaced wider than the other books, and there are three chapters from the book Winter. Even though this was written after Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, read it after Winter, too. The proper order is not necessarily the order books were written in.
So, overall, the story is great, but the book could have been a bit longer and had chapters.
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