Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Fairest
Marissa Meyer

Feiwel & Friends
Released January 27, 2015
222 pages
YA / Sci Fi / Twisted Faerie Tales

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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.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

I devoured Fairest as quickly as my over-exhausted body and work schedule would allow, meaning that over the course of two nights, I was once again engulfed in Marissa Meyer’s world of Lunar royalty and cunningly clever yet devastatingly lonely evil queens. It wasn’t long enough, but I suppose it will have to do until Winter comes out towards the end of the year.

Possible spoilers for Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress ahead.

Fairest was never supposed to exist. It started out as a companion short story or novella, most likely to be included in the Cress paperback or as a Tor.com exclusive, but Meyer soon found that Queen Levana’s rise to infamy was a bit longer than any short story could contain. Fairest takes place a good 15 years before the start of Cinder. It tells the story of Levana the girl who becomes Evil Queen and mastermind behind many of the terrible things that surround our heroines in the Lunar Chronicles.

Meyer does a great job humanizing her villain, though it’s pretty clear early on that even during her more innocent youth, there is something seriously wrong with Levana. After a devastating accident as a small child, Levana seems to have turned her PTSD into some narcissistic paranoia that creates a bubble protecting her from many realties that don’t fit within her worldview. Fairest continues to give us the full story behind backstory from the previous books – the fire in the nursery, Winter’s origin story, why Queen Levana hates mirrors so much.

Fairest is a great companion story to the Lunar Chronicles, though it doesn’t have the fast-paced action component that comes with lost princesses and fall satellites. Instead it’s more of a character study, turning the lens of our attention to the bad guy so as to flesh out the evil that haunts Cinder and her friends. Meyer’s same captivating writing allowed me to get lost in the story just as easily, though a part of me missed my friends. It’s perfectly normal to refer to fictional characters as friends, right?

If Fairest was meant to make me sympathetic to Levana… well, it may have worked a little bit, but really, that lady is crazy! It definitely fleshes out her motivations and turns her into a fully realized character of her own. It also made me want to go back and re-read the entire series, so that I can relive all of the Levana scenes with this new knowledge of her background in place. She is no longer just a beautiful evil queen. It’s probably a bit scarier knowing the history of her crazy and what our heroines are truly up against as they head into their final showdown.

The book itself is gorgeous and whoever designed those end pages of the Lunar castle deserves a raise. The story itself was a satisfying morsel while we wait for the main course that will be Winter.