My rating: 5 of 5 stars
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ – Near Perfect, easily one of my all-time favorites.
Warning: This review may contain spoilers. Be warned. I really have no clue what constitutes spoilers nowadays.
“Fairest” is the backstory on the Lunar Chronicles antagonist; Queen Levana—the evil queen. It’s set before the events in Cinder, but I have to agree with the author that it would be good to read in-between “Cress” and “Winter”. This book was what made me devour the rest of the series in two days.
Princess Levana hates the sight of her true self. After an incident when she was a young child, her body is now covered in burns. Hiding behind the glamour from her bio-electric manipulation, she hopes that one day the people of Lunar will forget about her ugly self. Suffering from her beautiful sister’s endless torments, Levana finds solitude in the friendship with a guard whom she has a big crush on. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, she device a plan to get him through manipulation. She just need to look like his deceased wife.
Oh. Wow. I. Can’t. Even.
This book is everything I never knew that I really wanted, needed and desired.
In my reviews of the first three books, I’ve mentioned how much I wished for more information on the character’s past. Their motivations, and what made them to who they are.
And this book did just that, and whoa… Even now—three days after I finished the book—I’m still baffled with feelings over this book.
What I loved the most: Beautifully described, I loved how the author managed to make me feel Levana’s self-loathing without making her whiny. I sympathized with the young princess whose trust was shattered by none other than her older sister.
I can’t stress how amazing I found the character development. Often in books, I find that the author doesn’t give their characters enough flaws, but that is not the case here. Levana was crafted to perfection. Her scars, her ambitions, her motivation and even her delusions tugged on my heartstrings.
Alright, I’m going to talk about the plot next, because… feelings. So pardon the spoiler tag.
In a way, I think that had she had someone to love her, Levana would have become a great Queen instead of the evil one. Of course, then we wouldn’t have the series, but you know… I’m invested in this character damn.
The plot isn’t cute or lovely at all. But it is amazing.
The story follows a teenage Levana as she nurses her school girl crush on her married guard, tries to avoid her diabolic sister and practices her glamour to perfection.
Many years after the incident, Levana still has nightmares of the time where her sister—Cinder’s mom—held her down as flames licked her skin. We see how she lives in the shadows of her sister, and how she is tormented on an everyday basis.
It wasn’t pleasant to read this story. The bullying from one sister to another. The insecurities. The self-hatred. It made my stomach churn, and while I still hate Levana’s character in the chronicles, it made me want to jump into the book to give the poor princess a hug, and take her far away.
As the story goes on, we see how Levana finally snaps after she meets the wife of her crush—his very pregnant wife. Obsessed, Levana starts spiraling after Winter is born. Taking on the form of his dead wife, Levana basically tortures her crush into her bed. And after that, she forces him to marry her—although, she claims he had a choice, but we all know he hadn’t.
There are so many sides to Levana. She’s smart and ambitious—something her older sister definitely isn’t. When it comes to court business, her words are often overlooked, but it’s clear that she is as manipulative in politics as she is in her everyday life.
When Cinder is born, Levana’s sister—Channary—starts to cough more and more. It is discovered that she has an incurable lung disease, and eventually, Channary passes away.
And that’s how Princess Levana became Queen Regent, as a placeholder until Cinder—or Selene as she is named—is of age to overtake the throne.
The power turns the already delusional girl into a psychopath. Her paranoia grows, and she finds herself envying her step-daughter, wishing that her husband finally gave his heart.
Her envy extends to the baby Princess Selene(Cinder). And she starts dreaming that the girl didn’t exist. Somehow, her daydreams turn into reasoning as to why the true heir had to be killed. And what better way to do it, than with a fire? At least, Levana is merciful enough to let her niece’s life end there—a courtesy that Channary didn’t show Levana.
Of course, us semi-sane people can’t follow that kind of logic. But it becomes her excuse, her reason to kill off the true heir.
After the death of the princess, Levana’s guard husband starts to feel a bit unsettled by the rumors. And it spirals into fights about when he wants to give her his heart for real. After a while it’s clear to Levana that she’ll never receive his love, and then decides to kill him too.
I mean… THAT was clearly the logical thing to do to your so-called beloved. (hide spoiler)]
While the story gives an in-depth look into Levana’s life, we also see how the biological warfare is created in order to take possession of Earth. We see Lunar’s inner workings, and it prepares us pretty well for the last book “Winter” who will follow Levana’s step daughter.
I just… this book is my favorite. By far.
I would recommend this to everyone. Even if you haven’t read the Lunar Chronicles. Since the book is set before the events in “Cinder” it can technically be read as a stand-alone.
Especially to all my writer-friends who might struggle to craft the perfect villain. This story would probably serve as inspiration for many—I know it does for me.
Just…. Read it. You most likely won’t regret it.