Fairest – Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer is a prequel to her fairytale reimagining series The Lunar Chronicles. It provides the backstory to series antagonist Queen Levana Blackburn of Luna. If you are new to The Lunar Chronicles, PLEASE don’t start with this book – go read Cinder, Scarlet and Cress and then come back to it. It will be more engaging in that way.
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.
Here’s a sample:
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.