Villains! We love them, but we also love to hate them. Often works of speculative fiction, whether they are books, television series or films, hinge upon the effectiveness of the villain. And as our culture has become more entranced with the “bad guys/girls” in our favorite works, authors and filmmakers have brought them out of the darkness and into the light, at times placing them center stage for explorations of their origins and motivations. When this is done, there is the risk of disappointing fans if the back story doesn’t really match up, or seems to fit the scoundrel we love to hate. A prime example of this was when moviegoers were shown that Darth Vader, one of the grandest villains in cinematic history, was in reality little more than a whiny teenager with poor impulse control in an incredibly cool suit. Other times, the back story helps to increase understanding a character without diminishing his or her evil appeal. In Fairest : Levana's story, Marissa Meyer lifts the veil (almost literally) to show readers Queen Levana’s story, and how she was practically destined to become the megalomaniacal Lunar ruler intent on becoming Empress of the solar system.
Fairest begins with Princess Levana at the age of fifteen and chronicles her life into early adulthood (approximately age twenty-five). As readers follow her development, they can witness the growth, or lack of, and the potential queen’s personal development. Growing up as royalty in a toxic environment with few personal connections to others, Levana has little hope of becoming a fully functioning human being. As Meyer shows the reader these circumstances, and details Levana’s choices, it makes for a bit of a frustrating read because Levana always takes the worst possible route when she has the opportunity. It is easy to wonder, early in the book, how her character might have developed if different decisions had been made. But there is a point, approximately half way through the novel, where the path she has chosen becomes clear, and this choice sets in motion everything that occurs in the Lunar Chronicles series--Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress. All of this makes for a captivating and exciting novel.
Fairest is a must-read for those already engaged with The Lunar Chronicles. Winter, the concluding book of the series, will be released this fall.