Welcome back to Lunarthon! Our readalong of The Lunar Chronicles is coming to an end, but before we get started on the last book in the series we’re taking a look back at where it all began, in the Lunar Chronicles prequel novella, Fairest, and giving a copy away to one lucky reader!
In Fairest, Meyer unveils her ruthlessly ambitious villain, Levana, the queen of Luna. Beginning with the murder of Levana’s parents and her sister’s ascension to the throne, Fairest follows Levana’s dark descent from a disturbed teenage girl into the murderous queen readers met in Cinder.
Levana had not seen the bodies, but she had seen the bedrooms the next morning, and her first thought was that all that blood would make for a very pretty rouge on her lips.
She knew it was not the proper thing to think, but she also did not think her parents would have thought anything better had it been her murdered instead of them.
The fairy tale inspiration behind the Lunar Chronicles series is clearer than ever in Fairest. Meyer puts her own signature twist on the story of Snow White’s jealous stepmother through the Lunar ability to alter people’s perception of them at will, and the result is a fascinating exploration of the pressure placed on teenage girls to conform to unreasonable standards of beauty. The criticism of Western beauty standards in Fairest is one of my favourite parts of the novella – even the title itself draws attention to the way the English language associates beauty with whiteness. In Fairest we see Levana deliberately changing the features of the women she stole them from, widening and lightening her eyes and making her hair glossier – all to look ‘fairer’. In contrast, her stepdaughter Winter, the most beautiful girl on Luna, is black – and later scarred – and does not attempt to hide behind a glamour.
Levana had worked so hard to perfect her glamour. To be the most beautiful queen to ever sit on Luna’s throne – more beautiful than her mother, more beautiful than Channary. No longer was she the ugly princess, the deformed child. The thought that Winter could so easily achieve what she had worked so hard for churned in Levana’s stomach.
Throughout Fairest, Meyer humanises Levana without attempting to use her tragic backstory to redeem her as a character. Meyer also uses Levana’s emotional manipulation of Evret Hayle, Winter’s father, to explore how the Lunar glamour raises issues of consent, and shows us the depths Levana is willing to sink to to get what she wants – including plotting the deaths of her niece and husband. Levana is sympathetic, yes, but she’s also one of the most irredeemable villains in YA and she’s far from a blameless victim.
Little Selene, barely three years old, would hardly even make a blip in their history. The memory of their little princess would be entirely eclipsed with the reign of Queen Levana.
The fairest queen that Luna had ever known.
What did you make of Levana’s side of the story? Sound off in the comments below – and don’t forget to come back next week, when we’ll be discussing chapters 1-32 of Winter!
Fill out the form below to win a copy of Fairest by Marissa Meyer. Giveaway prizes donated by Macmillan. Open to entrants in the U.S. only. Void where prohibited.