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She cried for the girl who had never belonged. A girl who tried so hard, harder than anyone else, and still never had anything to show for it. A girl who had been certain that Evret loved her and only her, and now she couldn’t even remember what that certainty felt like.

After reading and loving Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, I thought that I understood Levana’s character pretty well. She’s a psychotic, calculating, brutal villain. That’s all there is to it, right? I was so afraid, upon starting Fairest, that Meyer would try to make us sympathize with Levana, to pity her, to excuse her behavior. I don’t know why I doubt her. She always delivers.

While the rest of the Lunar Chronicles are fast-paced, witty, generally feel-good books, Fairest is not. It seems like nothing is happening as you’re reading, but then you realize that you’ve just witnessed a queen descend into absolute madness. The things that Levana justifies doing are awful. They’re uncomfortable to read. But since we’ve been following her from her teenage years, we know why she’s doing it, and while it makes it a little easier to understand, it makes it no less awful. Levana is given many opportunities to make the right or wrong decision. She always chooses the wrong one. She’s selfish and twisted and I cannot bring myself to pity her. But I do understand her more than I did.

Aside from Levana, Fairest shows us: Cinder and Winter as babies, Sybil Mira before she was head Thaumaturge, Queen Channary’s rule, the beginnings of Levana’s army of wolf soldiers and the letumosis outbreak, and her first inklings of marrying the emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth.

The best, of course, was Winter as a baby. I’m looking forward to her story even more now that I know her origins.

[Fairest is a 222-page prequel to the Lunar Chronicles series.  To avoid spoilers, do not read Fairest until you have read its predecessors: Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress.]

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #16: a book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

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