Fairest by Marissa Meyer
Fairest is a prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, a series that combines fairy-tale-inspired characters and skeleton plots with a fantastical future setting. It tells the story of Levana, the villain, evil queen of the moon. Most of the focus here is on her twisted marriage and her disfigured face. It’s easy to feel sorry for Levana: she’s somewhat humanized here, mostly through showing how her older sister abused and bullied her, and how desperately she wanted to be loved. However, I think this story does fall short of the real tragedy that the most fascinating portrayals of villains achieve. Levana’s psychology is pretty childish in the way that she uses people and simply discards them when she is done with them. Even in the beginning, she proves her innate villainy with her enthusiasm about a plan to unleash a plague on Earth in order to sell the antidote and improve Luna’s trade position. In the end, the way she shuts down her own ability to love and chooses to become the villain we know from the other books is pretty chilling. It’s a pretty short book, and the copy I read included a teaser for the conclusion of the Lunar Chronicles: the first three chapters of Winter. Meyer’s series seems strongest when it focuses on the heroes; maybe it’s ok for her villain to be kind of flat. I’m looking forward to Winter, coming out this fall.