Author: Marissa Meyer
Source: Local Library
Princess Levana has always been overlooked. The second daughter of the Lunar royal house, scarred and ugly, overshadowed by the glittering heir, she yearns for oh so many things. She wants her thoughts and ideas to be taken seriously by the court. She wants people to admire her the way they admire her sister Channary. Most of all, she wants Evret Hayle, the handsome royal guard, to look at her the way she looks at him - with love and longing.
She gets her chance when Evret's wife dies in childbirth, and she takes it, magically brainwashing him into marrying her. When her sister dies, leaving Levana to rule, everything she wants is within her grasp.
Really, though, it's not. Evret only loves her when she's forcing her own will onto his. Levana isn't the queen, only the queen regent, standing in until her young niece Selene is of age to take the throne. But she's gotten this far. Why stop now?
When I heard the next book in Lunar Chronicles series was coming out in January, I was delighted. Cress left us with a doozy of a cliffhanger. When I heard it was not going to be Winter, but instead Levana's story, I was bitterly disappointed and a little cynical. Ridiculously popular series tend to bring out the spinoffs and tie-ins. I wanted to read it, of course, because Meyer does write an interesting story, but I wasn't sure what I would get.
What I found most interesting was that Levana actually is, for some values of the word, a good queen. She's interested in more than flirting and glittering. She thinks carefully about the problems facing Luna as a nation, and she dreams up smart and savvy methods of solving those problems. Of course, smart and savvy do not mean good or even conscionable. One of her first breakthrough ideas is for the deliberate spread of a virus that will weaken Earth's defenses and put Luna into a position of stronger political power. This will, of course, become the horrific letumosis epidemic that haunts the other novels in the series.
The saddest part is how you can see where she went wrong. She has good aims, understandable motivations. She wants to be loved. She wants to be a good queen. She wants constant, never-ending affirmation that she is good enough. She is very young at the beginning of the novel, just fifteen, and she
falls prey to the flaws that often plague that age - self-centeredness,
thoughtlessness, and a tendency to blow things out of proportion. But the reason she turned out the way she does (and will), is because nobody has ever taught her that love means putting other people first, or that anyone besides herself is more than a tool or an obstacle.
As a standalone novel, this would not hold up. It isn't meant to, really. There are too many references to other characters from the series and their origins for the new reader to make sense of it. (Why, for instance, is the toddler son of her husband's friends given so much page space? Unless you know him as Jacin Clay, the hero of the last book, it makes no sense.) I also wish we'd gotten more of Evret than just the handsome love interest, because it would have made his decisions and his eventual fate more tragic. But as a peek into the workings of a powerful villain that we already know and fear, this book is fascinating.