Saturday, February 07, 2015

What We’re Reading: The Lunar Chronicles

Villains. We love them. We also love to hate them. Often times, 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 the fans if the back story doesn’t really match up with or seem 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 whiney teenager with poor impulse control in a REALLY cool suit. Sometimes, less is more. Other times, the back story helps to increase understanding of a character without diminishing his or her evil appeal. In Fairest, Marissa Meyer lifts the veil (almost literally) to show readers Queen Levana’s story and how she was practically destined to become the megalo-maniacal 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 25). As readers follow her development, they can witness the growth--or lack thereof--of 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; 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.

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.

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