Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer

I admire Marissa Meyer's risk-taking by writing a book about the villain, the evil Queen Levana, in her Luna Chronicle series; however, it falls short in the end and failed to captivate me. When creating villains, there are those characters that are sympathetic or unsympathetic. Meyer tries to create a sympathetic villain that is shaped from a horrible event that happened in her childhood. What I found lacking was that Levana's progression from a self-centered child to a power-crazed woman are for the most part not unexpected nor engaging. She reacts in predictable ways and the character growth does not go deep enough into creating interesting causalities that define her actions.

The book opens with Levana preparing the funeral for her assassinated parents and is angry that her frivolous sister will be the queen versus herself. Levana is interested in politics and brilliant at manipulating most people with the exception of her sister, Channery. Her sister is only interested in tormenting Levana, but in conquering the opposite sex as well. Fifteen-year-old Levana is in love with a palace guard and forces him to love her back through magical manipulations. When Channery dies and Levana comes to power and does all she can to maintain it.

Meyer uses fairy tale elements from "Snow White" with Queen Levana being similar to the wicked queen. This adds a certain predictability in the plot. We know that the queen will not find redemption at the end of the story. This takes some of the tension out of the plot. Whereas, Meyer created humorous situations to balance this predictability in her previous books that comes from using an existing fairy tale structure, it is not evident in this one. The result is a dark plot with a self-pitying megalomaniac. I find unlikable characters fascinating, but it is hard to capture the pathos of their character and that seems to be missing here.

Good villains are the ones that think they are heroes. Meyer creates Levana as such who believes that she is saving her people by getting Earth's resources as her own planet can no longer sustain life. Levana does not recognize that her actions are oppressive, selfish, and manipulative in reaching her goal. She kills people that stand in the way of her reaching for ultimate power whether she loves them or not. She chooses might over negotiation and will not listen to voices of reason. She's motivated by hiding her true self behind an image of beauty. She is flawed and has a negative character arc following the "Snow White" fairy tale of a villain that chooses to be completely evil.

There are two kinds of villains. The all-powerful villain like Saron or the everyman villain like Golem in "The Lord of the Rings". The all-powerful villain is pure evil and is good for creating obstacles, but not very interesting as a character. The everyman villain like Golem tends to be more three-dimensional and lends a personal connection as the flaws are exposed to show how the character becomes corrupt. The problem with an all-powerful villain is the loss of redemption and the reader being able to connect with him or her. When the husband was around Levana, the possibility was there that she might redeem herself. When he's gone from the plot, the reader knows Levana is pure evil. This shift at the end is going to turn off some readers for the personal connection is gone. Perhaps it would have been better if Meyer had not followed the fairy tale structure so closely.

Another aspect that doesn't work is Levana's motivation and pathos are too predictable, resulting in a character that is not three-dimensional. Meyer tends to create strong female characters that are not stereotyped. Unfortunately Levana comes across stereotyped as the abused younger sister seeking a power position. She gets upstaged by more interesting minor characters such as her sister and husband. And frankly, there are not enough characters and dialogue to keep the action moving which she did so well in her first three books. For me, the conflict was not interesting enough and while I have really enjoyed the other books, this one fizzled.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review! Thank you for explaining why it didn't work for you, as I've read a few reviews that didn't like it but didn't explain why. Well done! Sorry to hear that this one didn't live up to expectations. I've only read Cinder, but plan on reading the rest of the series one of these days.