Although I didn’t rate this book as highly in the others in this series, some parts of it really impressed me.
In a lot of media, villains are treated in one of two ways: as exclusively evil (think almost every depiction of Snow White’s wicked queen you’ve ever encountered), or as tragically misunderstood (think Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West). I expected this book to go the second route — that even after getting a sense of how evil Levana was in Cinder and Scarlette, that this book would somehow “redeem” her and awaken all sorts of conflicted feelings when she appeared in the villain’s role in all the other books.
Nope, this book lets Levana stay evil.
And that is the beauty of it: that it lets Levana truly BE evil (as opposed to misunderstood), but that it doesn’t make that ALL that she is. There are moments where she deserves and receives no sympathy: (view spoiler) But then there are also moments in which you can’t help but admire her — in the way that she really DOES care about being a good ruler, even if she has a misguided idea of what that means. Meyer does a good job of contrasting her with Channery, who is purely selfish and shallow and only enjoys being Queen for the parties and attention. Levana, on the other hand, takes an interest in Lunar politics, wants her country to succeed, and has a misguided sense that everything she does is for Lunar’s own good. Patronizing to be sure, but not purely evil. The book shows Levana in some of her most vulnerable moments — longing for a man who will never love her, self-conscious about the deformity she hides beneath her “glamour.” At the same time, it never excuses her horrible behavior even as it lends some understanding.
The reason I gave this book fewer than four stars is because, since it covers a span of about 10 years, there were places where it seemed to slow down as Meyer used summary to transition from one “important” event to another one. And the ending was so abrupt! I was listening to it on audio, so I didn’t have the same sort of warning one has when reading (and you can see you are on the last page, for example.) So when the narrator’s voice came on being like, “We hope you have enjoyed this production …” I was like WTF? THAT was the ending? It’s not particularly satisfying — but then I suppose the way the Lunar Chronicles ultimately resolve will tell us how Levana’s story ends. It was nice to have the opportunity to also see how it began.