Marissa Meyer's Fairest shows the back story to Queen Levana (otherwise known as the equivalent of Snow White's Evil Queen). Maybe that's why it failed to thrill me.
Levana is fifteen when the book opens. Her parents have been assassinated and her ruthless sister is about to be crowned Queen. Levana knows that her sister will make a terrible ruler. Levana wants to rule her people, she wants to marry a member of the guard with whom she's infatuated, and she wants to be beautiful.
In some ways Levana sounds like the epitome of the teenage girl. She wants to be in love, she wants to be beautiful, and she wants to be in charge. But I just couldn't get behind the story line because in order to do these things, she becomes progressively more evil. To some extent, I'm hoping that was Meyer's intentions. I don't think she wrote this back story to make Levana an endearing character, but I am a little worried that readers might take it that way.
Part of my discontent with the story line actually comes from the people's powers. I usually love magic based anything, but this takes it a little too far. Levana constantly holds herself under glamour. She's very good at it. However, she uses other people's faces as a blueprint for her glamours. Which means she can take on the appearance of anyone. And she uses this to her advantage in so-called "wooing" the guard. She also uses mind-control. To me, this equates to nothing less than rape and emotional abuse. To my mind, this just cements Levana as a villain. It makes me desperately hope for her demise in Winter. I'm a little worried that in giving us Levana's back story, Meyer is preparing us for a different outcome in Winter--a hero saving the villain story line. Which I firmly, do not want.
Meyer's writing is wonderful as usual. I found myself completely entranced, even when I was disgusted by what was happening on the page, the writing kept me glued to it. If this was the first thing I'd read by her, I might not have kept going. But knowing the rest of the story, knowing about Cinder and Winter and Kai and Scarlet, I was able to think of the future as Levana's demise.
I don't think this is necessary to read to enjoy the rest of The Lunar Chronicles, but for those who have loved the other books and want to know more about the universe, I would recommend this book to them.