Here’s the thing–
Giving a backstory to an evil character is hard. There are so many things that you have to account for in order to have one that makes sense, and that alone is difficult. You not only need a credible story, but you also need a little something more. Typically, when one writes the story of their villain, I don’t expect a whole lot. Too many times writers tend to go with the cliche that makes you suddenly feel terrible for the villain and suddenly you start loving them. If the author has come up with something I can accept as reasonable, they’ve got my attention, but I don’t hold high hopes for anything too impressive.
This novel went well above and beyond any reasonable expectation I had.
Once again I find myself astounded and impressed by Meyer’s work, and really, at this point I should just stop thinking her books will disappoint because they never have.
The idea that a writer must have a reason for a character to be evil has been so overdone that it’s gotten to the point where most books have the most obvious, cliche, and ridiculous explanation imaginable. With Fairest, Marissa Meyer took a character who grew up in a manner which held her to a certain predisposition to become the person she did. Nothing about what Meyer wrote for Levana was “typical.” Nothing about Levana was overdone or cliche.
Readers weren’t introduced to a woman who had one bad experience that shaped her cruel and harsh nature. Readers weren’t given one simple explanation for Levana’s cruelty. The personality of the Lunar Chronicles’ villain was corrupted from a very early age and as she grew into her life, she experienced more and more to shape who she would become. But let me be clear; Levana was selfish from the start. She may have acted in ways which she believed were nice, but her own personality told us better. With or without the trauma she experienced, Levana was always going to be someone ruled by her own clouded beliefs.
She was a girl born of privilege to a family where cruelty was second nature. Levana was not someone who could have truly been wholly good in any circumstance as her personality alone led her to be greedy and entirely in possession of the ability to take what she wanted and needed when the time came for it. All it takes is one look at the ways in which she was jealous of Solstice and how she responds to the situation of taking over her appearance. Levana, ultimately, was damaged psychologically into believing that she was something she was not, that people felt things for her that they did not.
And in the most fascinating way, that was the most beautiful and captivating part of the story. She was intelligent enough to believe she knew better ways of ruling the moon than her sister. She was able to grow confident enough to take everything she needed and wanted and even managed to delude herself into believing things were different than they actually were. She made choices and sacrifices that no person who could have truly grown up to be especially moral and good could have made.
And in an ultimate statement of her character, Levana was never truly capable of standing up to her sister. She bit back her hatred–a feeling which was always somehow veiled over by her fear and an incredibly small speck of familial feelings–and in no way would have been capable of killing her sister. But her sister’s child? That was much easier. And while she grappled with the decision in her attempt to be someone whom she felt deserved love only to push past that and truly accept and approve of who she was through her delusion in order to allow herself to believe that her actions were exactly what should be done. She thought, by doing the wrong thing, she was doing the right thing. And this delusion existed for her throughout her entire life.
Levana is the villain who believes with every speck of her being that she is doing the best and the right thing–she deludes herself into this constantly. With her actions regarding Solstice, Winter, and Evret–Levana was brilliant in how she convinced herself that he really did love her, regardless of how many times he repeatedly informed her that he did not, that she was confusing him and hurting him. She manipulated him into a situation which he did not want to be a part of and yet she loved him, believing without question that the world was as she perceived it–or wanted to perceive it–as.
I am nothing if not exceedingly impressed with what Marissa Meyer has done with Levana and even as I try to explain why in this review, I find myself failing to find the proper words and descriptions. What I have written is only scratching the surface in a dismal way of describing how brilliant it was.
Meyer did not simply give an overly simple reason for Levana’s evil nature nor did she shove too many bad experiences into the reader’s faces. She gave us a flawed character from the beginning with a cruel sister and a horrible childhood experience that only exacerbated who she was and who she would become when the time came for her to make choices based on what she wanted out of her life.
And I am so impressed that it baffles me that the rating of this book isn’t even higher.
Levana is beautifully just that sort of villain that you LOVE to hate.