Oh man, what a good book! I actually wasn’t interested in this book, I only bought it because I absolutely love The Lunar Chronicles. I don’t really like to read those side stories for series either, like how Dorothy Must Die and The Selection have, but this one I really enjoyed, which I didn’t expect because it’s about one of the evilest characters out there in YA fiction.
There will be spoilers, but I’m not sure if you can really call them that since it just goes into detail about things you already know about Levana from the books Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress.
Without giving spoilers, this book was about Queen Levana from age 16 to about 26-27, maybe 5 or so years before the start of Cinder. It was a quick read, and I’d recommend it if you love The Lunar Chronicles.
Now for Spoilers.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall.
Who is the Fairest of them all?
Pure evil has a name, hides behind a mask of deceit, and uses her “glamour” to gain power. But who is Queen Levana? Long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, Levana lived a very different story—a story that has never been told . . . until now.
So I totally bought this book in both the e-book and hard copy. Last night, once it turned 10 pm I was reading this book. Sometimes being on Mountain Time has it’s advantages. I read for about an hour, then went to bed. Once I got to work though, I picked up reading it again. Overall I think this book took about 5-7 hours total to read. It wasn’t long, probably about 230 pages of actual story, I don’t know I’m just guessing.
Anyway, I don’t know about you, but this was not the book I wanted. I wanted Winter! November needs to hurry so I can read it!
But even with my disappointment that this book was not Winter, I am extremely satisfied with it. I’d give it a solid 98% or so, 5 stars for sure. I did have some problems with it, but I’ll get to those in a bit.
1. Who were the main characters?
Levana – The young Princess of Luna. She later married Evret Hayle, and took over as queen after her sister did from an illness that primarily plagues the outer sections.
Channary – Queen of Luna, and older sister to Levana. Has many affairs with palace guards and guests to the point she has no idea who fathered her child, Princess Selene. A cruel woman, she dies of an illness not too long after giving birth. It’s never said how she got the illness, only that Levana suspected she contracted it on one of her many hook-ups. Surprisingly, in the time she had with her daughter, she was a better mother than her own had been.
Sir Evret Hayle – A place guard, married to Solstice Hayle. He is also the man Levana loves completely. After his wife dies, he is controlled by Levana into loving her, and eventually marries her.
Solstice Hayle – Seamstress, and wife of Evret Hayle. A very kind, very timid woman, everything that you picture snow white (or her mother) would be. When she meets Levana, she is “very pregnant” with Winter. She pities Levana after meeting her. Dies during childbirth, which I’m kinda happy about because she was such a Mary Sue. She wasn’t a bad character, I actually did like her, but she was just TOO perfect I was like ‘eh, go away.”
Winter – Daughter of Evret and Solstice Hayle, and Step-daughter to Levana. She does not really play a big role in this book, but she does talk a little here and there and she is constantly mentioned.
Princess Selene – Levana’s niece and Queen Channary’s only daughter. Father is unknown, even to her mother. Not really a main character, I actually don’t remember her saying anything throughout the whole book, but she holds significance.
2. Summary of the book.
Princess Levana is a 15 year old girl who is completely disfigured due to an accident from childhood. After her parents are killed, her sister, Princess Channary takes control of the kingdom. When everyone is giving the princesses their condolences, Levana gets the chance to speak to Sir Evret Hayle, whom she has loved for years. Unfortunately, he reveals that he has a wife and a child on the way. Levana is upset, but doesn’t show it.
While getting ready for Channary’e coronation, she glamours herself to look like Evret’s wife and is found by her sister. Trying to get away, she is seen by Sir Evret, and Channary makes it worse by teasing her in front of him. Levana runs away and hides in her room.
Throughout her reign, Queen Channary ignores her duties, so Levana usually takes over for her. On her 16th birthday, Sir Evret gives her a gift, which surprises her since they haven’t spoken since the incident. She starts to believe that he has feelings for her, so when his wife later dies during childbirth, she gives him space, but waits for him to come to her.
Three weeks later, he does, but it’s not for what she thinks. He is there to give her a quilt his wife made that Levana once admired. Refusing to believe that’s his only reason for being there, Levana makes him believe that he loves her, ‘because she knows it’s the truth.’
“Don’t you see? That’s what love is suppose to feel like. All these conflicting emotions and bouts of passion that you can hardly control, and this constant twisting feeling in your stomach like you can’t decide if you want to run away from that person…or it you want to run away with them.”
“You’re wrong, Princess, I don’t know what you’re describing, but it isn’t love.”
She continues to manipulate his emotions till one day he confronts her. He tries to convince her that this isn’t right, but she continues to tell him that she knows he loves her. Finally she asks him to marry her. Believing he has no choice, he agrees.
Channary is not happy with the marriage and tries to get Levana to annul it. She refuses, saying that Channary can use Princess Winter to marry off. She gives in, and reveals to Levana that she is pregnant. Levana asks who is the father, and Channary says that she doesn’t know, and ‘that’s the point.’
Soon Princess Selene is born, and she and Winter grow up together. Channary begins to grow ill, but refuses to seek medical attention. She dies not to long after, and Levana takes over as queen regent till her niece becomes of age. Every decision she makes is for the better of her people. She continues the testing of a disease to inflict against Earth, and the search for an antidote so they can offer it to Earth in exchange for power.
Queen Levana realizes that she is a great queen, and her niece will not be as good a ruler as she is, so she starts imagining the child’s death. At first it’s only her imagining it, then it turns to planing.
“Channary had been a terrible ruler. No doubt her daughter would be the same….Her thoughts didn’t come from envy or resentment. This was about the good of Luna. The betterment of everyone around her.”
With her plan thought out, she proceeds to have it done, killing her niece and the new nanny. Rumors start circulating, but Levana doesn’t care, she is now the queen. The only rumor she cares about is the one saying Selene is still alive.
“It was not happiness-she was very sad to know that victory had required such an appalling act. But success was success, victory was victory. She had done it and now, as the country mourned, she would be the one to lift them out of this tragedy.”
The disease, now complete, is released on Earth with escaping Lunars. Years later it claims the life of the Emperor of New Beijing’s wife, and Levana sees a way to help her people and their dying resources. She will marry the Emperor and take Earths resources.
“A marriage alliance then, just as Channary had dreamed for herself, all those years ago. Princess Winter would make a good match for this boy, but Winter had no royal blood. The alliance would be too superficial.
No, it had to be the queen. It had to be Levana. It had to be someone who could, someday, someday, produce an heir to the throne.”
A few nights later, she goes to her husband, Sir Evret’s, bedroom, where they have sex and later he is killed by an assassin hired by the queen. Once he is shot, Queen Levana kills the assassin and holds her husband close, telling him over and over how sorry she was.
“This was not a shell like the one that killed her parents. This was a much more skilled assassin. A much more dangerous one. As Levana’s vision adjusted to the light pouring in from the corridor, she watched Evret’s eyes widen in recognition.”
3. What did you like about the book?
Uh, everything. I loved Sir Evret Hayle a lot, and surprisingly I liked Levana. She was really the lesser of two evils. After reading about Channary, and how horrible she was, Levana is shockingly the better person.
I mean seriously, Channary is the reason Levana is disfigured because she controlled her into staying in a fire pit.
“Come here, baby sister,” she whispered, and despite the terror twisting inside Levana’s stomach, her feet obeyed. “I want to show you something.”
The only thing about Sir Hayle I didn’t like was that he pressured Levana to show her true self to him and the citizens. For a woman that has lived her whole life being told she was hideous, she’s not going to want to do that. I understand why he told her to do it, but she’s gonna be messed up from that abuse so trying to force it just felt wrong, even if it was Levana.
“And I know your sister said you were ugly from the time you were a baby, and I can only imagine the kind of damage that does to a person. But Levana…”
4. What did you not like about the book?
It was too short! Also, there were not chapters. I’m one of those people who don’t like to end in the middle of a chapter. It’s a bit of a problem because sometimes I’ll read before bed, finish the chapter, and continue to the next one to find out what happened, so by the time I’m finally at a good ending chapter it’s midnight….
5. Any other notes about the book?
The Lunars really weren’t as evil as they are portrayed in the other books. It seems the evil and crazy ones were just the royalty, and Sybil. It felt like she was the one who pushed Levana farther into evilness.
“Sybil smiled. “We thaumaturges are trained with certain methods of extracting information, even from those unwilling to give it. Perhaps Dr. Eliot and I should have a more private conversation.”
I also felt that Levana really, truly loved Evret and made her decisions for the better of Luna. I don’t know if the purpose of this book was to make us sympathize a little with Levana, and see more where she is coming from, or if it was just to give us background on her and Winter in preparation for the next book. Either way, while I can see why she does the things she does, it doesn’t redeem her. I’m not going to start hoping that she and Cinder work things out and become best buds.
6. Will you read the other books in the series?
I already have! Can’t wait for the next one!!!
7. Would you recommend this book to others?
Yes, for sure, and the whole series. I love the story, the writing, the characters, everything. I can’t recommend it enough. You could probably read this book without reading any of the others. It doesn’t spoil any of them, but once you get to the end you’ll want more.
8. Final Thoughts?
Levana is evil, that’s for sure, but I can see why some of the Lunars really love her as their queen. Of course, she may have gotten even more evil from the end of the book till Cinder, but here she really is the best choice for them. They went from a king and queen who didn’t care about their duties, to a queen that only wanted to sleep around and party, then they got her, a queen who cared about Lunar and the people. Some of the stuff that she’s blamed for in the other books, like capturing all the shells and killing them, was not even her fault. Her sister put that in place, she just chose to keep it going. I don’t feel this redeemed or justified her actions in the later books, but the background on her history really does bring the story together.