Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fairest by Marissa Meyer - mini rant!

by Marissa Meyer

Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Copyright: January 27, 2015
Format: hardback 
Pages: 272 BUT only around 200 are actually the story!

Genre: YA SciFi/Fantasy; The Lunar Chronicles book 3.5 - i.e. book lets milk this thing for all it's worth
Source: own book

From Amazon:
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. 

Sigh.  As you might already guess - I am a bit cranky about this entry into the series - scratch that - I am seriously displeased.

A) it was way too short for a hardback with a $17.99 price point. Seriously, only around 200 well spaced pages are the story and you are paying for the pleasure of previewing the first bit of Winter. If the words were appropriately white-spaced this would be considered a novella.

B) it reads like the character outline notes that an author jots down to flesh out a character in their own mind. The stuff that helps the author sort out motivations for a character but that never appears verbatim in a good book. Here it was barely fleshed out. The story skips the events that might have actually proved interesting. There are giant time gaps where everything blurs past and you find yourself flipping backwards to see if you somehow missed a page. Seriously, anything that would actually have provided tension or drama was over in less than half a page and then referred to as something in the past. Any actual action happened firmly off page. [I take that back - one event happened on page and it was the only one with any real impact].

C) The "evilest one of all" should not be a terminal sad-sack for most of her book. For a book theoretically about Levana and how she got to where she is, it really does nothing to further her as a character than what anyone would have gathered/assumed from simply reading the first three books in the series. Worse actually, because it steals away some of her agency. This would have been better if the story simply went for full-bore crazy or steely focus on her goals at the expense of everything else - though I think we are supposed to believe that happens by the end. (And I don't get people saying that she was "an entitled brat" or some variation of that 'cause, um, nope - brat is temporary and for kids, her behavior even at 16 was seriously off kilter, even at the start - the problem is that it wasn't consistent.) Also Levana could still believe that she is the hero of her own story, but others around her should have been reacting to something - that is how you make reader understand how the characters behavior fits into the world of the story. As it was the whole thing reads as beige monotone.

D) The lack of serious Lunar world-building is a huge flaw now.  World-building has always been a problem with this series but there was usually enough going on to carry the story through. Here the lack of clarity makes the whole short story a blurry mess with only - what 5? 6? - named characters.  The whole d*man Lunar court and the book treats them as basically invisible. What the heck?

E) Goes into some seriously questionable territory - I am not sure it is appropriate for this series considering the age range of some of the readers of the previous three book.

 SPOILERS  - Look away if you don't want to know -

Apparently we are supposed to believe that Levana finally breaks goes all nuts and coldly vengeful because her love was unrequited. Not because her heart was actually broken or that some guy was bad to her (which was more or less the trope I was expecting). Nope - it was because the object of her obsession was nice to her but didn't love her. Poor Levana, terrible victim of her first crush not crushing back. Never-mind the whole jacked up mess that consisted of her family life and isolation in the court - apparently that wasn't enough to motivate her to do something and actually own her actions. I get that she is supposed to be unstable but this was just lame. Facing the fact that the "happy family" she created didn't really exist would only have had some weight if there was ever a feeling that it had existed at some point. But it never did. The whole thing was poorly constructed and doesn't work.

Sheesh - give me a villain that takes responsibility for their actions because they are sure that they are doing the right thing over a milquetoast poor me, it's not fault drippy villain any day.

She doesn't even get to be responsible for the grand plan to take over the Earth - her father actually started it all. That ticked me off. I don't remember any of the other three books indicating that someone else was responsible for kicking this off - I thought that the plague and antidote thing was Levana's master scheme. Now she doesn't even get to own that. Her big contribution was to really like the plan and keep it moving forward.

Finally, my huge issue is that the story basically hinges on use of mind control to exploit a non-consenting person for sex and eventually forced marriage. So basically rape, on an ongoing basis for years. That is just sick. But the way the story frames it, it seems we are supposed to feel sorry for Levana. Which is even sicker. The story hedges around dealing with the full horror of what Levana was doing to another person.

Is the book trying to use this to prove to us that not only is Levana evil, but pretty much the entire Lunar court is too? I mean, she couldn't have gotten away with this stuff if she didn't have support.  Which brings up the question, why does anyone support her ?  Seriously - if she had been seen as weak and ineffectually for the majority of her life, why would the court even give her the chance to find her bearings and start turning into a magnificent, powerful evil queen ?  We are beaten over the head with the fact that she is an outsider with no respect in the court. But suddenly everyone listens to her and respects her ? The book tries to convince us that this is because her sister delegates responsibility to her, but I don't buy it. If there was any chance that she would have power - there should have been plenty of people trying to curry favor, just in case. There should never have been the whole "my only present" thing. Seriously - you can't be a poor, pathetic little girl and the second most powerful person in the court at the same time. Levana could believe she was a poor little thing, but the actions of the people around her should have been wildly different. It just didn't make any sense. And I still don't get it - is the entire court supposed to be twisted and lacking any sense of morality or not? And the entire rest of the population puts up with this because mind control?

Speaking of things that don't make sense - we are basically told flat out that the members of the royal family and lunar royal court are highly promiscuous and that there is no stigma attached to being born out of wedlock - there should be tons of people with at least some royal blood running around. If the court was as twisted as it appears to be, someone should have offed Levana ages ago to take over the throne.  You can see her sister surviving because she was a full member of the bent and twisted club. Levana going through her poor me phase, she shouldn't have even survived.

I finished the book just not sure what the heck I was supposed to make of this stuff. It didn't do any world-building for the Lunar court. For the most part, it didn't add anything we didn't already know, other then building this GIANT out for Winter not being a horrible person (which I am assuming is being presented as at least semi-genetic?). And it didn't do anything much for Levana - there was just way too much emphasis on distancing her character from any sort of agency at all most of the time, in some sort of attempt to make her seem more sympathetic I guess. And yes, I get that this is being told from Levana's point of view - so she totally can see herself as a helpless victim, great hero, or poor-me if she wants - but the BOOK should be providing the external information that puts Levana's story into some broader perspective. Because of the lack of world-building, and the fact that key events are generally glossed over, you never really get the sense of perspective nor real growth or change for Levana. Instead of making Levana a more rounded character it undercut her completely. She is way less interesting to me now than she was at the end of Cress. 

   END SPOILERS  - Don't look up ! -

My sum up ...

Unless you are a diehard fan, I suggest skipping this book.  If you are a diehard fan and just need to know, check it out from a library first to see if you really need it to complete your set, just so you don't end up getting ticked off at the amount of money you would have to spend for this little novella. I really think this entry does a disservice to the series and is better skipped.

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