by Marissa Meyer
Welp, I read this in four hours. I think I was looking forward to reading this one a lot more than the others, even Cress.
What held me in the story was the tease of what had happened to Levana to cause her to be disfigured and what exactly she looked like. I knew at some point the story had to let me know the details, so I kept reading.
First there was the opening, which I thought was an allusion to the end of Snow White and the red hot iron shoes. But it turns out that nightmare was a memory. Then Levana sees her reflection while watching the recently born Winter. Later there’s a reference to burned skin when Channary rips one of Levana’s gowns. And then there’s when she shows herself to Evret without her glamor. But it’s not until the end, when she goes to her sister’s room and looks at the mirror that we, the readers, see her without her glamor.
Levana is certainly more sympathetic, but I suspected there was a sadder story behind her than just a cruel and imperious antagonist. What’s sad is that Levana cares about Lunar. In contrast to her sister Channary, who was more concerned with having parties, perusing various suitors, and being adored, Levana wants Lunar to prosper, and she listens to political and bureaucratic affairs.
On a quick side note, but dang, Channary was terrible, cruel, manipulative, and sadistic.. She seemed to care about Selene a little bit, by feeding her a bottle and having her sleep in her room. But yeech, she forced Levana, her baby sister, into a fire she created after Levana accidently shoved her into the blaze. Which only happened after Channary attacked Levana with scissors. As a result, Channary gets some blisters on her neck, which yes, ouch and painful, and Levana gets scar tissue from her face down her arm and sides, a ruined eye sealed by scars, and burned off hair than never grows back. Cause Channary was angry.
Plus, Channary used her Lunar gift to make a child lay in a fire, both of which were forbidden: no controlling young minds and no fire. And then when Channary is queen, all she cares about is parties and having rendezvous. She doesn’t even know who Selene (Cinder)’s father is. Which isn’t really bad, but her flippant attitude to politics is exasperating.
But back to how Levana cares about Lunar, in contrast to sister… The problem is the way Levana cares, which matches how she “knows” Evret loves her. She constantly believes what she feels or believes is the truth. That because she loves something — Evret, Lunar — that they must love her back. Her assumptions, without recognizing the oppression she causes because she can’t see her extreme self-entitlement, is her biggest flaw.
The last thing that stood out to me was the little seeds of worldbuilding.
Lunar had originally been founded by Earth and thus has a finite supply of resources. This hints that Lunars were from Earth and that Lunar may have originally been a colony. Levana herself alludes to this by saying she won’t let Earthens build on Lunar; she won’t let her kingdom grow into a colony.
Also, I found the acknowledgment of finite resources sensible. Yes, there isn’t anything on the moon; no atmosphere to fuel, no soil. The taxing, distribution, and preservation of resources would be an even more extreme concerned on Lunar than in Earth. As someone interested in conservation, I found this really interesting. And no, Levana, using resources faster when your backup plan to secure more resources is to conquer earth is not a sound plan.
The other detail about Lunar was how I imagined it to be less technological looking than settings and cities on earth. Not that they didn’t have technology, but the way so many scenes were referenced as grand and spacious, with attention on clothes and quaint shops, I had a much stronger sense of a world not built on the feeds and androids, etc. that are on earth. They have holographs on Lunar. And because of most people’s glamor, beauty is as malleable as changing clothes. Or clothes can be bought to compliment a glamor.
Poor Levana though. I can’t see how living in such an environment would have helped her.
Overall, I really enjoyed it. It didn’t make what Levana does in the Lunar Chronicles good; she’s still being a bully and oppressive. But now I can see how she thinks and more importantly, why she thinks she deserves earth. She believes she is right, that she loves Lunar best. And compared to her sister she does. But she can’t see that she’s forcing her own mental glamor over the situation – she cares, so everyone on Lunar cares. She never learned to accept that the way she saw others and how they felt did not have to match what she believed they felt.
Case in point: She could not grasp that Evret, while kind to her, did not love her. But she loved him. So they were meant to be together. She just had to nudge him along to make him realize it. But the truth is, he never loved her. He may have cared, pitied, and sympathized with her, but he did not love her. He never trusted her. How could he when she took on the appearance of his dead wife, Solstice, and tugged on his feelings so he felt he loved her. Because to Levana that’s how he really felt, of course. And that’s awful because it dismisses agency. The tragedy is that Levana cannot see that. She cannot see beyond her own belief of what reality is.
initially written 2 Nov 2016