(Prequel) Lunar Chronicles: Levana’s Story. Author: Marissa Meyer.
This is the fairytale of a princess. She wanted beauty, she wanted true love and children of her won, she wanted to rule her kingdom with justice and wisdom. She was scarred by her sister, her love fixed on a man who could never return it, and she was raised in a court of debauchery, where monogamy was forgotten and opulence enthroned. The princess fought to do what was right, to marry the man of her dreams, to hold the throne with fairness, to become the woman her country needed. But she had no example, no way to tell what was right, and in the end – broken, twisted, and slightly mad – she still knew that she’d been wrong. She knew she’d failed with every manipulation, every kiss, every step of the way. This is the tale of Queen Levana, ruler of Luna. This is the story of the princess who stumbled into the shadows and could not find her way out to the right side of the fairytale. This is the tragedy of the tyrant who died on her throne without ever knowing what love truly is.
This is almost a difficult book to read for long periods at a stretch, because of the deep view point. By the time we meet her Levana is infected by her environment, already careless and lacking moral. Yet she doesn’t see herself as wrong, doesn’t understand what she’s doing. She’s self-centered and conceited, incapable of conceiving other people as having separate lives and emotions from her. Off-handedly, she’ll have the most horrifying of callous thoughts. At the same time she passionately wants the right. She wants true love, wants her country to have the best ruler possible, wants someone to understand and love her. Throughout the entire book, nobody does.
This, I think, is how the first time I read it I was horrified by her, but the second time I was stricken by her. The first time she was a monster, the second time a tragedy. Because, when you really think about it, this contradiction, monster and tragedy, is true – and heartbreaking. Levana is broken inside, scarred both mentally and physically by the abuse of her sister and the debauchery of the court. She has so much capacity for passion and strength, and it’s all twisted and knotted inside of her. She is a villain, she is the monster, and it’s her obliviousness to this, the way she hungers so desperately for love and doesn’t even understand what real love is, that twists your own heart. This princess’s fairytale went up in flames before she was old enough to understand, and now the charred creature left is only traveling deeper and deeper into the darkness in its quest for truth.
Sexual content: Character thinking about lunar court, “Mistresses as common as servants, and monogamy rare”. Character insinuates another character wishes to have sexual intercourse with a guard. “It was easy to tell who would be warming her sister’s bed tonight.” Multiple suggestions that the queen is very loose. “Ideally, a lady will have three toys. One to romance her, one to bed her, and one to adorn her with very expensive jewels.” Three kisses. Immodest clothing on women: “Wearing little more than shredded ribbons that barely covered what a woman should have covered.” Queen is pregnant, admits she doesn’t know who the father is. Sexual intercourse once that comes very near rape – the woman was bioelectrically manipulating the man’s intent and feelings. The incident is described in two sentences with very little detail (“The first night they spent together”). Wife and husband sleep together mostly off screen multiple times.
Violence: Second hand account of murder – woman’s throat cut, three guards shot, man stabbed sixteen times in chest. Character bioelectrically manipulates another’s emotions. Character bioelectrically seduces another, basically rapes him. A seamstress’s feet are cut off. Character sets fire, two characters are burned to death in their sleep. A character falls into a fire and her back is burned. A character is bioelectrically controlled and burns her hand, arm, and face. A character is shot four times and killed. A character is killed with a knife handle-deep in chest.