My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Narrated by Rebecca Soler
This short novel fills in the background of Queen Levana, the evil stepmother in this fairy tales retold series. We meet Levana as a child, the second daughter of haughty Queen Jannali and younger sister of Channary. Levana is quite adept at using her glamour, using it to disguise the scars from a childhood “accident” caused by Channary’s delight in torturing her younger sister. When Jannali and her husband are assassinated, Channary ascends to the throne, and Levana is essentially shoved to the background, although Channary continues to delight in causing Levana pain, even if it is now more emotional than physical. But Levana has plans. Plans to marry the guard she has loved since she was a girl. Plans to make Luna a formidable power and gain the resources of Earth. She gets her way with Everett, coercing him to marry her after his first wife dies in childbirth (and setting up the events in Winter, the fourth installment of the series). And when Channary dies at a young age from lung disease, Levana assumes the title of Queen Regent. But she doesn’t want to simply be the Regent for her niece, the Princess Selene. No one, not her niece, or her husband, or anyone else will stand in Levana’s way as she determines to become Queen in her own right.
This is an interesting story. We all know the stereotypical evil stepmother/queen, but we also know very little about how that trope character got to be so evil. Here we see the development (I hesitate to say “growth”) of the personality. There are moments when the lonely, often ignored child Levana almost makes the reader sympathise with her. And Channary’s treatment of her sister is far from loving and supportive. But the selfish, often cruel, always manipulative Levana is never far out of sight. One can almost see the reasons for the destructive side of her personality, but the deviousness is too ingrained here to really say “it wasn’t her fault.” The story is a fascinating look at an all-too-familiar character type, and fills in much of the background missing in the other stories in the quartet.
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