This book is a prelude to the Lunar Chronicles about how Levana came to be the Queen of Luna. It was a decent read, not as good as the rest of the series but okay. The 4th (and final) book in the series Winter is scheduled for a November 2015 release.
Levana is the second daughter of in line for the throne of Luna. When her parents die her crazy eldest sister takes over, her sister has no desire to actually run the country of Luna. Poor disfigured Levana is left in her sisters shadow, helping to run Luna from the sidelines when she can. Levana forms an unhealthy attachment to one of her parents guards and is convinced she is in love with him. The story follows Levana as she takes more and more desperate actions for love and for country.
This story explains a lot about Levana. She is horribly disfigured (you find out how as the story progresses) and hates mirrors; she pretty much lives underneath glamor and no one actually ever sees the real Levana. This is a character with some serious mental issues. We get to follow Levana as she develops from a needy and unloved child to a domineering villain. What is scary is how she continuously justifies her actions as being for good. That is the scariest type of villain you can have; the one the believes that they are doing good.
There were a couple problems with this story for me. First of all it's hard to actually engage with any of these characters; they are all very selfish and shortsighted. Everyone in this book makes one poor decision after another until they build to disaster.
The second problem was that the story was so focused on Levana and her craziness. The book doesnt give very good insight into Lunar culture and, while politics are mentioned some, they are often more in the background than forefront. So we do hear about how/why the virus was developed that ravaged Earth, but all this is overshadowed by Levanas personal drama.
Lastly I thought the whole thing was very predictable. You can guess how this story will end up from the moment you start reading it (I guess it doesnt help that we already know what Levana does later in her life). I would recommend reading this in the publication order because there are some spoilers in this book if you havent read the previous 3 books.
All the above being said, this is a short, well-written and it was interesting to read about Levana's background. However it definitely didn't help me understand her better or like her anymore as a character. This book also does introduce the character of Winter, so because of that it is a good prelude to the 4th book in this series.
Overall an okay addition to the Lunar Chronicles. It was interesting to see more about Levanas background and learn more about the origin of the virus. However, I was hoping for a bit more insight into Lunar culture. I also had a lot of trouble engaging with these characters...they just werent all that likable and were hard to sympathize with. I would recommend reading this if you are a fan of the series, but dont be too upset if you miss reading it before Winter comes out.