Also by this author: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2), Renegades
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 8th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Marissa Meyer’s Heartless is one of the most wonderful, whimsical, and heartbreaking books I’ve read this year. It was actually one of my most anticipated reads for 2016, but for reasons I can’t explain, I’m just now getting around to reading it. Thankfully though, it was so worth the wait! I devoured Heartless in just a couple of sittings and feel like I can’t sing its praises high enough.
For anyone unfamiliar with the premise for Heartless, it’s meant to be an origin tale for the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, basically providing a plausible backstory for her and explaining what then led her to become the character that we all love to hate. Well, not only does Meyer create a plausible backstory for the Queen of Hearts, complete with new characters and an original storyline, but she is also able to do all of this while retaining all of the whimsy and wonder from the original fairytale. Although I knew the story would ultimately end badly for Meyer’s heroine, I still loved reading every magical moment of her journey.
Cath. Even knowing that she would eventually become the Queen of Hearts, I still fell in love with Cath right away. She’s smart, sassy, and a girl ahead of her time. While most girls in the kingdom of Hearts would dream of having a chance to marry the King and become Queen, Cath has absolutely no interest in that whatsoever. Why? Because she and her best friend and maid, MaryAnn, have their own dream. They want to go into business together and open a bakery. Cath is a gifted baker and MaryAnn has a head for numbers, so they have a whole business plan all worked out and ready to go, if only Cath’s parents would just let her follow her dreams instead of theirs.
Jest. Jest was actually my favorite character in Heartless. He is the new court jester for the King of Hearts, and he’s mysterious, a bit roguish, witty, and a real showman when it comes to entertaining the King and his guests. He piques Cath’s interest from the first moment she watches him perform, and there is an instant connection between them when they finally come face to face. I don’t know if I’d call it love at first sight, but there’s definite chemistry there and once Cath and Jest do start to get closer, it’s almost impossible not to root for them, especially when the alternative for Cath is the ridiculous, always giggling King of Hearts. I swear, that King is way more of a fool than his court jester. I just cringed every time I read a scene with him in it, haha.
Characters and Scenes from the Original Fairytale. I thought Meyer did a brilliant job of seamlessly weaving so many beloved characters and memorable scenes from Alice in Wonderland into her story. It made me smile every time I came across something familiar, whether it was the mischievous Cheshire Cat, being just as much of a pain in the rear as he is in the original tale, or Caterpillar smoking his hookah pipe and asking “WHO…ARE…YOU?” or the Mad Hatter (Hatta in Meyer’s tale) with his tea party, and especially the croquet match where they used hedgehogs for balls, flamingos for clubs, and the deck of cards as wickets. And don’t even get me started on what Meyer did with the Jabberwock…it was brilliant! Much of my excitement while reading was because I was so eager to see how else she had incorporated elements from the original tale into Heartless.
Shout-outs to Other Famous Rhymes. As if all of the cameos by characters from Alice in Wonderland weren’t enough, Meyer takes it a step further and includes a couple other famous tales that are sure to be recognized by most, if not all readers. Peter Peter, Pumpkin Eater and his wife actually play a major role in the story, and then there’s also the most delightful shout-out to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, The Raven. There is literally a raven, a sidekick of Jest’s of course, flying around and quoting lines from ‘The Raven: “Nevermore!” And you might read this and think that sounds kind of hokey, but nope…trust me, it’s fabulous!
The idea that a sexist world is what ultimately creates the Queen of Hearts. As much as I kept hoping something miraculous was going to happen and save Cath from the dreaded fate we all know is in store for her, I thought it was somewhat poetic that sexism plays such a huge role in Cath’s fate. I swear, if I lived in a place where no one took me or my dreams seriously and where everyone told me it was my duty to marry some daft king, I’d be running around yelling ‘Off with their heads!’ too. Just ugh!
After everything goes dreadfully wrong for Cath and it appears she has no options left other than to marry the King, her parents try to make amends by asking what would make her happy (even though it’s already too late), Cath’s response just says it all: “How different everything could have been if you had thought to ask me that before.” (I have to admit I shed a few tears when I read that line.)
I loved pretty much every aspect of this story (aside from the ending of course since we already know, because this is an origin story, that Cath is doomed to become the Queen of Hearts. *cries*). The only thing I didn’t particularly care for were the character names, Cath and MaryAnn. They just seemed so ordinary compared to so many of the other names we came across. Obviously, the names in no way hampered my enjoyment of Heartless, but I kept wishing the names were a little more whimsical in keeping with the rest of the story.
Heartless is one of those books I’d recommend to almost anyone. I loved that it was an original read but that it also had so many familiar elements and characters that reading it reminded me of my childhood. Meyer’s take on the original tale made me laugh and it made me cry. If that kind of read is one that appeals to you, then definitely consider giving Heartless a try.
RATING: 4.5 STARS
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.
Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.