Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Rampion Books
Publication Date: 2016
Page Count: 453 (Hardcover)
Age Recommendation: 13
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. 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 an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. ~ Goodreads
I’m not going to lie, I feel a little mad after reading this book. The Queen of Hearts mad and angry. I was never a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland or Alice Through the Looking Glass (and till this day I’m not sure whether those two are the same? are they different? idk). I also didn’t enjoy another one of Marissa Meyer’s books, Cinder, so I was basically set up to dislike this book. I didn’t even consider giving Heartless a try until I read Zoie of Whisked Away By Word’s glowing review of it and decided to give it a try! I was pleasantly surprised! I liked this book so much more than Cinder. I liked the characters, world, and story throughout much more than I ever think I liked Cinder. The cover is even prettier too!
Heartless is a retelling of the classic Alice in Wonderland. Some of the characters were also based on some of Edgar Allen Poe’s work, which I think is pretty cool! It’s a pretty awesome combo as well. The story follows Cath, an aspiring baker and member of nobility in the land of Hearts. She accidentally woos the King with her delicious pastries and finds that he now wants to marry her. Whoops! At the same time all this is happening, the mysterious King’s Joker turns out to be really handsome and Cath wants to be with him instead of the King. Unfortunate! On top of–should I say beneath?–all that that there is a running scheme that not the King, Joker, nor Cath know about.
One thing that is probably a given, but I still loved, was the quirkiness of Alice in Wonderland. There were so many nods and winks to the original work that Alice in Wonderland fans will love and even I, an avid Alice in Wonderland hater, appreciated. Alice in Wonderland is such a unique setting as I don’t think any other book I’ve read has been that weird. The original work’s bizzareness is I think what put me off from the story. Luckily, Heartless keeps the quirkiness while toning it down enough not to have me rolling my eyes nor does it make sudden solutions to the character’s problems appear out of thin air (quite the opposite, in fact).
Marissa Meyer did a wonderful job with the main character. I liked her well enough at the beginning, but she was also a very selfish character and that put me off a bit. As the story progressed, I disliked her even more. While that’s not usually a good thing, this was purposeful. She’s not supposed to be perfect nor is she supposed to be that likable. Her character change is gradual so you don’t really think much of it until you are 3/4 of the way through the book and realize she is a completely different person.
Some of the characters I loved, some I hated. One of the characters I loved was Hatta. His character was extremely likeable and somewhat sad, since he expected to go mad and was just running away from destiny. He was an interesting character and I would honestly be willing to read a whole novel just about him.
As a Alice in Wonderland hater, I had forgotten much of the actual storyline of Alice in Wonderland. This was pretty sad because halfway through the book I remembered the story and realized that this was not going to have a happy ending. My hopes and dreams for the characters were absolutely crushed and even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still upset at the end. (Somehow I missed all the plot descriptions mentioning that Cath was the future Queen of Hearts too?)
Here are the things that made me mad.
The insta-love. Sure, it wasn’t the worst that I had ever read. It wasn’t really cringey and I LIVED for their first meeting, actually. However, like every sing insta-love ever, I felt that things progressed way to quickly. Both of them hardly knew each other and while some of this was explained in the end, towards the end of the book I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. It really didn’t seem like they cared that much for each other, at least on Cath’s side. Another disappointing thing is that honestly? I think that the entire romance thing could have been left out of the story and it would have worked out fine. I honestly think it was counterproductive for some of the character’s original goals and this would have been a much better story if it had skipped the romance entirely.
Another issue I had with the book, is that in the beginning, I couldn’t tell if this was a fantasy/adventure book or a romance. Both themes conflicted with each other and took away the urgency of both the adventure and romance. Towards the end the romance was basically not really relevant at all. ‘But Sue!’ you might be saying, ‘Literally everything that they did in the last few chapters was BECAUSE of the romance! The story wouldn’t have progressed without the romance!’ That, my dears, is true. Still, using two characters’ so-called ‘love’ as an excuse to advance to plot feels like weak writing to me. Cath was such an interesting character, and if pushed the right way, would most likely have found herself in a similar predicament as the one at the end all on her own. Remember! She really wants to be a baker. She really loves Mary Ann. She really doesn’t want to marry the King and her parents really want her to marry the King and not for her to have a bakery. In Cath’s own words, after her parents ask if her decision will make her happy, she replies “How different everything could have been if you had thought to ask me that before.” DANG. She really didn’t need Jest.
Moving on to Jest, I liked who he was at the beginning. Dark, mysterious, he reminded me of Singularity’s music video. Here are some screencaps:
He’s literally holding a white rose in the second picture??? Bro (I think it’s a rose, it could just be a white flower. STILL). Singularity is probably my favorite music video of all time. Anyway, after like the first three times we find him he seems to change into a different person. Less mysterious as we get to know him and completely and utterly infatuated with Cath. I wanted to know more about him. His whole backstory was so interesting! He himself was interesting! SO MUCH was left unknown about him. I guess the reason for some of this was because we read through Cath’s POV, but more information and depth was needed for his character because, like a soda left open overnight, Jest’s character and the romance was flat. It jest needed a little more spark. Hehe.
To be all right implies an impossible phase. We hope for mostly right on the best of our days.
“Haigha,” said the March Hare. “Rhymes with mayor, but spelled with a g“
She stared, not sure how Hare could be spelled with a g.
“These things do not happen in dreams, dear girl,” he said, vanishing up to his neck. “They happen only in nightmares.”
What Does the Cat Think?
I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5!