Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from Pansing Books, a regional distributor, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Heartless by Marissa Meyer • contains 464 pages • published November 17, 2016 by Macmillan Children's Books, Macmillan Publishers • classified as Fantasy, Young Adult • obtained through Pansing Books • read as ARC • shelve on Goodreads
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 yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she 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.
Before reading Heartless, I made sure to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. After all, Marissa Meyer sought to pen a prequel, imagining the tale of the young Queen of Hearts. Growing up, I didn’t read those classics. Like many, I watched movies and TV adaptations. With this retelling on the horizon, however, I decided it was finally time to read the books.
Wonderland in the original classics had a lot potential but didn’t fully realise it for me. Heartless plugged those gaps. It expanded the fantastical nature of the setting, capitalising on the wackiness in ways I wish Lewis Carroll had but didn’t. Of course, I recognize his books are over a century old and were written for children. Heartless is meant for older readers. Perhaps this is another reason it appealed to me a lot more.
Baking, Another Love of Mine
Heartless is a book that in spite of its name spoke to my heart. Catherine, the main character, is an avid baker. She spends hours perfecting her recipes and dreaming of new ones. One day, she hopes, she’ll bake for a living. In the hands of Marissa Meyer, a stellar writer, it’s natural that I came to adore the set-up. For years I aspired to make a career out of baking. Things didn’t turn out for me that way but that hasn’t stopped my excitement over books involving lemon tarts, macarons and many more delectable treats.
A Separate Novel
If you’ve read The Lunar Chronicles, I advice you to detach yourself from this beloved series. Heartless is a separate work of fiction. It’s written in a completely different style from Marissa Meyer’s past books. In some ways, it’s a retelling truer to the original, particularly in terms of the setting. Wonderland is the same but madder. At the same time, it’s a completely different story. Alice’s adventures aren’t the focus, the young Queen of Hearts is.
The Heart of Heartless
Most notably, the dichotomy of good and evil merge in Heartless as we learn what the origins of, “Off with their head,” might be. Villains aren’t always born. Sometimes life shapes them in unfortunate ways. It’s amazing how much sympathy and adoration I developed for Catherine.
All in all, Heartless contains humour, romance, ambition, as well as tragedy in its own right. Even though I’m not an avid reader of romance, I enjoyed here — in part because that isn’t all there is. The elements come together spectacularly and I fully recommend that you pick up this book over the coming weeks.
Also neat: Heartless is a standalone YA fantasy novel. There’s no agonising wait for a sequel to grapple with.