Author: Marissa Meyer (site)
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Release Date: 9th Feb 2017 (first published 8th November 2016)
Edition: Main Market Paperback
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“When pleased, I beat like a drum. When sad, I break like glass. Once stolen, I can never be taken back. What am I?”
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, 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.
Heartless is a dark, clever, and creative prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This story was doomed to be a tragedy from the very beginning and didn’t fail to rip my heart out with such an ending.
Before you pick up Meyer’s latest novel, you have to accept that the story won’t end well. It’s not a spoiler but a truth that is essential to the plot. And, it is predictable. If you are picking up this book in hopes of being mind-blown by a plot twist, then this book is not for you.
Heartless follows Cath, the Marquess’s daughter who dreams of opening a bakery but is caught in her parents’ plan of marrying her off to the King of Hearts. Enter Jest the mysterious Joker who captures Cath’s attention and vice versa. Through a few invitations and encounters, the two fall slowly. Meanwhile, the kingdom is attacked by the Jabberwock and everyone in Hearts is in danger.
I wouldn’t say there was a lot of world-building in this book, but it worked because we all know how things are in Wonderland. What I love about this retelling is that Meyer used elements in both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass to tell the story. However, the first half of the book was painfully slow for my taste and I considered DNFing it, but since I’m not a person who likes DNFing books, I persevered and the second half didn’t disappoint.
Even though I’ve said this book is kind of predictable, I still felt for the characters. At one point, knowing how foolish it would sound, I still hoped that there might be a happy ending, and of course there isn’t. I can tell you that the reading experience was quite dreadful near the end of it, but it was 100% worth it. Despite the dread, there are some funny moments. Here’s a scene where I literally laughed out loud:
The King wiggled. His feet kicked against the chair. ‘I have called on you tonight with the purpose of . . . of . . .’ A bead of sweat slipped down his temple. Cath followed it with her eyes until the King rubbed it away with the edge of his cloak. Then he started to speak, fast, like he was issuing an important declaration that had been rehearsed a hundred times. ‘. . . of asking for the honour of entering into a courtship with Lady Catherine Pinkerton.’
Then he burped.
Still, there’s one thing that bugs me a lot, and it’s the stupidity of the citizens of Hearts. An obvious clue to the Jabberwock is placed in the plot, but the people of Hearts can’t seem to connect the dots.
Heartless focuses on how Cath became the Queen of Hearts. That being said, it’s a character-driven story, and I cannot deny that the backstories given to the characters are extremely clever. Even though I couldn’t relate to Cath and didn’t like her as our main character, I can still comprehend how she became the notorious queen. Jest is a whole different story. Jest is funny, caring, and understanding but you won’t know that until the plot slowly unravels. He is the star in this book in my opinion. Jest has a sidekick, Raven, who is also an original character. Raven is also mysterious and you’ll have to read to know who or what he is. As for the King of Hearts, he is really stupid and if I were Cath, I wouldn’t want to be married to him either, but he’s the comic relief in the story. Look at how he signs his letters:
The King of Hearts
(Not that there are any other kings around. Especially kings that call you their Sweetling. At least, I hope not!)
P.S. Can I have some more tarts?
Ugh, stupid (but I laughed anyway).
Besides the main cast, you’ll also meet the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, and other iconic characters. Throughout the book, you can see that Meyer has given the story lots of thoughts that she doesn’t miss the tiny little details, such as how the White Rabbit got the pocket watch. We even get a backstory of a minor character but to avoid spoilers, I’m not going to say who. I just love, love, love discovering how they become the creatures we met in Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece.
Marissa Meyer’s writing style in Heartless is so different than that in The Lunar Chronicles. While the writing in The Lunar Chronicles is more laid-back and easy, the writing in this book is more elegant and thought-through. Personally, I enjoy her style in the former better, but I understand the use of the later is essential to create the atmosphere in Wonderland.
Out of all the dialogues I love Raven’s most. His ridiculous rhymes are so memorable.
“To be all right implies an impossible phase. We hope for mostly right on the best of our days.”
“Now mine eyes see the heart that once we did search for, and I fear this heart shall be mended, nevermore.”
To sum up, I wouldn’t say Heartless was very well-written in terms of plot and style, but the creative sense of Meyer with the backstories was mind-blowing. It’s one of the best retellings I have ever read and if you love a dark one, Heartless is certainly the book for you.
Read an excerpt here.