Marissa Meyer’s newest Heartless is the story of the Queen of Hearts before she was the Queen we know from Alice in Wonderland. It was released on 8 November and here is my review on this fabulous story!
What is this about?: Marissa Meyer gives the Queen of Hearts a backstory.
What else is this about?: There’s some intrigue, which was a welcome surprise.
Blurb: 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.
Marissa Meyer seems to have a knack for tapping into an audience for stories like these. Her previous Lunar Chronicles books had nothing but good responses from the book blogs I visited, so I gave in and decided to give those books a try… but couldn’t quite get into them.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to be invited onto a blog tour for a standalone book, and jumped at the chance. So I am a bit of a newbie to her and her writing.
There is much to love about Meyer’s writing – she evokes the atmosphere of the original effortlessly, with characters that are humourous and frustratingly humourous at the same time. There’s a deep, fond sense of familiarity to her work as if you were indeed stepping to Wonderland all over again, just in a different time. And I loved that – I found myself smiling giddily to myself as I read on train at Catherine at a tea party or playing croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs. With a story like this, the key to this book working was Meyer evoking the unusual atmosphere of the original.
Catherine herself is a feisty girl, altogether too modern for this Wonderland in her desire to open a bakery with her best friend. She still believes in love and is devastated when she realises the king instead wants to propose to her because it is in effect a prison sentence. Her parents want her to marry him to secure her future, but Catherine wants a future of her own making – literally – in a bakery and in love.
Enter Jest, a joker at court who wins her heart. He is funny, a match for her in wit and talent. He’s everything she would want to love, and she does indeed. Except, Jest is there for his own reasons, as Meyer expertly reveals his motivations late in the book. The problem with this for me is he is too much of an enigma for too long. While Catherine’s love for him is palpable, his own feelings are just out of reach for me as a reader.
Catherine though, could have carried this story easily without Jest’s presence – she is dynamic, loving and unafraid of being vulnerable or strong, for that matter. She is courageous in the face of her society’s conventions, but she is also wants love and to be loved. The characters around her are familiar and frustrating too as some work to keep her from Jest – I think that’s a measure of success here – that you’d want to forget about who she is supposed to be and you want her to have her happy ending. Unfortunately that’s not to be.
There’s a kind of aching symmetry to what makes Catherine’s heart makes her become the Queen of Hearts, but I am not entirely sure Catherine needed a romance — she’s a strong character but and I would have liked to have seen her, her choices become the Queen of Hearts without something else being the reason for it.
But that said, Marissa Meyer has created a wonderful, complicated character in Catherine, which makes her ending all the more tragic.
And if you’re interested in all the different reactions from other bloggers, why you can check out this handy banner: