I received this book for free 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
Also by this author: Fairest, Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 8th 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fairytale/Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 464 •Format: ARC •Source: YALLWest
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.
Heartless is one of the most fantastic ARCs I have ever been privileged enough to receive. I waited two hours in line at YALLWest and it was a hot mess getting it (it was pretty much a swarm) but I can’t be more thankful that I acquired it, because it’s a haunting tale that really shows the range of Marissa Meyer’s writing capabilities.
Set from the perspective of the Queen of Hearts before she was royalty, Heartless follows Catherine, the daughter of a Marquess in the land of Hearts who wants nothing more than to open a bakery. Baking is her passion and natural talent, and deemed a completely and totally inappropriate vocation by a woman by her parents and most of society (the societal structure definitely has a Victorian-era feel to it). Cath’s prestigious family standing and beauty has caught the eye of the, well, pathetic, King of Hearts and she’s stuck in a courtship with him, while still trying to cling to her baking dreams and a secret courtship with Jest, the Court Joker. Through Jest, Cath meets many of the other “iconic” figures from the original Alice in Wonderland tale, including the predecessors for the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, etc. Heartless is a very creative prequel tale that stays truer to its fairy tale origins than Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series.
Now, I’ll admit that while I love the Alice in Wonderland imagery and themes, I’m not the hugest fan of the original story or retellings because they often times are just too wacky for me. However, I think Marissa Meyer did a great job of taking the Wonderland theme to the edge of absurdity but always pulling back enough to keep the story accessible and holding readers’ attention. While there were some really fantastical/weird elements, Cath herself was pretty level-headed and relateable to an extent. She wasn’t always likeable, but I still wanted her to succeed. She was realistically selfish- she wanted her dreams and her success and was hurt and bitter when they didn’t work out or when she had been betrayed. She wasn’t a perfect or forgiving person even before ~certain events~ happen but I love that because it made her so real. I also loved the passion and detail in which her baking was described…the food descriptions were on point! Some sort of cookbook based off of Heartless would be really fun!
I think the main reason why I was so impressed overall with Heartless despite some issues in the beginning of the book (such as the pacing being REALLY off at times…there were chapters where I felt like nothing happened) is because Marissa Meyer is the unsung hero of writing disturbing, creepy characters while still creating a cloud of empathy around them. The entire novel showcases this, obviously, by showing the degradation of Cath’s soul and sanity which eventually leads her to becoming the Queen of Hearts, but it’s also showcased by minor characters such as the three sisters who live in the treacle well (seriously SO creepy) and Levana from her Lunar Chronicles series (Fairest is arguably my favorite addition to that series). Marissa Meyer could be the undisputed queen of writing villian-centric novels! (Please make this be a thing!)
Overall: Heartless stretches Marissa Meyer as a writer and showed more range than the her previous works, with messy relationship dynamics, an anti-hero protagonist, and by weaving together a satisfying story that does not have a happily ever after. While going in I knew it was going to be a dark tale (I mean she’s going to become the deranged Queen of Hearts and all that), it still left me haunted and chilled and mournful in the best way possible. Regardless of if you’re a Alice in Wonderland fan or not, Heartless is a whimsical yet dark read that is a strong standalone in the fairy tale retelling genre. More villains from Miss Meyer, please!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Fairytale Retelling Challenge
- Goodreads Challenge 2016