The Red Queen like you’ve never seen her before, or my review of Heartless



By: Marissa Meyer 

Publisher: Feiwei & Friends

Publication Date: November 8th, 2016

Format: Hardcover


Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. 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 a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

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2016 was quite the year for anti-heroines, from Adelina to Lada to Alex. And although it’s now 2017, I have to add Catherine Pinkerton, AKA the Queen of Hearts, to the list of anti-heroines whose stories I enjoyed.

Considering the amazingness of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, I had high hopes for her Alice in Wonderland retelling. Fortunately, she didn’t disappoint–Heartless was just as good as it was hyped to be, and I couldn’t put it down once I started. Catherine was a compelling character, fun and sweet but with an edge of desperation to her, and trying to guess how she would twist herself into becoming the villain gave the story a definite edge for me.

I really loved how all she really wanted was to become a baker and open up a store, even though her parents were very forceful about her marriage to the sweet and uncomplicated, if rather undesirable, King. The story started out so innocently that, if you didn’t know that Catherine was supposed to end up a villain, you might not have guessed it just from reading the first ¾ of the book. But there was something of an edge to her, still, which I appreciated. She definitely wasn’t a villain, but from the first page she was frustrated and desperate enough that I could guess at her eventual path. It was a surprise, but not a total shock, when the story turned darker. 

What really changes her is meeting Jest, the court joker who turns out to be so much more. Although there was something of insta-love there, which I disapproved of, it felt somewhat realistic given the circumstances (Cath’s desperation to avoid a marriage to the King). And I thought how it played out was both touchingly whimsical and realistic. I mean, don’t we all want to be swept off our feet by someone who is not only tall, dark and handsome, but also makes us laugh? And I liked how the minute Jest starts to fall for her is when she snorts when she laughs.

Their story was adorable, forbidden love and all, and how it played out with Jest also acting as mediator between Cath and the King was also fascinating. It was a sticky situation, which kept me on my toes in ways that I didn’t expect, especially when Jest’s true purpose was finally revealed. But I also felt that it was inevitable that it ended the way that it did–forbidden love plus anti-heroine spelled out pretty clearly that something would go wrong, and although I wished it could have been a happy ending, I knew it wouldn’t be. I’m certain that this is the reason other people dislike reading books with anti-heroines…but I love and respect authors who have the guts to tell the story of the villain. After all, every villain is a hero in their own mind.

Although to the best of my knowledge I haven’t actually read Alice in Wonderland, from all of the many variants I’ve read I know what fits. The inclusion of the jabberwocky, the vorpal sword, and the Mad Hatter’s tea party were all inventive and fun, and helped to ground the world in the Alice legend, but also worked well within the plot. And the parts that were included–like the rhyming Raven who said ‘nevermore’, and the addition of Peter Peter, Pumpkin Eater, were also fun, whimsical and key to the plot, which I liked. There were plenty of little details which helped to flesh the world out, and give it shape within the Alice legend. And I could easily see how the world that Marissa Meyer was sketching would eventually give rise to Alice and her tale. Heartless is, in other words, a masterfully done story about the heroism of villains, and a fun read if you love the Lunar Chronicles or Alice stories.

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

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