Author: Marissa Meyer
Published by: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication date: 9th February 2017
Pages: 464, paperback
Genre: fantasy, young adult, romance
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.
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.
Heartless has been out in the US for a while now, but has yet to arrive in the UK and there has been a lot of deserved excitement around. I received this ARC not too long ago, at the beginning of November. I have always loved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and there’s just something about retellings of stories from the villains perspective which I find fascinating.
I’m going to begin by saying simply that I. Loved. This. Book. So much. I’d say it was my very favourite book of 2016, and I think I’d even go as far as to say that it is one of the best books I’ve read ever. You know that feeling when a book is so good it makes it kind of hard to breathe? Well that was me, the entire time I was reading Heartless. Partly because at times it’s so emotional I choked up, and partly because I actually stopped breathing at times because I was so enthralled.
Cath, the main character, loves baking – in fact, the book begins with her baking a tart! Cath’s dreams were nothing to do with being Queen; she just wanted to open a bakery with her best friend Mary-Ann. She wasn’t perfect: she was short-tempered, but also lacked assertiveness when it came to handling the King and her parents, and ultimately her decisions were poor and led to a lot of frustration from me as a reader. I wasn’t sure whether the fact that she couldn’t bring herself to give up everything for her bakery suggested she really was too used to her high-status lifestyle, or that she was just realistic. Nevertheless, she was a brave, likeable character and I was rooting for her from start to finish. As for Jest – it’s been a while since I’ve read a story with the kind of gorgeously broody love interest, and I had forgotten how much I love them. As well as being a fangirl-worthy character, he was also a really great plot device for linking the story, and different elements of this fictional world, together. And yes, Cath and Jest’s romance was insta-love, but I feel it fits with their characters and the plot.
The main thing that blew me away about this book was the amazing themes, and how brilliantly it all tied together. Obviously, there is the main plot of the story, which is Cath’s journey to becoming the Queen of Hearts, but there are also smaller parts of the plot which flesh out other elements and characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Iconic features of this novel such as the croquet, the Mock Turtle, the Jabberwocky, the Mad Hatter and his tea parties. There was so much detail and it was so interesting, adding depth to areas I’d never given much thought to before. One thing I will say is that I felt Cath’s change into the Queen of Hearts happened quite quickly, but whilst this lessened the impact of it slightly, it also showed the effects of heartbreak quite effectively. As the ending is pre-determined and inevitable, it’s not a case of what will happen, but rather how it will happen.
There were so many lines in this book that made me close my eyes and fangirl on the spot, a specific example being Murderer, Martyr, Monarch, Mad. This may seem to be insignificant, but once you have read the book you will see that it clearly shows how the original story has been developed into this darker version of Wonderland in Heartless. Books that kind of fit into the fantasy genre, ones which are set in a different world, often need to be part of a series in order to appreciate it fully. But Heartless managed it in just 400 pages.
The writing and the storyline were excellent, with plot twists which literally twisted my gut. I absolutely loved the writing style – I have never read The Lunar Chronicles, but I am now desperate to do so as I find Marissa Meyer’s writing so engaging. I love the concept of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but ultimately it is a children’s book, and the countless analogies of it are far more complex than anything in the actual book. Heartless was a fantastic read and I am anticipating many rereads in the future!
Have you read Heartless? What were your thoughts? How did it compare to AIW for you?
(Note: this ARC was sent to me a few months ago by Macmillan Children’s Books; all views expressed are my own)