Author: Marissa Meyer
My Rating: 3/5 stars
Before I begin this review, let me just say that if you’re looking for a story where all the characters live happily ever after, you should pick up something different.
I mean, come on. The book is called Heartless; what does that tell you? It’s a story about Wonderland before the Queen of Hearts began her reign. This is literally her origin story. In what universe does she get a happy ending? I wish I could say this one, but I can’t.
The book begins with our main character, Lady Catherine Pinkerton, in the place she loves the most: the kitchen. She loves to bake and loves to make people happy with her delicious confections. It’s widely known that hers are the best goods in all of Hearts, and she hopes to open her own bakery.
Unfortunately, she runs into a bit of trouble.
It seems that she has caught the eye of the King of Hearts, an older, shorter, very silly man. When Catherine learns that he intends to make her his bride, she’s not the least bit thrilled. When Catherine meets the handsome court joker, Jest, she’s given even more reason to detest the King and her parents for pushing her into a marriage that she doesn’t want. She feels pressured to live a life that she knows could never make her happy, and when she begs her parents to consider the alternative, they insist that a lady has no place in business, or in the kitchen.
It’s obvious that Marissa Meyer has a talent for fairytale retellings, based on both this and her Lunar Chronicles series. Even though she’s pulling from a world that has already been created, she describes it beautifully, and she’s so clever and creative with her references. It was very interesting to see her interpretation of both the Queen of Hearts, who was not yet queen and not yet evil, and the Mad Hatter, who was not yet mad.
I will admit that the story is frustrating. Catherine’s parents are restricting and she’s so limited, given the era and how women were treated at the time. It seems they don’t have much of a say in their own lives, whether you are a lady or a maid. It’s incredibly disheartening to see Catherine’s simple dream being waved off as silly. I want to say that her parents had her best interests at heart, but did they really? Were they really so unaware?
Still, as easy as it was to sympathize with our main character, I can’t say I actually liked Catherine. She never did anything particularly noteworthy or honorable. She let her parents and everyone else push her around. Jest, the joker that she falls in love with, however, was a perfectly lovable character. He was mysterious and interesting and charming and so much fun to read. He definitely made the reading experience easier, but somehow also harder, considering his fate couldn’t possibly be a good one.
The ending was rather predictable. I’m sure that by reading the summary, most people could tell you how the story ends based on that, regardless of the fact that we know how that Queen of Hearts turns out. Still, the final sentence gave me chills, and I still must commend Marissa Meyer for her lovely work. She definitely knows how to write a villain (I still get the creeps just thinking about Fairest.)
Feel free to answer the discussion question in the comments; there are no right or wrong answers. Have a good day, book people.
Why is a raven like a writing desk?