Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books (17th Nov 2016)
Format/Source: Paperback/Sent by Pansing Malaysia for review
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.
I was truly excited. Heck, I was even beyond excited when I got a copy of Heartless for review because HELLO, THIS IS MARISSA MEYER we’re talking about. I loved The Lunar Chronicles and I read all the books in the series last year. I was in desperate need of some magical retellings by the mage that is Marissa Meyer. So, hello, Heartless!
“Mind my words, Cheshire, I will have you banished from this kingdom if you tempt me.”
“An empty threat from an empty girl.”
She rounded on him, teeth flashing. “I am not empty. I am full to the brim with murder and revenge. I am overflowing and I do not think you wish for me to overflow on to you.”
“There was a time” – Cheshire yawned – “when you overflowed with whimsy and icing sugar. I liked that Catherine better.”
As if the title isn’t self-explanatory enough, Heartless is Marissa Meyer’s idea of the story of the ruthless Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland. The story of Heartless focuses on the origins of the Queen of Hearts where we find Catherine, a daughter of a Marquess who has no interest in court life. She prides herself in making the best cakes and desserts in all of Hearts, and she has a lifelong dream of opening a bakery with her beloved friend and maid, Mary Ann.
Painted roses and wicked grins, this book was so imaginative and inventive. Marissa Meyer stayed faithful to the setting of Alice in Wonderland and gave it her own signature flair, especially in terms of characterisation and building the world where the book is set in, which is Hearts. Equally whimsical as it is dark, I really liked this version of Wonderland that Marissa Meyer created and based on the blurb, I was intrigued by the idea behind the whole reason why Catherine became the Queen of Hearts was really interesting to read. But was it?
It was. Though the book took longer than I expected for the story to progress, the ending was satisfying and I was quite impressed with how Marissa Meyer tied things together in the end. Some might prefer a slower pace, but for me, the stagnant pace at some points of the book made me rethink about the entire book once I reached the ending. Heartless was definitely a slow-burner for me but if you’re into really detailed world building and introduction to the world, then you would definitely like this one!
“It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.”
The writing is humorous, whimsical and quirky and it was one of the highlights of the book. Embedded with out-of-this-world phrases that defy logic, Marissa Meyer brings her characters to life as they are just as endearing as they are funny. In Heartless, Marissa Meyer displays such an impressive knack for reimagining Lewis Carroll’s world, as she captures the essence of Lewis Carroll’s incredible style of writing and blending it with her own.
‘Was it a good dream?’
‘Oh.’ Her lips puckered in thought, but then she realized he was teasing her. She scowled. ‘To be frank, I found it rather dull.’
‘Ah, but you can’t be Frank. You’ve already told me that your name is Catherine.’
‘I’ve changed it.’”
Can we start talking about the best part of the book? And I am not talking about the romance between Catherine and Jest because nothing gives me more pleasure than reading a book that is sprinkled with the most delectable descriptions of desserts! Do not attempt to read this book if you’re easily tempted with sweet treats (like I am).
What made Heartless a treat to read was the characters where Marissa Meyer includes her own version of the Mad Hatter whom I had a love-hate relationship with, the love interest of Catherine who might be more than just a court joker, Jest and several other original characters from Alice in Wonderland such as the Jabberwock and the Cheshire Cat.
“Oh no,” she murmured, her smile thawing, falling, carried away with the undeniable, inevitable, impossible truth of it. She was falling in love with him.”
I expected Heartless to have a swoon-worthy romance that would sweep me off my feet, but sadly, the romance was rather lacklustre for me. Catherine, who has caught the eye of the King of Hearts, isn’t thrilled that she is pressured into accepting the hand of the simple-minded and carefree ruler of Hearts. Though the romance between Catherine and Jest mostly comprised of illicit meetings and discreet flirtations, I wanted more. I wanted to know why and how Catherine fell in love with Jest, though I must admit, he did have an effervescent charm and witty turn-of-phrases.
“When pleased, I beat like a drum. When sad, I break like glass. Once stolen, I can never be taken back. What am I?”
Heartless was a great reimagination of Alice in Wonderland and I liked that the book had some references to the original story. I felt that things wrapped up nicely in the ending and Heartless and the story of a young, aspiring baker who becomes the ruthless Queen of Hearts stayed with me even after I’ve read it.