Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Pan Macmillian Australia
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.
Disclaimer: I’m participating in the Australian Blog Tour of Heartless and was therefore provided a an ARC in exchange for review (this in no way affects my thoughts though!). In celebration of the blog tour, I made some Heartless cupcakes which you can see pictures of throughout the review!
Check out the other awesome people taking part in the blog tour:
Heartless tells the story of Catherine and how she came to be the fearful Queen of Hearts we know so well. It follows her as she attempts to start her own bakery (cue the many descriptions of scrumptious treats), navigate her parents wishes and disappointments and deal with the King of Hearts – who is set on making her his bride. Heartless is full of little references to its inspiration – with cameos from the original Wonderland characters and rhymes from the book.
Like for many others, this book was one that I was highly anticipating since the day I learnt of its existence. As a huge fan of The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, I had such high expectations going into this book. Unfortunately, they were not met. Heartless falls short on so many of the areas where it could have excelled – the plot was practically non-existent for the first half of the book; the world-building, whilst detailed and vivid, lacked the whimsy that I expected from a Wonderland retelling; and the characters (save for a few) all fell flat.
Despite Heartless’ many flaws, I held fast to the belief in Marissa Meyer’s beautiful storytelling. And this belief paid off in the second half of this book with the last 50 pages reminding me of the real magic that Marissa Meyer can create. The ending of this book was phenomenal, the sort greatness that I had sorely hoped for throughout the entirety of Heartless. While the rest of the book was enjoyable at best, the ending saved this book for me and I think a sequel, told in the same way as the last 50 pages, would honestly be a 5 star read.
The world of Heartless is split into two main Kingdoms – Heart, where our story primarily takes place and Chess, the equivalent of Wonderland in the original stories. Heart, whilst it does have magic, is a pretty dull place to be perfectly honest. It’s a city like any other and although it does house some interesting citizens and is explained in amazing detail (as per Marissa Meyer standards), it lacks the whimsy that I was so looking forward to in Meyer’s Wonderland retelling. Chess, on the other hand, sounds fantastic. And I say “sounds” because we never actually go there. We hear a lot about it since some our main characters are originally from there but we never get to experience the magic for ourselves. However, the fact that I am so intrigued by Chess even though we never actually visit says a lot for Marissa Meyer’s wonderful world-building skills. Ultimately though, I think this book would have benefited a lot plot-wise (and just enjoyableness-wise) from having a portion of it set in Chess.
Heartless is basically the origin story of the Queen of Hearts and therefore the plot mainly revolves around Catherine, our future queen. Catherine’s dream is to open a bakery and we see quite a bit of her journey as she tries to set up the bakery – to the utter disappointment of her parents.
Along with this, she is also being courted by the King of Hearts – a particularly boring and childish man who Catherine doesn’t like at all. The main problem that I had with this book was its utter lack of plot for the first 300 pages or so. This would have been okay if their was some sort of character development but there wasn’t any of that either – it was basically a cycle of Cath and Jest falling for each other, Cath being scared to disappoint her parents and Cath struggling with this conflict. Which is repeated a lot. Like all the time. Non stop. Over and over. You get the picture.
Now I don’t want you to think that the plot is all together horrible – it does start going somewhere at the 320 page mark. The characters all start proactively doing things and it gets a lot more enjoyable to read. Also, like I have raved on for most of this review, the last 50 pages or so were pure gold – the writing, plot and characters just all came together to create amazingness.
Cath. Cath, Cath, Cath, Cath, Cath. I don’t think I have been this singularly annoyed by a character since probably Bella (oh, the Twilight days). Cath was just so frivolous. I understand that she had a lot going on in her life but she talked about it on and on that it honestly got so tedious. This happened for a good solid 300 pages before she actually decided to do something about it and after that she got a lot better – especially towards the end of the book!
Onto Jest. Who read like every other hot/mysterious/*insert synonym from the YA male handbook* character who appears aloof but no, he’s actually really sweet on the inside. He just fell really flat for my which is disappointing because I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot better if I like him.
THE HATTER. Okay, here’s a character that I ADORED. While he maintains the spontaneity and whimsy of his character in the original tale, Meyer adds more layers to his personality and background to create a really fleshed out character. I loved the scenes that took place in his hat shop because they always added so much interest to the story. Along with the Hatter, the other side characters were also super interesting as well and definitely made this book better for it.
So overall, Heartless fell short for me in all the areas that it should have exceeded. I would recommend this book solely for the last 50 pages (that’s how much I loved it) but if you have enjoyed Marissa Meyer in the past, I suggest giving it a go to see how you like it!