Author: Marissa Meyer
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest 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 favourite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. 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.
Marissa Meyer has the market cornered when it comes to reinventing pre-existing lores and tales. Her Lunar Chronicles series trailblazed the way for half a decade’s worth of YA fairy tale retelling, its presence is ubiquitous on any retelling list you dig up on the Internet. With Heartless, Meyer cements her status as an ingenious storyteller, breathing new life into iconic characters we thought we knew.
First up, I have to come clear – many I often find that retelling of Alice in Wonderland failed to resonate with me. It’s so difficult to capture the charm of Lewis Caroll’s original work while putting a new spin on a well-loved tale. Fortunately, the writing in Heartless absolutely shined. I could feel the joy and delight the author must have felt with every sentence. Meyer’s proses were especially bold and exuberant in Heartless, especially when compared to her previous works – subtly adapting to the idiosyncrasies of Wonderland. I especially loved Meyer’s take on riddles and word plays in this book, which was an excellent homage to the original materials.
Aside from her ability to capture the spirit of Wonderland, the writing in Heartless is a cut above anything Marissa Meyer has written in the past. Admittedly, I have only read the first two novels of The Lunar Chronicles, but I could see a marked progression in the author’s craft. I was especially taken in by her descriptions of Wonderland and the expansions she made to the pre-existing world. The depictions were arresting and vivid, I could smell every single tart, and see every details of each dress described.
Speaking of tarts, I have to warn you to stock your pantry up with all the pastries you can get your hands on before reading this novel. Catherine, our Queen of Hearts in training, is a talented baker – and her creations will make you drool. I made the mistake of beginning this novel on an empty stomach, and I still sorely regret it. The first few chapters were a veritable treat for the senses. Not only could I experience the beauty of Catherine’s creations, I felt the joy and pride she held in each pastry. It’s not often that we meet a heroine so ambitious and driven by her craft, so this aspect of the novel was an absolute delight.
Where Heartless faltered for me was in the chemistry between its characters, primarily between the two leads: Catherine and Jest. Their romance was understandable, as well as crucial, to the storyline and Catherine’s development. However, despite the page time these two had together, I could never get on board with their connection. I also felt that Catherine’s journey towards darkness was uneven in pacing – with a lot of the development taking place very rapidly towards the end of the novel. As the reader comes into this book well aware of its ending and Catherine’s eventual fate – I felt that more time should have been dedicated to this transformation.
Overall, this was a solid retelling of Alice in Wonderland – although I had some reservations regarding its characters. I would still recommend it to all, especially those who can’t get enough of the fairy tale retelling fever.
Interested to hear the thoughts of other Australian bloggers on Heartless? Check out the rest of the Australian Heartless Blog Tour.