Title: Heartless (2016)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 464 pages
Release Date: November 8, 2016
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.
Heartless is my first Marissa Meyer book, and boy, was I excited to get to it! I originally wanted to read The Lunar Chronicles first but decided against it because of its representation problems, but this book, being loosely related to Alice in Wonderland, takes the cake for me. 😍
Heartless takes us back to the life of the Queen of Hearts before she was the Queen of Hearts and is just an ordinary girl named Catherine. Cath is a talented baker and has dreams of opening her own bakery, except that her standing in society — and the King of Hearts’ interest in her as his bride — results in a lot of rules and regulations that forbid her from doing what she wants.
“A heart, once stolen, can never be taken back.”
I’ll be honest: I personally don’t particularly care for Alice in Wonderland, but I am familiar with it, and this book gets that Alice in Wonderland feel just right. Reading it was like reading a dark fairytale: it was whimsical and dreamlike, there were wishes that need to be paid, the characters were good or evil. The world-building felt thin, but fairytales often are, and it was good enough that it kept me going.
I loved Catherine as a heroine, but I can’t deny that I got frustrated with her at times. In a way, I suppose she was realistic — she was quite likable and easy to root for, but she was also flawed, and I did enjoy that she had ambitions to live a different life than what she was prescribed to. I thought that part of her personality was very relatable, especially given that her challenges — disapproving parents, societal expectations — are challenges many people face in real life.
“But hoping,” he said, “is how the impossible can be possible after all.”
Jest, on the other hand, felt quite one-dimensional for me. He had his own goals and motivations, but he never felt fully fleshed-out. His relationship with Cath felt like an insta-love relationship to me, since they fell in love first in a dream. Since that happens very often in fairytales and Heartless is kind of one, though, I could get behind this couple enough to enjoy the story.
Other than that, Meyer’s writing was relatively easy to get into. The plot was evenly paced with not a boring moment in between, and the descriptions of all the baked goods Cath makes only serve to make my reading experience more enjoyable. While I didn’t find the book particularly addictive, I found my reading momentum pretty much as soon as I started the book, and overall it was a good read.
* I received an ARC of HEARTLESS from Pan Macmillan. Quotes included in this review may be subject to change.
REAL RATING: 3.5 stars.
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