Marissa Meyer’s “Heartless” is one of several YA novels that have come out in recent years exploring the backstory of the Queen of Hearts from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and how she came to be the way she is when Alice encounters her. In this particular take, the girl who would be queen is Catherine Pinkerton, a noble lady, and heiress to Rock Turtle Cove who only wants to open a bakery with her best friend. When the King of Hearts begins courting her with the intent of asking for her hand and her heart finds itself drawn toward the enigmatic court Joker instead of the king, Catherine’s dreams and everything she holds dear hang in jeopardy. The reemergence of the Jabberwock, a monster long thought extinct is this part of Wonderland, only serves to complicate matters further. NOTE: There are technically spoilers in this review, but anyone even remotely familiar with “Alice in Wonderland” will have already known them anyway.
Having thoroughly enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s “Cinder” (which get 5/5 stars as far as I’m concerned) I was quite excited to read this one. I thoroughly enjoyed the attention to detail that went into crafting this version of Wonderland. All the little references and jokes and explanations of characters work quite nicely and make the book an easy read for those who like to hunt for clues to other things in the text of a novel.
I also quite enjoyed how grounded the character of Catherine and her story was while still managing to blend in with the inherent madness and silliness that is Wonderland. Catherine is a character you want so badly to win and get what she wants, and the novel is bittersweet knowing, as you do going in, that she will invariably end up failing and becoming the cold and bloodthirsty Queen of Hearts. She’s a lovable character caught in an impossible situation and it makes her easy to empathize with and connect to.
All that being said I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected to. Part of this was the inevitability of the ending. I found it more difficult to get invested in the story when I knew there was no possibility for a happy ending. And the fact that I figured out the secret behind the Jabberwock very early on mitigated much of the suspense. The book could be tough to read because I knew what was coming and didn’t want to see that happen to this great character. I also felt that the narrative was a little disjointed. The different parts of the storyline, pursuing the bakery, the romance with the Joker, the threat of the Jabberwock. They all felt too much like different stories to me rather than different parts of the same story. As a result, the stakes ended up feeling a lot lower than they actually were until very close to the end when everything started to come together.
I think this book is worth a read if you’re very interested in the Queen of Hearts as a character, enjoy an impossible love story or just looking for something light with a dash of serious drama. If the description sounds interesting to you, certainly give it a go.
While this book had a few issues for me, overall I think its a good read. I rate it 2/5 stars for “it was okay”, although I could just as easily go three stars, to be honest.