At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. 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 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.
Review: In Heartless Marissa Meyer provides an origin story of the evil Queen of Hearts in Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Before she was a megalomaniac who ordered people's heads cut off in a moments notice, she was Catherine, a spirited daughter of royalty, destined to wed the King of Hearts. Catherine detests her fated destiny and wants to exercise her free will in becoming a baker and having her own bakery with her best friend and longtime maid. I admired Catherine's temerity in establishing her wants and desires so openly. The clash between Catherine's dreams and her mother's relentless goal of making her daughter queen is the highlight of the book and done exceptionally well.
The world building of a refined yet still whimsical realm of Wonderland is executed quite nicely. We see favorite characters such as the mercurial Mad Hatter, who in my opinion stole the show in his short page time, and the mysterious Cheshire whose one-liners accurately sums up the emotions of others and sets the scene. We are also have a new character, the court joker aptly called Jester whose earnest boyishness makes him far more charming than his royal boss and captures Catherine's heart instantly. The clandestine romance between Jest and Catherine is inevitable. To be honest I was not a fan of Jester and Catherine's romance. I didn't feel the chemistry between the two and I really think much of him besides his flirtatious behavior.
I found the first half of the story very slow going and boring. The slow build up that pits Catherine against her mother gets repetitive at times. There are no other subplots to make the story suspenseful. I was actually more interested in Catherine when her darkness showed. Unfortunately, her descent into darkness felt rushed. Despite my issues with the pacing and the romance in the story, I enjoyed Heartless but not as nearly as much as I enjoyed Meyer's Lunar Chronicles.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and scenes. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.
If you like this book try: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige, Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli