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.
I received this ARC while attending BEA earlier this year. I was in no way compensated for this review.
Heartless was one of those reads I HAD to have! I have been a huge fan of fairy tale retellings since way back when. They weren’t even popular back then. Which just shows my age, so when I heard Marissa Meyer was going to do one regarding the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, I knew it was going to be something truly wonderful. It was that, and oh so much more. It was epic!
First off, going into this I knew my Wonderland lore. I know very well who the Queen of Hearts is. Disney and Carroll taught me very well. By knowing her story from that point, you can kind of see where her story will go from the beginning. It’s like reading Wicked, you know who that Wicked Witch of the West was, you knew her fate going into the story, so don’t be surprised by what happens. It’s that kind of thing, though one (me being one) still hopes to see something else happen!
Okay, that jazz out of the way, let’s move on! From the getgo I couldn’t help by love Catherine! She’s our fated Queen of Hearts to be, but what she longs for is a simpler life. She loves to bake and her dreams involve owning her own bakery rather than being a queen. It’s bad enough that king has quite the crush on her. And if you know your Disney (and likely Carroll, though I can’t recall as it’s been to many years since I read the book) lore, you’ll recall the king is quite comical and sadly, a joke. He has no fire in him and he’s a little too lenient in his ruling. Cath has no desire to marry him, let alone be with him. But her parents are definitely pushing for an engagement.
Then in walks Jest, the new court jester and right away attraction sparks between these two. And yeah, I’ll admit, I swooned a bit too! LOL! He’s definitely got the whole mystery guy thing going on with him. He’s not as LOL funny you might expect from a jester, but he’s most definitely a performer. And try as they might to fight the attraction growing between them, they find themselves more dallying in secret than not.
This isn’t just a love story though. Cath is determined to live her life her own way despite her parents’ expectations. But life continues to bombard her it seems. There’s a bit of a mystery going on as well. One that involves a Jabberwock! Yeah, we got all the Wonderland peeps here! And it was most incredible! Seeing the Chesire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Hatter, the March Hare, the Catepillar…so many familiar faces and more! Cath herself was a force to be reckoned with and I loved her for it. She was a dreamer and wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way. She’s a remarkable heroine!
I think that’s one thing I really loved about this one! All the Wonderland residents and just general madness going on. While you don’t have to have read the original tale to enjoy this one, I will say that it helps to have some knowledge. It’s like finding little Easter eggs as you read when this or that gets mention. Cath is more familiar with the things that gave Alice her wonderment or things that perplexed her.
Heartless was just phenomenal in my opinion. Speaking as someone who looooves fairy tale retellings and origins this book had me written all over it! The ending, while still totally expecting it, still kind of took me by surprise. Which is hard to do, though my head kept telling me what to expect. And naturally, I started devising theory after theory trying to see what the outcome would be. And for some reason, I didn’t let myself think that THIS would be the outcome I got! Guess I’d rather deal with a different kind of “heartless” state of being than what Cath endured. But I will say again, that I absolutely loved this book! I wouldn’t change a thing!
I highly recommend this book for all fairy tale fans! Origin stories are one of the best in my opinion and Marissa Meyer went above and beyond with this story! Now I am eagerly awaiting to hear what her next project will entail. I can only hope it will still be fairy tale related!
Overall Rating 5/5 stars