Heartless by Marissa Meyer / ★★★★1/2
One sentence summary: Catherine Pinkerton’s dream is to open a bakery with her best friend, not marry a king and become the Queen of Hearts or, least of all, fall in love with the court joker.
“And tell me, Lady Pinkerton, does a queen have time to run a bakery?”
She bristled and answered, enunciating carefully, “I am not a queen.”
“No,” he said. “Not yet.”
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
This book was a WONDERFUL read, and I say this with an air of very pleasant surprise because I didn’t expect to love it so much. And I say that because I’ve never been a fan of Alice in Wonderland, and this “origin story” of the Queen of Hearts was so enjoyable. Heartless is one of those books I just had such pure, joyful fun reading. It was very plot-driven, character-driven, and romance-driven, which made it such a well balanced, entertaining story. Meyer does a fantastic job of taking the universe of Alice in Wonderland and showing it to us through the eyes of its inhabitants and adding her own whimsy to it. If I’m being picky, there were a few strings that I wish had been tied in better within the plot, and there was an aspect to the climax that fell slightly flat for me, but it didn’t really diminish the fun I had with this book. I loved it.
When I began this book, I didn’t expect to like Catherine so much – if at all – because she starts out so incredibly, almost overbearingly sweet. It’s her transformation throughout the book that that made her such an interesting character. Catherine is a girl who is selfishly devoted to her dreams while the choices presented to her are constantly being decided for her, if not by others, but her own sense of obligation. The theme of choice vs. fate and the way Catherine reacts to it, and how it shapes her character, is one of my favorite aspects of the novel.
As for our court joker, Jest, I adored him. He was sweet and crafty and I could never quite decide if I could trust him or not. Same with Hatta, the mad hatter, who I didn’t adore, but found rather more intriguing. I did, however, fully expect his “plot twist” at the end, which I find to be a bit of an overused twist these days, but I didn’t dislike it. This book is filled with fun, sweet, and dubious characters.
It took me two or three chapters to get used to the writing style, particularly the dialogue, but once I was into it I thought it was entirely appropriate to the story. Descriptions could be unnecessarily flowery at times, but it was nothing too overwhelming. For the most part, I thought the writing was very good and the structure of the story was great.
Was I satisfied?
In terms of pure enjoyment, yes, I had a lot of fun reading this book and I know it’s one of those books I’ll always think of very fondly. There were a few details within the plot I would have liked to have seen tied in better, and I think I’d heightened my expectations a bit too much by the end, but my enjoyment of the book smooths any of these minor grievances. I loved it.
(Very!!) Spoilery Comments
My main complaint is that I had expected Catherine’s strange ability to dream things into life would come to play a major part in the story, but it only ended up producing minors tools of foreshadow (unless I’m missing a bigger meaning, which if you think I am please feel free to share your thoughts!). I was so hoping that she had dreamt the Jabberwock into existence as a physical manifestation or foreshadowing of the nature of what she would become.
I also found Jest’s death to be…underwhelming, in the physical manner of how it happened. I was entirely expecting it, and after all the things I hadn’t expected throughout the novel, I’d been hoping for something more surprising. Being the terrible (heartless) person that I am, I thought it would be a brilliant twist if Catherine accidentally kill him, seeing as she had the sword in her hand at the time, or Hatta in a fit of madness. Still, it makes sense, the way it happened.