Author: Marissa Meyer
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Genre: YA Fantasy
PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images
Recommend to fans of Marissa Meyer, Alice in Wonderland, any retellings/branch offs/additions involving Wonderland, tragedies, and villain origin stories; people who don't mind love triangles.
Narration: 4/5 stars
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
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. (via Goodreads)
Though well-told and possessing a good story, clever uses of traditional Wonderland elements, fun worldbuilding, and great characters, I had a hard time getting through this one because of the love triangle. Ugh. I really, really hate love triangles.
Initially, I liked the main character Catherine. She's a likable, lovely character, who lives for baking despite it's being an improper pastime for a lady. She's easy to sympathize with, too, because she's set upon by her busy-body mother, who wants her to find a rich husband and get through a single day without covering something in flour! It's no wonder Catherine feels she can't tell her parents what she longs for and dreams of: to open her own bakery. I liked Catherine because really she wants so little -a bakery, for goodness' sake! She just wants to make and sell cakes and pastries and tarts!- and I wanted her to have that more than anything.
What I loved most about Catherine, though, was how Meyer wrote her in the beginning as such a sweet, likable, innocent young woman -but every once in a while, when she's so boiling mad or frustrated, she says or thinks something and I went 'Aha! There's the Queen of Hearts!'
The love triangle was rather infuriating. At first, it was fine. It's the plot of the story -does she choose the King or Jest? Why and why not?- but the middle of the story became so bogged down in this hysteria of emotions as Catherine is floundering between the two of them and between her dreams and her parents' expectations that I WANTED TO TEAR MY HAIR OUT! Meyer tried to compensate for the prominent love triangle by adding in some intrigue, Jabberwocky attacks, and a mystery, all of which is good and really adds to the story, but most of these elements were not capitalized upon during this boggy middle, which made it even worse. While I was impatient to figure out what the Jabberwocky was after and why Hatta seems to despise Catherine so much, Catherine was focused solely on her love woes.
Catherine, who starts out as a really great character, quickly went downhill for me because she won't grow a spine. I didn't mind that she was a fairly meek character; what I didn't like is that she won't speak up for herself, that she lets her mother and the king walk all over her, that she leads the King and Jest on without actually acting on any of the promises she makes them, AND THEN SHE PLAYS HERSELF AS THE VICTIM, moping and complaining that she has no control over her life! The most infuriating thing is that she doesn't notice this in herself, even at its most extreme.
However, there's a flip side to this. As much as Catherine grew to infuriate me with her fickle nature and her tendency to refuse to act and then blame others for her problems -or worse, to act and then blame others for the consequences of those actions- these are the exact traits that eventually form her into the Queen of Hearts.
Now can you see my dilemma?! One of the key things I didn't like about this book is exactly what makes it such a great villain origin story! Meyer knew exactly what she was doing when she wrote Cath.
On the note of villain origin stories, I gladly give Marissa Meyer a standing ovation because she did not fall into the trap so often seen of late, of casting the 'villains' in the role of misunderstood heroes (al a the film 'Maleficent' and Valentino's 'Fairest of All'). What she gives us in Catherine is a young woman who starts off a mostly good person, but because of how her life turns out, she comes to rely on her flaws. Meyer makes the Queen of Hearts a sympathetic character, but she's no less of a villain for that.
Despite how downright infuriating I found Catherine at many points in the book, I've come to terms with that because this is an excellently-crafted character arc and a great story. My biggest complaint was that boggy middle of the story; I almost DNFed it there, because ugghh love triangles. While I'm glad I suffered through that to the chilling finale, I don't know that I would re-read this.
While not as good as her Lunar Chronicles, it's definitely another feather in Meyer's cap. Because of the prominent love triangle, it simply wasn't my, well, cup of tea.
Speaking of the Mad Hatter... Meyer's version -the rather haunted and bitter Hatta- was, by far, my favorite character in this book, and I bemoan that he didn't have a larger or more prominent role in the story. If she writes a Hatta prequel I will be lining up for that book.
What did you think of Heartless?
What's your favorite adaptation of Alice in Wonderland?