Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Posted September 17, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy Tale retelling
on November 8, 2016
Pages: 464
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter

A standalone Young Adult fantasy that takes on Alice in Wonderland and mixes it up but good. The couple focus is on the potential Queen of Hearts and the man she loved.

In 2016, Heartless was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction.

My Take

Wow. This was a crazy read that made me cry…just thinking about it has me crying again. It’s a story that begins before Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, before the land had a Queen of Hearts, and this story tells us how that queen came to be.

So what’s crazy about Heartless? Well, if you’ve ever read Alice, it’s that twist Meyer takes on the characters we thought we knew. There is quite the anthropomorphic cast of characters, and that Marchioness makes me think of that crazy Duchess in Alice.

Oh, meow, that Ten has quite the riposte for Sir Peter, and too true. The zingers zip past, snarking away at Catherine and the king’s attentions.

It’s all about love. Forbidden, for power, for love. About people who crave social advancement and all the excuses they toss up to justify what they want without caring what you want, and those who suffer from low self-esteem. The poetry the king comes up with is just embarrassing. It’s easy to understand why Catherine simply isn’t interested.

I did enjoy the story, but there were some major niggles in here. Intellectually, I did understand that Jest and Catherine were attracted to each other, I think. Meyer used a third person simple subjective point-of-view from Catherine’s perspective, and perhaps that’s why it was so confusing. For Meyer wasn’t making me believe it. It always felt like it was on the outside.

As for the Red Queen, is she different from the Queen of Hearts??

It’s those hats. There’s a secret behind the hats. And an even greater secret behind Sir Peter’s pumpkins.

Hoping is how the impossible can be possible after all. And it’s that last conversation Catherine has with her parents…that could have avoided so much heartache.

The Story

It’s a black-and-white ball. Not a party to which to wear a red, red gown. It takes but a twirl for Catherine to realize it’s a set-up. One that is completely against her own dreams.

The more she consorts with the king. With his Jest. The more she realizes that nothing can come from this. That it’s impossible. The more she wants it. The more she realizes how desperate she is.

A desperation that only becomes more so.

The Characters

Lady Catherine Pinkerton loves to bake, a “hobby” her parents, Whealagig (he’s an amazing storyteller) and Idonia, Marquis and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, like to keep on the down low. They do have a tradition of sponsoring the Turtle Days Festival. Mary Ann is Catherine’s lady’s maid and co-conspirator. Abigail is another maid. Mr Penguin is their butler.

The Kingdom of Hearts is…
…the land in which Catherine lives, which is ruled by the foolish King of Hearts who adores Lady Catherine’s tarts. Jest is the new Joker at Court with his own mission, a Rook as is Raven his partner and the White Queen’s executioner, both protectors of the White Queen. The White Rabbit is the master of ceremonies, and rather a rabbity sort of fellow.

Lady Margaret Mearle is the daughter of the Count of Crossroads and Catherine’s closest friend…although she’s never liked her. She’s always, always, ALways right. Sir Magpie and his wife; the Most Noble Pygmalion Warthog, Lord Warthog, Duke of Tuskany, is quite the awkward and shy conversationalist; Mr and Mrs Badger; Sir Jack-Be-Nimble, Jack-Be-Quick; Sir Peter Peter owns a absolutely scrumptious pumpkin patch in the Nowhere Forest, and terrorizes his wife, Lady Peter; Lady Adela from Lingerfoote; Lady Willow from Lister Hill; Dowager Countess Wontuthry; and, Jack, who is a Knave, in every sense of the word are all guests at the ball.

I think Sturgeons are surgeons. Pawns can become queens.

The Cheshire Cat still does his disappearing act, and he LOVES to gossip. Especially about His Congenial Kingness! The Spades, Diamonds, and Shamrocks work as staff.

The Tea Party is…
…at Hatta’s Marvelous Millinery with the most incredible hats. The Hatter (he hasn’t gone mad yet) has an accomplice, Sir Haigha, a.k.a,, Sir Hare to us. Other guests include the Bumble, Raven who is Jest’s partner, Lion, Dormouse, the Parrot and the Cockatoo, a young Turtle (with a sadly mocking future to come), the Porcupine, and the Bloodhound are all guests.

Mr Caterpillar is the cobbler going out of business. His landlord is the Duke of Tuskany. Lord Warthog’s cook loves to cook with pepper!

The Jabberwock was a myth…wasn’t it? The Crossroads connects corners, a long hall lined with doors and archways, windows and stairwells, leading to different countries and places.

Chess is…
…another country, ruled by the White Queen and protected by Rooks. The Tweedles were temporarily appointed as Rooks while the regular Rooks are away spying.

The Vorpal Sword is a mythical artifact, a treasure from Chess that can only be wielded by someone of royal blood. The SistersTillie the Owl, Elsie the Raccoon, and Lacie the Fox — live at the bottom of a well and grant wishes and dreams, if they please.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a black background with thorny swirls of red rose vines that bite. Just above center is the title and author’s name in white with a tinier info blurb below that.

It’s a Heartless tale of woe and grief, as the Kingdom of Hearts gets exactly what it deserves.

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4 responses to “Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

  1. I keep wishing I were more drawn to this book. I enjoy Alice in Wonderland and retellings thereof, but I’ve never been fond of books that focus on the villain, or someone who becomes the villain, especially if I know the author is going to try to make me sympathize with them. Because I will, and then I’ll be heartbroken by whatever happens to turn them into someone I hate.

    • Yep, you got it exactly Lark. In spite of the crying, I want to read more. I almost want to re-read Heartless, if only to pick up on the nuances…after I’ve re-read Alice in Wonderland, of course.

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