Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: Young Adult, Retellings, Fantasy
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Date published: November 1, 2016
Page Count: 453
Source: Personal purchase.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favourite 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.
“Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.”
Disclaimer: Spoilers are present, I couldn’t manage to write without any 😥
Marissa Meyer’s first stand-alone novel is one that does not disappoint.
Her retelling of how the Queen of Hearts came to be is one that is so intriguing as it is realistic, that the transformation leaves the readers in shock and pain.
The story is written in the perspective of Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of the Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove. I was immediately taken by Catherine’s passion and wittiness. And her love for bakery made me smile every time.
Although the story took place in Hearts, and the town seemed to take upon the styles in the Victorian era, the struggles that Catherine faced seemed so plausible and relatable. To see Cath pushed and pulled like a pawn by her mother, pains me as a reader to see. Her wish to realize her own dreams but restrained by the expectations of society. The fight between what we wish for and the world wishes for is one that can be related to in our own reality.
While I really like Catherine, I fell in love with Jest. His actions and words are so endearing, that I keeping asking, Why couldn’t he be real? While one expects a court joker to be smug, Jest surprises the readers as being one that is so genuine and compassionate. Their banters are what keeps me going with the novel. Their emotions and feelings are depicted so clearly and prominently through the short times they spend together. Although some reviewers have found the budding relationship to be slow-paced, I believed that it made it even more believable, to have met and loved within such a short time.
The references to Caroll’s Wonderland were always something to look forward to. Even little details that Caroll provided about the world of Wonderland, Marissa still managed to create such an intricate world, with every fine detail interwoven flawlessly through the book. The map of Hearts was so well laid out and made the readers feel like they were in a Wonderland-like place. As well, the recurrences of the riddle, “why is the raven like a writing desk,” was never tiring to read. In fact, it evolved to a point where the last time Hatta mentioned it brought me brimming with tears (but then again, I cried eleven times while reading the book). Having Raven speak verses by Edgar Allen Poe was indeed a plus to all the references of Caroll.
The ending was emotionally challenging for me to get through. While I knew what the story was going to acclimate to, I happened to forget somewhere in the middle of the book that Cath was fated to become the Queen of Hearts. My stubborn refusal stemmed from my disbelief of how such a girl, “overflowed with whimsy and powdered sugar”, could possibly become heartless. As well, I just wasn’t ready to let go of Jest. Let me say that I had to put the book down after Jest died.
The transformation of Catherine was so abrupt yet so realistic. Cath’s persona changed immediately after Jest’s murder. But she had the right to become so cold-hearted, to become heartless. Her anger, to Peter and even to her parents and Mary Ann, seemed very much justified. When her parents met her before her wedding, I cried again. If only they had thought to consider Cath’s feeling earlier. If only they had listened to her earlier when she wanted her bakery. There were so many things that could have happened. To know what could have been, was what left this ending so heart-wrenching. How long Catherine had tried to escape her fate as queen, only to run back into it.
Catherine, a monarch.
Jest, a martyr.
Heartless was beautifully tragic. Meyers succeeds in swelling our hearts with hope, only to leave us heartbroken in the end.