Publisher//Release Date: Feiwel and Friends//November 8th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy; Retelling
Synopsis: 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.
Let’s get one thing straight:
Okay, Okay. I don’t hate it. But I’m not Alice in Wonderland’s biggest fan. I will fully admit to never reading Carroll’s original, probably because I was never introduced to an adaptation that I can honestly say I really liked all that much.
So when one of my favorite authors comes out with a Queen of Hearts origin story, I’m excited and a tad skeptical. Because I don’t like Alice in Wonderland.
I DID NOT, however, hate Heartless. I enjoyed it a lot, actually. This is going to sound kind of crazy, but Heartless reminds me a lot of how I love the musical Wicked, but cannot stand the book of the same name it was based on (attempted to read it twice – about 6-7 years apart – and DNF’d about a quarter of the way through both times). I can’t say that I hate the source material in this case, but I definitely like this novel a lot more.
Let’s break it down:
What I Liked:
- The Characters. For me, this is Marissa Meyer’s greatest strength. I love the way she forms her characters. It really showed in this book. In retellings, especially ones from the villain’s POV, I have a hard time rooting for the main character when I know they’re going to become a baddie later on. I had no such problem with Catherine. She’s extremely sympathetic – tragic, really – and even at the end, I was on her side. Besides Catherine, I can’t think of any character of any characters that are stand out without list most of the main and supporting characters. They were all memorable enough that I was able to go a decent amount of time between reading sessions and still managed to keep all of them straight .I can’t say that there was any character that didn’t seem well-rounded or fleshed-out enough…with one exception. But more on that later.
- The World. This was what I loved the most about this story. Instead of throwing all kinds of craziness out there under the excuse of Wonderland, there was a bit of structure to it, with the world having a vaguely Victorian feel to it and kept it, for the most part, within what I believe to be a small area within the kingdom of Hearts. There were still impossible things going on everywhere but it grounded it. And there was a lot to explore. I will say there were references that I didn’t quite get but, again, I haven’t read the original work, so I don’t know if they Carroll or Meyer.
What I Was “Meh” About:
- The Pacing. This was the one complaint I heard about going into the book and, while I understand where people were coming from, I didn’t mind it. That being said, it was not what I expected. This is a very small-scoped and, primarily, a romance. So by nature, the pacing wouldn’t be as fast-paced as Meyer’s other novels *cough*LunarChronicles*cough*. It took some getting used to but, once past that point, it was fine.
- Jest. I didn’t hate him…but I feel like I didn’t like him as much as I was supposed to. He was a perfectly good character. He wasn’t one dimensional. He wasn’t a bad love interest. He was interesting, but I feel like he could have been more interesting.I felt like he should have had more of an impact, but I wasn’t feeling it.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Predictability. I mean, there are obviously things that you’re going to know – it’s an origin story of one of the most famous classic novels – but there were some plotlines and events that I called at the beginning. A lot of the things were minor in the long run, but it does detract from the enjoyment of the story.
tl;dr: Heartless is a solid villain origin story that takes a creative and darker twist on the source material, though the pacing may leave something to be desired to some readers.