Publishing Info: November 8, 2016 by Macmillan
Source: BEA 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 5, 2016
Related Posts: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1), Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2), , Glitches (The Lunar Chronicles #0.5), The Queen's Army (The Lunar Chronicles #1.5), Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky (Lunar Chronicles #3.1), Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1), Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2), Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3), Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4), Stars Above (A Lunar Chronicles Collection)
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. 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 an intense, secret courtship.
Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
If you know me or my blog, I’m sure you know how big of a Lunar Chronicles fan I am! I’ve basically grown obsessed with Marissa Meyer’s books so naturally when I heard about HEARTLESS, I was freaking out. When I received a glorious, glorious copy of HEARTLESS at BEA this year (as well as getting the chance to meet and chat with Marissa), I knew it was the first book from BEA that I was going to start! I was a bit apprehensive but wholly excited, as one usually is when starting a new book by their favorite author. I really love prequel and sequel adaptations of classic novels as well as the “what might have happened” retellings but prequels have a special place in my heart for some reason. I was doubly excited to start HEARTLESS because of this reason and also because it promised to be a little bit darker since the book revolved around the beginnings of the Queen of Hearts!
The first thing I’ll say is that this not The Lunar Chronicles… But I’m glad that it wasn’t! I think it’s easy for a writer to stick to a style or tone that they know and that’s definitely great to sort of make a name for yourself with a specific style. You could say that Marissa Meyer is getting that niche of fairy tales and retellings since HEARTLESS is different in so many ways but it still is a fairy tale adaptation. I’m really glad to be able to read such a different tone, setting, and context for this retelling than what we had see in The Lunar Chronicles! I’m impressed with how different this book was and how it really stood on its own, even after following such a massive series. Marissa really did an amazing job at bringing HEARTLESS to life and having it stand on its own!
I’m not a huge Alice in Wonderland fan so I don’t know the story inside and out, but from what I do know, I feel like the book followed the general story quite closely. This was nice to see so many things from the original tale pop up throughout the book and yet I felt like I was missing that sense of originality that I felt in The Lunar Chronicles (as an easy example) that really developed a story of its own and wasn’t just a straight retelling. Even though HEARTLESS is a prequel of sorts, it still really felt quite similar to Alice in Wonderland in many ways and I would have loved to see a few more original aspects that truly had the book standing out from Alice. On the flip side, it was cool to see how something could be used in the Queen’s time as a teenager/young adult that later comes back when Alice enters Wonderland. HEARTLESS was much more of a closely-following adaptation than just an inspiration.
One thing I worried about with an Alice adaption is how whimsical the original story is and that’s not something I always get along with in books. I enjoy adaptations so I was hoping HEARTLESS would be like The Lunar Chronicles in that way — the fairy tale inspires the book but it’s a bit more modern. HEARTLESS was definitely more like Alice than The Lunar Chronicles in this sense. The tone, content, and whimsy were all reminiscent of the original book. Rather than being a prequel concept, this was written as a true prequel to mimic the original Alice story itself. I did have a hard time with some of the whimsical fantasy in the book (as I have with Alice). Well, I shouldn’t say that I had a hard time. More like it wasn’t something that I particularly enjoyed. I didn’t dislike it but sometimes those things end up feeling more silly to me than fun.
The characters were really quite lovely. We get to see pre-madness Hatter (who was always one of my favorite Alice characters) and glimpses of characters like the White Rabbit and other Tea Party guests. Cath was so interesting throughout the book and I kept trying to take a peek at what might turn her into a heartless queen later on in the book. It actually did make me rather anxious because I just knew that the book couldn’t have a happy ending!! Every hope she had I was nervous for and of course that went doubly for the romance. Jest (the romantic interest) fought for my favorite character (against Hatta) in HEARTLESS and I didn’t know whether I was supposed to be wary of him at first or fall in love with him! And the King of Hearts was just so bumbling and cringe-worthy that it truly made every scene with him unbearable and nerve-wracking since you know that Cath is supposed to end up as the Queen!!
I really did enjoy HEARTLESS from start to finish. I thought the tale of the (future) Queen of Hearts was quite interesting and very well done. I liked how Catherine was a seemingly normal girl right from the start of the book and I spent the entire read really wondering how this whole thing was going to flip and turn back on itself to inspire a personality change. The concept was handled really well and even though I was expecting this to read a bit more sinisterly as if from a villain’s point of view, I did enjoy that I was really kept guessing until the end how that switch was going to happen!
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Catherine // Character obsessions: Baking, friendship, love, avoiding the king.
I’m not gonna lie… I was hoping this book would have Catherine as a villainous character right from the start. I was excited to read something a little dark and sinister… But I also did appreciate seeing the “true” history behind the Queen of Hearts and how she came to end up so ruthless when she was once normal Catherine. Marissa Meyer did a great job with her character and I really loved that slow creep of doubt slip in and then the sudden flip!
Kept Me Hooked On: Prequels. Prequels are SO cool. I really, really love seeing what a world was like before the story even begins ad all of the backstories of everything. It also adds a whole separate level of world building that I LOVE.
Left Me Wanting More: Originality. I know that it’s a fairy tale retelling and this definitely felt more like a retelling than an adaptation, which I was surprised to find in a prequel since those usually build their own stories a bit more. Granted, I’m not SUPER familiar with Alice so I’m not sure what changed and what was the same but I did feel a lot of Alice elements that I did know and I just wanted more of the Queen’s story than Alice’s adventures in Wonderland.
It wasn’t my favorite book from Marissa Meyer so far but it was fun and absolutely enjoyable. I loved reading a different fairy tale adaption and like always, she did a great job with the characters and really pulling a story together! It’s also so nice that it’s a stand alone so you won’t have to wait for future books!
BOOKS LIKE HEARTLESS
(Click the cover to see my review!)