My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book drew me down the rabbit hole and never let go. I hate Marissa Meyer for making me fall in love with these characters when I know that they may not have a happy ending. No, I don’t actually hate her book (I loved it) but it gives you so many feelings and yet you feel that it’s not possible for it to work out. If you are familiar with Lewis Carroll’s work, you know what happens in Alice in Wonderland. As this is a prequel, you expect that you know how each character turns out and wonder if it will inevitably play out the same way in Heartless. It crushes your heart to know their dreams and realize that they may not come true. My only hope going into this book was that it would have a Wicked-style secret that explains how any of them could possibly find their happily ever afters.
I have always been a huge fan of well-done fairytale re-tellings (or prequels in this case) and Heartless does not disappoint. Marissa Meyer did a wonderful job with the Lunar Chronicles and this is just as well done. We get a different look at our most beloved and hated characters, prior to their lives intersecting with Alice’s. Most Wonderland retellings I’ve read feature Alice, so this was a nice change of pace.
Catherine is our likable if a bit spineless heroine who is set to be the future Queen of Hearts – if her mother has any say. She is joined by the Joker, Hatter, March Hare and other classic characters. Cath’s dream is to open the finest bakery in Hearts, but her parents have other plans.
The Joker, Jest is my favourite character by far and he has a great arc throughout the story. He is witty, kind, magical and so much more than just the Fool. I almost wish he was the main character because his scenes were always my favourite.
The author took some liberties with the characters, but overall they just helped to make them more believable. Their personalities are developed and expanded, lending them an air of realness that doesn’t always permeate Wonderland.
The Mad Tea Party scene was highly enjoyable as each guest was called upon to perform whilst jauntily adorned with a hat. My only negative is that I wish the Hatter was more likable. I understand his motivations but as classically one of my favourite characters I wish I had enjoyed his role more in this novel. I also wish that Cath could have been more pro-active, even though I understand her less than stellar backbone due to the period and her upbringing.
The world is vividly described from the fabric and accouterment laden Hatta’s shop to the lavish King’s castle. The author even adds a little Wonderland flair to common phrases and anecdotes. World-building is very well done and makes me long to visit Hearts.
Highly recommended to young adult/teen readers who enjoy fantasy and the fantastical, fairytale re-tellings, prequels and Marissa Meyer’s wonderful writing.