If you know me, you know I love books! (I’m a librarian, after all). So when I can combine my love of reading with something Disney-related it’s a win-win. We read this book for my online Disney book club, and since I read it I thought some of my blog readers might appreciate a Heartless book review!
In Heartless, Marissa Meyer attempts to explain the backstory of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland – how did she get to be so ruthless, shouting “Off with his head!” to everyone? Before we see her as the Queen we meet Catherine as a young woman. She is sweet, smart, and she has a dream of opening a bakery.
Heartless Book review
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Catherine soon realizes she will struggle to make her dreams come true when the King starts showing interest in her. He begins courting her, and it seems her fate is to be Queen rather than a baker. Around this time the kingdom of Hearts also gets a new court Jester. Jest is charming and Cath soon finds herself falling hard for him. But his background is more than meets the eye, and Cath finds herself torn between the life her parents want for her and following her heart. Given that we know the Queen she ends up to be… it’s clear that something goes horribly wrong.
Let me start off with the positives of this novel. It takes place in Wonderland and it’s clear that Meyer has good knowledge of the source material. She ties in a number of nods to the original stories. Not just the Disney movie but both books (Through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) as well as some of the poems that Carroll wrote. It’s done in a clever way.
The writing is very well done – just the descriptions of all the baked goods had my mouth watering and made me want to get out my apron and start making cookies or something. The way she wrote some of the scenes, like the first ball Catherine attends and the tea party, make you feel like you’re there (or you want to imagine that you are!). She works off of what Carroll provided in the source material to create a really cool world.
We meet a host of familiar characters like the Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit, but it’s the Mad Hatter (Hatta, before he goes mad) who is probably the most interesting character in the entire book. I’d love a story just about him. There are also so interesting new characters. I especially related to and felt for her maid and friend, Mary Ann.
The main reason why I didn’t love this book: I didn’t really buy into the romance all that much. Maybe I’m old and cynical now (after all, this is a YA novel written for a younger audience), but they seemed to know each other for a very short period of time and usually were together in circumstances that didn’t let them truly get to know each other. There is a lot being asked of them, a lot of sacrifices to be made in the name of true love, and I had a hard time buying into it when I still wasn’t even sure if she should trust him.
I also didn’t love that Catherine’s dreams of a bakery seemed to be pushed to the backburner in favor of Jest. Yeah, she still brought it up and mentioned it, but it was clear that being with him was her #1 priority. Not the thing she had been dreaming of and planning for her entire life. I wanted her to be more ambitious but I felt like she just ended up being more whiny. It seemed like Catherine was supposed to be such a likeable person, but she couldn’t be honest with herself or the King. I thought Hatta nailed it with his description of her:
“I have a personal rule about not entering into business with spineless creatures. No snakes. No slippery eels. And worst of all, no fickle women. Play coy all you like, Lady Pinkerton. Cling to your belief in your own innocence. You know as well as I that you’re going to break at least one heart before this is over, and I want nothing more to do with you.”
So needless to say, I didn’t love the ending. I won’t give any spoilers but it felt a little too overdramatic and sudden for me. Obviously there wasn’t going to be a happy ending (that’s not a spoiler if you’ve seen or read Alice in Wonderland!) but I think there could have been another way it could have gone that would have left me more satisfied.
Nevertheless Heartless was still an enjoyable read. I liked it but didn’t love it. I know many people who really did love this book though, so if it interests you at all I suggest you give it a try!
Have you read Heartless? What did you think of it? Does my Heartless book review make it sound like a book you’d enjoy?