Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication Date: 9th February 2017
About the book:
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favourite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath 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.
What I Thought:
Heartless tells the story of the young Lady Catherine Pinkerton. A young woman growing up amongst the nobility of the Kingdom of Hearts, who wants nothing more than to open her own bakery alongside her maid and best friend Mary-Ann, but instead becomes the feared Queen of Hearts we all know from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Heartless is in effect a re-telling, an origin story featuring a well-known character and giving her a new back story. Whether this is in line with what Lewis Carroll had imagined for his own queen we can only guess, the idea of rewriting a character’s history intrigues me (I wrote a short discussion post on it recently, you can find it here) Personally it’s something I generally enjoy, I like seeing something familiar from a different point of view, and Heartless was no exception to the rule.
Heartless as you might expect contains a number of characters you will be familiar with if you’ve read the original or seen either of the Disney films. The Cheshire Cat, The Caterpillar, The Hatter and The March Hare all feature, as does The White Rabbit, even the Jabberwocky makes an appearance. I have to admit I’ve not read Lewis Carroll’s novel and it’s been a long time since I watched either of the films, there are probably a huge number of other characters that I missed. I did smile at the familiar game of crochet played with flamingos and hedgehogs.
There are also several new characters introduced within the book. Mary-Ann is Catherine’s current maid, best friend and future potential business partner – While Catherine may be the best baker in all the kingdom Mary-Ann is the logical one with the business brain. My thoughts on Mary-Ann varied, as a secondary character we don’t find out that much about her, we really only see her in her interactions with Catherine. By the end I was frustrated by some of her choices but also understanding of her underlying motives and what she was trying to achieve.
Another major character that is introduced is Jest. The mysterious newcomer who suddenly arrives in the Kingdom of Hearts to take up the position of the Court Jester. I really liked Jest, I found him to be a great combination of humour and mysteriousness. If you’ve read the synopsis it will come as no surprise that Jest is Catherine’s love interest within the novel, knowing her mother would never approve of a relationship with Jest, especially when the King of Hearts wants to make her his wife, Catherine finds herself in a secret courtship with him. I’ve seen some reviews that say the relationship is a bad case of insta-love. I’m not sure I agree, there is certainly a case of instant attraction when Jest first appears, but I can’t say I would blame her, she certainly wasn’t the only person to be enthralled with him during his first appearance. I personally enjoyed the relationship between Catherine and Jest, although there are several twists and turns along the way.
Of course the main character isn’t unknown to us, however the young Catherine introduced at the beginning of the novel is a world away from the feared queen you know her to become. Her journey from idealistic baker, somewhat trapped by her mother’s expectations both of and for her, to murderous ruler is a relatively long one, Heartless is around 460 pages long. A large part of the book is spent slowly building to the climax, and once it reaches this point is very rapidly moves on to the end. I completely understand the need to set the scene and build the relationship but I would have liked the balance to shift to slightly less of the build up and more focus on the events that led to her becoming the Queen that we know and the immediate aftermath. Without giving anything away I’ve also seen some reviews that criticised some of Catherine’s actions, particularly towards Mary-Ann, however given the circumstances I can understand Catherine’s reactions, and once she had set herself on that path there was really no way back.
Would I recommend it?
Yes – Heartless may take a little time to get started but it really drew me in. I loved all the little hints and inclusions from the source material, I fell in love with Jest and found myself intrigued by the circumstances that changed Lady Catherine from the young girl who made a world-class lemon tart into the feared queen I remembered screaming ‘Off with their head!’ from my childhood. Despite knowing how the story must end I could help but hope it wouldn’t.