Book review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Book review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

First things first: I’d like to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for accepting my request to read this book via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I don’t understand how we’re in 2021 and I’ve just read my first Marissa Meyer book.

I’ve owned the Lunar Chronicles since before the final book, Winter, was released. I’ve thought about borrowing Renegades from the library multiple times. Somehow, I never got around to reading either of those series.

However, my TBR jar decided that I’d be reading Heartless in January, so I’ve finally read a Marissa Meyer novel!

Heartless is an Alice in Wonderland prequel following the Queen of Hearts before she became royalty.

Lady Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, wants nothing more than to open a bakery. She bakes as much as she is able, despite her parents’ disapproval, and secretly creates a business plan with her maid Mary Ann that will enable them to open a profitable bakery… If she can get her parents to agree for her to spend her dowry on the rent and supplies to get her started.

However, her parents have bigger plans for Catherine. They want her to marry the King of Hearts and become Queen of Hearts, and they don’t care how unwilling she is. Becoming Queen is what is best for her, and that’s final.

Catherine is begrudgingly swept up in her parents’ plan, until she meets the new court joker, Jest. She’s drawn to Jest in a way that she’s never felt towards the King, and she knows that she can’t marry the King if she might be falling in love with someone else.

However, we all know how Catherine’s story ends, we just don’t know what happens along the way…

I wasn’t convinced by Heartless at the start. This is a novel set in Wonderland, but it didn’t feel whimsical enough to live up to Lewis Carroll’s source material. One aspect I did love was Raven, who speaks as though he’s flown straight out of an Edgar Allan Poe poem, and really incapsulates the magic of Wonderland.

However, by the time I’d read the first quarter of the novel the whimsical aspects were ramping up. In this version of Wonderland, Catherine lives in Hearts and there’s another world called Chess, which you can only travel to Through The Looking-Glass. This twist on the Alice in Wonderland tale fleshed out Marissa Meyer’s vision of Wonderland wonderfully, and made it much more interesting to read. That was the point where I started to enjoy the story a lot more, and from there on out I was struggling to put it down.

Catherine’s turmoil is something that a lot of people will be able to relate to (not quite to the same extent, obviously!). Parental expectations and not wanting to disappoint your family are worries that most young people encounter at some point in their lives. Although Cath wants to follow her dreams she knows that she would never realistically go against her parents’ wishes, and I appreciated the realistic way that Marissa Meyer told Cath’s story. It’s all well and good writing a heroine who decides to go her own way and strike out on her own, but all too often people will prioritise their parents’ hopes and dreams.

The story wrapped up a bit too quickly for my liking, which is one of the reasons that I dropped my rating down to four stars. The start of the story could have been trimmed and tightened more, which might have helped the pacing at the end feel less rushed. A pivotal event occurs and as soon as that’s out of the way everything progresses at a breakneck speed to get the story done, but it might have felt less speedy if the world and the characters hadn’t been crafted so deliciously slowly at the beginning. However, I would have been equally annoyed if events had been unnecessarily dragged out once the big event had occurred, which makes things tricky!

However, the main reason that I dropped my rating down to four stars was because of the way Catherine’s mother talks about Catherine’s weight and eating habits. She warns her that she will end up looking like a walrus, forces the maids to take away dessert and treats Catherine disgustingly. None of it is necessary, none of it adds to the story, so none of the comments serve a purpose. The reader already dislikes Catherine’s mother enough for dismissing Catherine’s dreams, without adding fat shaming into the mix.

That being said, there was still enough good in this book for me to rate it four stars, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Marissa Meyer’s novels in the future. The romance between Cath and Jest was a particular highlight – the yearning glances rivalled a Jane Austen novel! – and if the relationships featured in the Lunar Chronicles are crafted this beautifully then they’re sure to be catapulting to the top of my favourite ships list.

I hope you enjoyed this review, and I’ll see you tomorrow for another Top Ten Tuesday post!