Friday, November 11, 2016

ARC Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Title: Heartless
Written by: Marissa Meyer
Published: November 8, 2016 by Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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 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. 

 In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher at BEA in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I'm a huge fan of Marissa Meyer. I loved The Lunar Chronicles, and I know many of you did as well. So seriously anything she wrote I would be on board for. But I couldn't have been more excited to find out that she would be writing an Alice in Wonderland prequel from the perspective of the Queen of Hearts. I was expecting a complex villain origin story which wasn't quite what I got. But what I did get was an interesting retelling.

I think what surprised me most about this book is how it felt much more like historical fantasy than I was expecting. I went into this book thinking we were getting a world that was full of fantasy. I mean how can you make Wonderland not fantastical. And yet that's kind of what happened here. Well, that's not entirely true, there was a good amount of fantasy. But to me, this book read more like historical fiction. It read like a book that took place in the Victorian Era. It put more elements on things like society and how the characters interact with that society. It was more about the characters desire for independence in a society that dictates so much of who they should be. I really liked that aspect of the story even though it wasn't what I was expecting.

But Marissa Meyer has proved once again that she is the master of the retelling. Like all her previous books she did an amazing job taking the source material and putting her own spin on it. Here she used it to create an origin story for the Wonderland that we know and love. There were so many characters and elements from the Lewis Carroll books that she pulled from. Fans of the original books will love just how much of the original is referenced. Locations and objects from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are not only references but established in this book. Not to mention that your favorite characters like the Mad Hatter, the Chesire Cat, the Catepillar, and even the Jabberwock are included in the story. And for many of them we see them before they got to be the way they are so we get to see their origin and evolution.

But of course this is a book all about the Queen of Hearts. I did like Cath as a main character. What Marissa has managed to do here is very interesting. In some respects she has made me forget that we are dealing with an infamous villain here because she made her so likable and engaging. Cath honestly felt like every other YA historical fiction heroine. That sounds like a bad thing but it's not really. I really like reading about young women who are torn between what society expects of them and what they want for themselves and that's what Cath was. I enjoyed her struggle to take control of her life. But that being said, yeah, I would have liked to see more villainy.

I would have also liked to see less romance. You guys know me and my romancephobia. It's well-documented. And seriously, this book was heavy with the romance. But strangely not because there was a lot of kissing scenes and overt flirting. It was just that so much of Cath's motivation was tied to the romance. And I get that, I get that you want to marry for love in a society that wants you to marry for wealth or prestige. But I just didn't feel the romance. I didn't get why she liked Jest. And that to me was the biggest shock. I usually find Marissa's books to be a shipper's paradise that can melt even my cold heart. But this one just didn't do it for me. I was not invested in their relationship.

But I did like the way the plot developed. There was a good amount of mystery and action to this book. It had some slow parts where things felt almost too complex but in the end it all came together in a really interesting and compelling way. This is one of those books where I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what it all meant and why. It kept me reading because I needed to find out how it was going to end. And then when it finally did get to that climax, I was on the edge of my seat. It really built to an amazing ending. And what I loved is that it felt like a standalone. It had a clear resolution and ending.

On the whole this was really good book. I wasn't totally blown away like have with a lot of Marissa's other books but it was a really fantastic retelling with a great plot that I think fans of historical fiction will really enjoy.

I give Heartless by Marissa Meyer 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. I think this is the kind of book that fans of historical fiction or retellings should definitely pick up, especially if you are a big fan of Alice in Wonderland. But if you are looking for a fast-paced and plot-driven fantasy story you will not find that here.


  1. I just reviewed this also and I loved it! I actually liked it -better- than The Lunar Chronicles but I think that just has a lot to do with my love of the whimsy that comes with Wonderland. I totally understand your issues with the romance (although I loved Jest). Great review!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. Oh nice. Yeah, that makes sense. I think if you enjoy Jest and therefore the romance you would enjoy this book a lot more. It was really my only criticism.