Please be aware that this review contains some spoilers. Do not continue reading unless you are fine with being spoiled.
I’ve never read a book by Marissa Meyer before, even though many people have told me that this means I’ve never lived. So when an opportunity came for me to review Heartless, I jumped at the chance.
To be totally honest, I’ve never really been a big fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I think I like the idea of the novel more than the actual novel itself. And one of the things that has always bugged me is that I want a version of the Queen of Hearts that scares me. Or at the very least one that evokes some kind of emotion in me besides amusement. I think Heartless contains that character.
Cath (the future Queen of Hearts) is portrayed as a sweet, kind, loving girl and also as the ideal launching point for the monstrous queen of the future. Her story made me actually believe that the Queen of Hearts could be a terrifying figure. Marissa Meyer’s depiction of events leaves you with a character who embodies all of the rage without any of the comical softening. Far from issuing orders and forgetting about them, Cath is the type of Queen of Hearts who would be more likely to hunt down people who hadn’t been beheaded in order to carry out the act herself. Possibly with her bare hands if the executioner couldn’t move fast enough.
Confession: at one point the book flipped open to the last page and I saw that the last line was ‘Off with his head.’ I was looking forward to a dark, twisted ending but I was totally wrong about how events would play out and I was so thrown by the difference that I almost straight-up missed the climax.
Marissa Meyer mentioned in the acknowledgements that she had wanted Gregory Maguire (Wicked, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister) to write a Queen of Hearts origin story before realising (or being told, rather) that she could do it herself. I feel she’s succeeded; the book is whimsical without feeling too young and (aside from an undercurrent of sexual energy that would be prevalent in Maguire’s writing) the story is pretty spot-on.
By far the best thing about the book was the description of Cath’s baking. My mouth was watering so much at one point I had to take a break from the book and get something to eat before I drooled on myself.
All in all, I ended up enjoying the book and I found myself falling more in love with Wonderland and appreciating Lewis Carroll’s creations on a different level. So many familiar characters passed through the pages and Marissa Meyer managed to make me care about each and every one of them. I definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a fairytale retelling with some romance, a cool heroine and great descriptions of food.
I was provided with a copy of this book by Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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