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 yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she 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.
Cover Image and Describtion both sourced from Marissa Meyer’s website, http://www.marissameyer.com/
Because what other rating system would you use for a book that tells the story of The Queen of Hearts before she met Alice?
One of the many benefits of working at a bookshop is that we are sent Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of book by publishers on a regular basis. Until recently, I would excitedly wait to check whenever new ARCs would be sent to us, in the hopes that I would find something I would enjoy. It was only about a month ago that I finally clicked to the comments that were always being made by my boss and coworkers, and realised that I could actually request specific ARCs! I became very excited at the thought of getting the chance to read new books by authors I loved before anyone else, and one of the first books I sent off a request for was Heartless, the new standalone novel by Marissa Meyer. About a week after I had submitted my request, my boss commented that the publishing rep had sent off a copy for me, and my excitement started building. For the next three weeks, I would excitedly tear into every package we received that looked like it had any chance of holding a book, until finally I opened the one that contained my copy of heartless (along with a copy of Three Dark Queens, a book I had seen on our shelves and thought I might like to read, but that is a story for another blog post). That was just over a week ago, and earlier today I finished the book, almost instantly pushing it onto one of my coworkers while excitedly insisting that she should read it!
In case you don’t recognise the name, Marissa Meyer is the author of The Lunar Chronicles, a YA series of futuristic retellings of classic fairytales. I read the series earlier this year, and it quickly became one of my favourites. I loved the way Marissa wove elements of well-known and much loved fairytales together with starkly modern elements, and I was impressed by the fact that the stories remained unpredictable and surprising, despite the fact that they followed the general plotlines of their origin stories. I was very excited when I heard that Marissa had a stand alone novel based on Alice In Wonderland, since she had already shown her skill at retelling stories we think we know.
This skill at retelling stories quickly became apparent in Heartless. Marissa weaves a fascinating, heart-breaking and thought-provoking origin story between endless features that are easily recognisable from Lewis Carroll’s original work. I found myself being drawn forward by a desire to see how the characters I was reading about would develop to become the characters I knew so well from Alice. I had initially been a little sceptical about reading an origin story about The Queen of Hearts, as she is such an unlikable character in Alice. Within a few chapters this scepticism had been lost, and was replaced by an intense curiosity about how Marissa was going to transform the sweet, likable character she had so quickly developed into the raging Queen I knew so well. This character development became one of the main elements of the book for me, and I thought it was expertly handled. Seeing how the actions and reactions of different characters led to the creation of the personas that plat such pivotal roles in Alice was fascinating, and highly enjoyable.
I had expected that I would enjoy the story of Heartless, so that come at no surprise. What did come as a surprise was my love of the writing style that is used to convey the wonderful story of the book. While I had loved the stories contained within The Lunar Chronicles, I hadn’t found the writing style itself to be particularly exceptional. It was in no way bad, or in anyway unpleasant to read, it simply didn’t stand out to me in any one way or another. I was expecting to feel similarly about Heartless, but ended up being incredibly surprised and impressed. While I enjoyed the story even more than I had expected, the thing I most fell in love with was the style of writing that was used to tell it. Marissa did a wonderful job of capturing the whimsical, bizarre nature that Alice in Wonderland is so well known for. There were certain paragraphs that simply left me gobsmacked with how beautifully they were written; with how wonderfully the words flowed from one sentence to the next with an almost lyrical style and a real sense of magic. While I regularly describe stories as beautiful, it is rare for me to use such a term to describe the style of writing used to tell a story, and to find it in such an unexpected place was a real treat.
A beautifully written origin story for a character I thought I knew, that adds even more twists and turns to the already complex world that Lewis Carroll created so many years ago.