Published by Pan Macmillan on November 17th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Long before she was the Queen of Hearts, Catherine Pinkerton 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.
“These things do not happen in dreams, dear girl,” he said, vanishing up to his neck. “They happen only in nightmares.”
His head spiralled and he was gone.
This was so good. Meyer’s writing and stories just seem to keep improving, and her latest foray into the world of Alice in Wonderland was exactly the right combination of prophecy, romance, Victorian-style female repression, and weirdness. It was unputdownable.
Also: I really really want macarons right now.
I mentioned this before, but I’m starting to understand why I enjoy Meyer’s retellings so much. She gets the balance just right. Her fairy tales contain characters and references that make them instantly recognizable (the phrase “fairy tale retelling” isn’t just thrown around as a marketing tool). Without having to be told, anyone could read this book and understand where it gets its inspiration. However, that’s also just what it is – more inspiration than retelling.
This book can be enjoyed whether you like the original or not. It stands on its own with a full cast of strong characters, and its own unique plot that doesn’t just feel like the same old story told with some modern slang thrown in. It’s perfectly weird without being too weird (to be honest, the original gives me a fond nostalgic feeling, but it’s a bit too nonsensical for me).
Heartless is about Catherine – daughter of a Marquess, talented baker, and likely future bride to the King of Hearts.
“You’re the daughter of a marquess. Look around. Look at the things you have, the life you’re accustomed to. You don’t know what it’s like to work every day so you can feed yourself and keep a roof over your head. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. To be a servant.”
The story propels itself forward on feelings of anger and frustration. All Cath wants is to open a bakery and unleash her goodies on the world (just a warning – this is not a good book for dieters!), but the expectations placed upon her as a woman won’t allow it. The stifling nature of this world is palpable and infuriating, making you turn the pages in angry desperation.
Not only does Cath not want to be a court lady, but her heart most definitely does not belong to the insipid King of Hearts. With a sexist society to raise your blood pressure and a forbidden love story to make your heart beat faster, just throw a murderous Jabberwock in and it’s easy to see how the pages start to fly by. But if this seems a little tame to you after all the craziness of The Lunar Chronicles – have no fear! Madness and nastiness are just around the corner.
Meyer knows just how to tick all our boxes. Heartless is a nasty, evil book, but we also have the hilarious Cheshire, the sexy Joker, the yummy food, controlling parents, and strange riddles. The ending is perfect, but it makes me sad that this is just a standalone. Not that it feels unfinished… just that all great books leave us wanting more, you know?