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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Marissa Meyer. The Lunar Chronicles is easily one of my favorite book series. It’s hard to even pick a favorite book in that series because every single one is so incredible (although I’d probably say Winter is my favorite because it includes all of the characters, but I digress). I saw Marissa Meyer speak at a panel at the Austin Teen Book Festival in 2013, and just hearing her talk about her books made me so eager to read them. I wish I had read them beforehand because I’m such a huge fan now, and it would have been awesome to meet her.
I’ve actually been really lazy when it comes to reading over the past year or so, and I’m high-key disappointed in myself. I knew that it would take a really awesome book to get me back in the groove, so naturally I went for Heartless by Marissa Meyer and Once and For All by Sarah Dessen, two new-ish books from two of my favorite authors. One reason I love Marissa Meyer a little extra is because her novel started out as a NaNoWriMo book, and I think that’s just absolutely incredible.
If you’re not familiar with Marissa Meyer’s novels, she takes fairy tales and puts the most epic twists on them. The Lunar Chronicles follows Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White. Heartless is a stand alone novel, and it revolves around the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. What I love about this book is that you know how the Queen of Hearts is going to turn out. She’s infamous for wanting to cut people’s heads off, she hates white roses and wants them all to be painted red and, for lack of a better term, she can be a bit heartless.
This novel follows Catherine, one of the most eligible bachelorettes in the Kingdom of Hearts who captures the affection of the King of Hearts. Unfortunately this attention is very unwanted. All Catherine wants to do is open a bakery with her friend and servant, Mary Ann, but being the daughter of a marquess, there are certain expectations.
At the King’s royal ball (where Cath’s overbearing mom tricks her into wearing a red gown even though it’s a black and white ball) where Cath is expected to accept the King’s proposal, she slips away and meets Jest, the King’s new court joker. The two start meeting in secret, which leads to the big L-word, or as Ashlee Simpson puts it, “L-O L-O L-O L-O-V-E.” Throughout the novel, you also meet a few recognizable faces, including the Cheshire cat, the Mad Hatter (pre-madness), Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, the White Rabbit and the Jabberwock.
From the beginning, you feel instant frustration. If you’re familiar with the world of Wonderland, you know how the Queen of Hearts is, but you’re still left cheering for Cath who simply wants to own a bakery, not be a queen. You’re frustrated with the fact that she lives in a very non-feminist world where she can’t pursue her dreams. You’re frustrated that her mother is the literal worst and her dad kind of lets his wife run the show. You’re frustrated that Cath literally can’t get anything she wants. I mean, honestly. All the frustration.
The good thing about that frustration is that it makes you want to keep turning the pages. Marissa Meyer is one of the most brilliant YA authors, and it’s because she takes characters that you already know and love, and she tells you their untold stories. Unlike the books in the Lunar Chronicles series, this isn’t a retelling. It’s a background story for a character who never got to tell her side. You never know why the Queen of Hearts is evil; you just automatically dislike her because you’re supposed to. Heartless is the antithesis of that. It makes me want to read Alice in Wonderland again, but going in with this perspective, maybe I’ll have a little more sympathy for the Queen…maybe.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. If you’re a fan of Alice in Wonderland, you’ll absolutely love this book, but even if you’re not, I’d still recommend it. You don’t have to be a fan or even be familiar with the world of Wonderland to want to devour this book. It’s incredible.