What: Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Who: Pan Australia
When: November 8th 2016
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Pan Macmillan Australia for review.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. 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 a secret courtship.
Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
There were a few things Heartless that didn’t sit very well with me, even though I certainly enjoyed it overall. The first was Cath herself. I never felt like she was enough. Yes, she wants to open a bakery. Yes, baking goodies isn’t something that most high society girls do. Yes, she falls in love with someone who isn’t the king that wants to marry her. But does she actually do a lot about any of these things? Not really. She has one meeting with a guy (a warthog guy, actually) about a store, and then randomly asks her parents for permission to open her bakery. In terms of being courted by the king at the same time being in love with his jester … Cath does nothing. Except for grandly running away, but come on. She should never have agreed to let him court her in the first place.
Which brings me to my second problem. The society of Wonderland (well, specifically Hearts, but it’s still Wonderland). It was so … stiff. And unmagical, and places such emphasis on high society and propriety and not ever denying the king what he wants. Like, this is Wonderland. I find it hard to believe that a mother in Wonderland (we’re talking about Cath’s mother here) would fat shame her daughter, and also force her daughter into a courtship and marriage that she clearly does not want. It felt way too historical for me, and I found myself not so keen on the whole aspect.
I really, really didn’t like how the king was both portrayed and treated in this book. He’s made out to be this airheaded little man who giggles all the time. I mean, sure, have your own interpretation of him, but it was really quite horrible whenever Cath thought about him, or talked about him. The sheer volume of ableist language used in reference to this character were pretty awful, and I didn’t appreciate it at all.
Now, Heartless wasn’t all problems and disappointment. I actually did end up enjoying it, despite my reservations. I liked the character of Jest, I liked seeing the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat, and I liked the more traditional nods to Wonderland. The writing style was lovely, and considering that not a lot happens in the 400 odd pages of Heartless, I never felt bored.
I have to say I really didn’t want sweet Cath to turn into the heartless (see what I did there?) queen we all know her to be. I wanted her and Jest to live happily ever after, and really get to know each other and explore their relationship further. I knew what was going to happen to turn Cath ~evil~, and I was pretty sad for it, and wanted Meyer to somehow turn someone else into the Queen of Hearts (which would have been a pretty great plot twist, I think). As it was, Cath’s transformation was quite abrupt, and to be honest I would have loved to see more of a slow development of the traits we see in the Queen of Hearts in the original tale.
On the whole, I think Heartless was an interesting take on the Queen of Hearts origin story, and apart from some elements that weren’t exactly to my liking it was an enjoyable read.
© 2016, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warnings: murder, decapitation, forced marriage, fat shaming, use of ableist language, and reference to suicide in this novel
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