In case this ever comes up in your Trivia game, I love Alice in Wonderland. To be frank, I have a slight obsession with the story, ever since I read it in secondary school. While I am not a big fan of the Disney animation, I have devoured those books and cherished them ever since. Needless to say, everything that has to do with Alice in Wonderland is interesting to me. Which is why I could not resist picking up the book Heartless by Marissa Meyer. It promises to tell the story of how the Queen of Hearts became the evil woman that she is. Basically, I was sold right away. But the million dollar question as always is, is it any good?
The story of Heartless
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.
A Magical Story
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I started reading the book. A part of me had my fingers crossed that Meyer would not ruin Wonderland. That is the risk with writing something based on such a beloved story. If you do not do it justice, you will receive quite a lot of backlash. But my fears were ungrounded as Heartless proved to be a very good read. The story starts off light-hearted, but gradually falls into darker territory. I enjoyed that, as I don’t think the original story is just a fun read. There are deeper layers to it, which many people overlook. I also truly enjoyed the references to the original story. A little bit of criticism though; I felt the book could be a bit shorter. Especially the middle was considerably less interesting.
The main character is Catherine and while she wasn’t the most interesting character, I do feel that her transition from good girl to evil queen was believable. No one is born evil after all. One of the most interesting characters for me was the court joker, a.k.a Jest, a.k.a Cath’s romantic interest. I fell in love with him myself, especially in the beginning of the book. However, I felt like he changed too much at the end which was a bummer. I liked to see many familiar characters from the original story. Especially the Mad Hatter was quite well done. Although I have to say it was slightly confusing that it was insinuated that the Hatter was gay, after which that whole sentiment was swiftly abandoned, basically pulling a Dumbledore. It’s fine though, because I enjoyed the characters for the most part.
Is Heartless worth reading?
There have been many retellings of Alice over the years and not all have been quite that good. While I think some Wonderland-lovers may not be a fan of the creative liberties Meyer took, I feel like it is still an enjoyable read. It is not as Wonderlandish as it could be, but it provides a credible reason for a character like the Queen of Hearts to be the way she is. As with everything, this book too has its flaws, but for me that did not get into the way of loving this book. So whether you love Wonderland or don’t care about it, I certainly think this book is worth a read.
For those who feel otherwise, well off with their heads!
(Not really though. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion after all.)