Heartless was one of those books I may not have picked up if it wasn’t for OwlCrate. I had no previous knowledge of Marissa Meyer’s other books and no particular fascination with Through the Looking Glass/Alice in Wonderland. I am also not generally a reader of books whose plot is primarily based around romance. When I opened this book, I was not sure what to expect since the Queen of Hearts is among the hardest to imagine as the heroine of a novel.
Catherine, the future Queen of Hearts, is just a whimsical teenager with big dreams for her future. She has high hopes of growing up to be a baker with her own shop, despite having caught the King’s eye. Her parents pressure her to accept the King’s advances, very much like a Jane Austen novel, but Catherine’s heart is stolen by another, the King’s mysterious new Joker, Jest. No one seems to know where the Joker is from, or remember hearing of him before his grand entrance at the King’s Ball.
Although the secret flirtation between Jest and Catherine appears to begin with a love-at-first-sight cliché, it is by no means exactly as it seems. In fact, nothing is. The relationships between the entire cast of characters is finely interwoven, so that everything in the story happens for a reason and has an effect on almost everything else. Catherine’s relationship with Jest is complicated by layers of intrigue, with both internal and external conflict, that kept me engrossed throughout the book.
Meyer also did an excellent job of working within the framework of a world that was already created by Lewis Carroll. The end of Heartless was preordained by the person the reader knows that Catherine must become. Rather than making the book boring or underwhelming, at each new turn and bump in the road, I found myself aching for her and hoping against hope that somehow Meyer had found a way for her to make it out of the mess happily ever after. Perhaps my only sadness is that the end of the book wraps up briskly and left me sort of reeling to take it all in after the last page had been turned.
Bravo, Marissa Meyer!