Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she 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.
Being a true Marissa Meyer fangirl, I was thrilled about the release of Heartless, and even went to one of the Heartless tour stops so I could meet her for the second time and have her sign my copy of the book. (And also show her my Scarlet-inspired tattoo, which she tweeted and OMG I DIED.)
While I enjoyed The Lunar Chronicles more than Heartless, I think that’s because I inherently like series more than standalones. So, that personal preference aside, Heartless was a real treat (baking pun intended) and I would recommend it to any fantasy fan, regardless of whether you have read/enjoyed Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or not.
Marissa Meyer is a queen at world building. Even though Wonderland already existed thanks to the imagination of Lewis Carroll, I feel like Marissa was able to put her own spin and creativity into it. And if you’ve read Alice, her ties to the book are genius and she makes it feel like a true prequel.
I was also impressed at how she was able to get me so invested in the characters and their futures. We all know that the Queen of Hearts is a terrible person as an adult. We know the Hatter is mad. We also know Cath’s romance doesn’t stand a chance, or she wouldn’t grow up to even be the queen. Yet, I found myself rooting for her and her dreams the whole way. Marissa also delicately placed foreshadowing thoughts and emotions into Cath’s character, so even though I was rooting for her, I was constantly on the edge of my seat waiting for her to snap.
Not to mention, Jest gave me ALL THE SWOONS, and I developed a very mixed relationship with Hatta and his role in the story. So if you go into the story expecting to be underwhelmed because you’re already familiar with the original Alice characters, prepared to be pleasantly surprised!
For being a standalone and a pretty short novel, Heartless packs in a lot of detail. But some of them don’t feel fully developed, especially if you aren’t savvy about the original Alice. For example, the Looking Glass is mentioned a lot and ends up being quite important, but it’s never really explained.
If you’re in the mood for romance, sweet treats and quirky characters in an even quirkier world, Heartless is for you! Like I said, I don’t think you have to be a fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to enjoy this book, but it does add to the experience if you haven’t read it yet. (Also, some of the aspects give me serious Once Upon a Time/Evil Queen/Regina vibes, so fans of that show should also consider reading this book.)