Published: November 8th, 2016 by Feiwel & Friends | Series: N/A | Length: 464 pages | Genre: YA, retelling, fantasy, romance | Source: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
Summary from Goodreads:
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — 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 yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she 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.
This book quickly became incredibly addictive. I found it wonderfully difficult to put down, even though plot-wise it’s not necessarily all that action-packed until the last third or so. Of course, there are action scenes here and there, but most of the story is focusing on Catherine’s mother’s expectations with the king or Catherine’s interest in the joker. I tend to be someone who really likes plot-driven stories so for me to be so captivated by a book that really doesn’t have a lot going on at times is rare. But, god, I found myself neglecting sleep, homework, and pretty much any other responsibility you can think of trying to sneak in a few more pages.
Meyer does an excellent job of making this notorious villain a really likable character who you can’t help but root for. Despite knowing that Heartless is an origin story for the Queen of Hearts, I found myself forgetting that Catherine turns out to be this evil woman later in life. I found myself desperately hoping that she’d be able to do what she wants and be with who she wants, again despite knowing that she turns into the Queen of Hearts that we all know and despise. I so desperately wanted her to have the happy ending that she deserved.
Meyer also did a fantastic job of creating really interesting side characters, many of whom we know already from other Wonderland books/movies, but some of whom are new (at least I think they are…). It was actually frustrating to a certain point because I found myself really curious to learn more about them, but as they’re secondary characters, you don’t really get to know them too well. But I’m remaining hopeful because I think that Meyer has said there’s a possibility for companion novels in the future… 😉 I’d personally love to learn more about Hatta (the Mad Hatter) and Jest. Although we do get to see a lot of Jest, since he’s one of Catherine’s love interests, I’d love to learn more about his past.
The one area I’d say this is lacking a bit is in the world-building. Of course, most people who read this will already know a bit about Wonderland from other books or from movies. But this is a retelling which means that there should be unique elements (and there are!) that we’re unfamiliar with. I kind of wish that Meyer had expanded on these elements just a tiny bit to show us more of the magic and peculiarity of Wonderland because it really would have helped bring the setting to life a bit more.
Meyer thoroughly succeeding in creating a wonderful origin story for the Queen of Hearts. She brings so much humanity into such an evil character that you at times forget that she turns out to be evil. If you enjoy retellings, Wonderland, magic, and/or romance, I can’t recommend Heartless enough.