Heartless by Marissa Meyer
I need to preface this book review by admitting that I am an OG Marissa Meyer fan, meaning I have been reading her stuff since she was a writer on www.fanfiction.net, writing Sailor Moon fanfiction. I absolutely adore her and watching her achieve her dreams has been an absolute joy as a fan. She deserves every good thing to happen to her, and I will most likely never dislike anything she writes. I think this stems more from how insanely talented she is as a writer and a storyteller rather than any kind of bias or sense of nostalgia. She has been a standout writer since the beginning, and her success was inevitable in my eyes.
Anyway, back to the review.
This. Book. Broke. Me.
Oh man, I knew that an origin story of the infamous “Off with his head!” Red Queen would not end all roses and…well, there are roses, but I knew it wouldn’t end happily in conventional terms. But Marissa turned this story on its head and took complete ownership of the characters she borrowed from Lewis Carroll. Really, she did him an excellent service by humanizing this character and added so much depth to the universe of Wonderland.
This book is beautifully crafted. It starts out with a light-hearted, dreaming version of the Red Queen named Lady Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of the Marques of Rock Turtle Cove. All she wants to do with her life is bake. When we meet her, she is covered in flour, working tirelessly over a lemon tart around which her entire universe seems to center.
The character development of the Red Queen is just so masterfully done in my opinion. The description above of Catherine when we first meet her is so far removed from the image we came to the story with, the red-faced, buxom, mad Queen. But of course, we have to link that soft, version of the Queen with what she must inevitably become and that is quite a journey for a character to embark on. To transform one version of this character to the other, the author could have dived into some severe melodrama territory, but the change was gradual, logical, and heartbreaking. I never felt like she changed the character in an unbelievable way.
And Jest. Can we all just take a moment to mourn one of the most beautiful men in YA lit?
Okay, I will never get over his death, but I can fully sympathize with Catherine’s transformation after her extraordinarily tumultuous and star-crossed relationship with the Court Joker.
Also, I want to insert here that we NEED a prequel featuring Jest and Hatta and their lives in Chess. Please, Marissa?!
Jest was such a profound character, and I really appreciate the slow reveal of his personality and motives, so I felt like I was falling in love with him right along with Catherine, further aligning my sympathies with her in the end.
Should you read Alice in Wonderland before reading this book?
My advice is that you don’t have to have read the book Marissa based her story and characters on. She did an excellent job of creating this stand-alone novel that readers can appreciate all on its own. But really if you have any or no foreknowledge of the Red Queen from any of the Disney movies (animated or Tim Burton), etc. you can read and enjoy this book.
She succeeded in making me view the Red Queen in a whole new light.
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