Friday, May 1, 2020

(SPOILERS) - Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

fanart for Marissa Meyer's Heartless by lunarrapunzel on tumblr
FanArt by LunarRapunzel on Tumblr

Heartless is a prequel to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the origin story for the Queen of Hearts.

In the land of Hearts, there lives a compassionate, meek daughter to the Marchioness and Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove. Her name is Catherine and her fondest desire is to open a bakery with her best friend and faithful maid, Mary Ann. Unfortunately for her, Catherine's parents have other plans. Their intention is to marry her off to the King of Hearts, an absurd, but kind little man who adores Catherine's delectable baked goods and wishes for nothing more than making her his bride. But the Queen of Hearts cannot be a bakery owner, and so Cath is stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. She doesn't wish to displease her parents, but neither can she stomach the idea of marrying the king who she barely respects and cannot fathom loving romantically.

One night, during a masquerade ball hosted by the king, Catherine is clothed all in red, quite conspicuously considering the rest of the company is in black and white, a clever ploy by her scheming mother. The king delights in her outfit, imagining that already she is open to the notion of marrying him. He is the King of Hearts after all and quite fond of red. But that fateful night, the new court joker is introduced to the court in a flurry of acrobatics and magic the likes of which the kingdom has never seen before. Cath's eyes can look nowhere else and neither can the joker's since she is clad all in red in a sea of black and white. So begins the romantic yearning from both Cath and Jest, the court joker, the dream that both of them could have a different fate than the one served up for them both. For you see, Jest is no mere court joker. His purpose in the land of Hearts is much, much bigger than making the king and his court laugh. But neither Jest nor Cath could have predicted their instant connection and the beginning of a love affair as tragic as that of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

If you're good with some spoilers, do keep reading. If not, then I recommend stopping now, reading the book for yourself, and then returning to read my post and share your thoughts on the book.


fanart for Marissa Meyer's Heartless by lunarrapunzel on tumblr
FanArt by LunarRapunzel on Tumblr

If you decide to read Heartless, do so at YOUR EXTREME PERIL.

I absolutely MUST start remembering that when Marissa Meyer writes an origin story for literary/fairy tale characters who we know end up as the villain, well, tragedy is going to strike and turn them evil. Heartless is no different, but I didn't remember this element of Marissa's storytelling style until I was 3/4 of the way through the book and by then, well, it was far too late to stop reading. I was already invested in the characters and the part of my heart that will forever love Jughead from Riverdale had latched onto Jest, the court joker in Heartless, with the same fervency. Will I never learn!? Probably not. *sighs*
There was a moment of suspension around them. She could feel his heart beating near to hers, and his breath in her hair. Something about him seemed crafted for her, and that thought made her face flame, like she was standing too close to a fire.

You will love Catherine, the heroine, for her kindness and meekness, and you will adore Jest for his quirky flirtations, dark hair, and yellow eyes that flash gold. You will appreciate Cath's best friend, Mary Ann, and you will cheer for their dream to open a bakery together. You will even like Hatta, who isn't mad just yet, only slightly obnoxious and off-kilter.
“I have a personal rule about not entering into business with spineless creatures. No snakes. No slippery eels. And worst of all, no fickle women. Play coy all you like, Lady Pinkerton. Cling to your belief in your own innocence. You know as well as I that you’re going to break at least one heart before this is over, and I want nothing more to do with you.” - Hatta

Except that Catherine's fate, as we know from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is to become the Queen of Hearts. Is it possible to beat fate? Maybe, if done in just the right way, but in the last 1/4 of Heartless, so many decisions are made that are irreversible. For Cath, Jest, Hatta, and Jest's friend, Raven, once their fate is written on the stone wall by the three sisters in the treacle well, there is no going back. It's literally set in stone, but would it have been different had the characters not known any sort of prediction for their future? Yes, I think so, thus my extreme hair-yanking frustration that even KNOWING prophetic dangers, all four of these characters still make choices that bring about the awful, terrible, predictable end to the story that transforms Cath into the petrifying and vengeful Queen of Hearts.
The Hatter alone was not cheering. Rather, he had tilted back in his chair and covered his face with his hat. Cath’s elation received a momentary chink. A notch of rejection. But then Hatta lowered the hat and she saw that he was smiling, and his smile was heart-thumpingly open, honest, beautiful. His lavender eyes sparkled as they found her, then shifted to Jest.

You may notice that I said predictable. Yes, Heartless has some predictable elements to it. In fact, if I had gone into it with my memory full intact then I would have seen the entire thing coming a mile away. But I didn't, so for me, only some of the tale was predictable. I did guess the Jabberwock's identity from the very first. That part was extremely predictable. I also guessed Hatta's adoration of Jest from the beginning, just little things that made him seem so very hopeless and tragic. I dislike changing sexual preference for literary characters (although did the Mad Hatter have any sort of sexual preference at all, anyway?), but Hatta's love for Jest is so terribly hopeless that all I could do was feel sorry for him. Not in an I-wish-Jest-loved-Hatta-romantically-kind-of-way, but in a sincere sort of sympathy for Hatta's hopeless attachment. Men and women alike suffer from hopeless attachments every day, so this is nothing new, but it doesn't make the reality of it any less difficult to bear.
“If you think you had a monopoly on loving him [Jest], then you should be the King’s new fool, not his wife.” - Hatta

As you may have already guessed, there is no Alice. She's not there yet, but I suspect will be putting in an appearance rather quickly, probably within a year of the Heartless ending. This is the future Queen of Hearts' story and it is not a happy one. I would be curious to know Cath's Enneagram type. I'm suspecting that she's a Two and when her life breaks apart, she permanently goes to Eight. It's really the only thing that makes any sense. I wish I knew Jest's Enneagram, but even though he's the love interest, this isn't his story so we spend far more time with Cath than we do with Jest. If Marissa were to ever write the story from Jest's perspective or a short story prequel for him then I might be able to figure his out too. As it is, oh well.
Catherine alone remained above the foam, her smile frozen. In her head, she was sequestered away in a sea cave somewhere. In her mind, it was Jest grinning at her, his dimples carved deep into his cheeks. He beckoned to her, and she went. She knew, in that moment, that she would go to him, if only he asked. She would be his, if he wanted her.

By this point, you may be wondering if you should even read this book.

If you love Lewis Carroll and the world of Wonderland then YES, you should read Heartless.

It's exquisitely written, a trend I've come to appreciate from Marissa Meyer, an easy read that sings to the soul and can hardly be put down. I finished it in two days, reading 250 pages one night in a three-hour sitting from 3am to 6am. Oops! But it was worth it, absolutely, and reading Heartless has reminded me that I should probably re-read The Lunar Chronicles and write posts for the individual books. I can get away with it for this blog, I think, because The Lunar Chronicles are based on traditional fairytale heroines and Heartless is a precursor to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, so I feel like all of them fit into my classic literature focus. I like the idea of reading reimaginings for classic literature and fairytales if they're done right.

If you do read Heartless, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did despite my broken heart. Sometimes our hearts need to be just a little bit broken. We love romantic tragedies because we know that, despite all our desperate wishing, not everyone has a happy ending. 💔


  1. I liked this book, too! The story wasn't my favorite, but I loved Marissa Meyer's writing of how she absolutely captured Wonderland so perfectly! Good review!

    1. Isn't it marvelous!? Like you, it's not necessarily a favorite, but for some reason I loved it. I don't know how that works, but it does. So weird!

      Did your heart break over Jest's death? I was a bit shattered, I admit. I wish, wish, wish, there had been a way to let them live happily ever after. *sighs* The tragedy of life!

  2. I couldn't bear to read the spoilers, so thanks for the warning! I'll have to get it from my library when it opens up again.

    1. Does your library have an ebook system? They might have something like overdrive or libby? That's how I got my copy, as an ebook checked out from my library.

      I admire your determination to not read spoilers! And I am desperate to know what you think of Heartless after you get a chance to read it, so please do come back and let me know! ❤


Thank you for your kind comments, which I adore!