Every now and then a book will come along that the rest of the world seems to fall completely in love with but just doesn’t seem to work for you. Heartless was one of those books for me. From everything I saw in the run-up to its release I thought that I’d love it – especially considering Marissa Meyer’s previous adventures into retellings. But there was just something about the plot that really didn’t grab me and I almost DNF-ed this within the first few chapters.
Heartless essentially provides the backstory to the Queen of Hearts and tells how she became the ‘off with their heads’ screaming maniac that we all know. Catherine is the daughter of a marquess and dreams of opening her own bakery. However, her mother has much higher aspirations for Cath and pushes her into gaining the attention of the King of Hearts. Obviously the idea of marrying an older man (Cath’s age is never mentioned but I’m guessing around 18/19?) is her worst nightmare but Cath opts to enter into a courtship with the King in an attempt to convince him not to marry her. Throw in a mysterious-yet-attractive court jester, a dash of insta-love and some more familiar characters from Lewis Carroll’s stories and you can probably guess where this story is headed.
Don’t get me wrong, Meyer’s writing style is still fantastic and I did enjoy her interpretation of Wonderland, but when I read a retelling I want it to be dark and completely twist what we think we know about the original story. I just kept waiting for a real shock moment which triggered this but it never came. The end of the book felt rushed to me and the transition of Cath into darkness didn’t really work. The climactic event which caused her shift was predictable and didn’t really have as much of an impact as I was expecting. I would have much preferred an ongoing series of events which alienated Cath from her peers and led up to a high-stakes climax which finally broke her character.
Cath was a problematic character for me. She started out really strong (once I’d reminded myself that this is set in Wonderland hence the incredibly whimsical way in which she speaks) but she never really seemed to develop much. I get that she was from a ‘noble’ family so there was a limit to the extent to which she could take her future into her own hands but I just wanted her to be less reactionary. She spent a large amount of the book complaining about her situation but never really tried to do anything to change it. The romance aspect also didn’t work for me – as soon as anything remotely resembling insta-love appears in a book I immediately lose interest.
I’m totally aware that I’m in the minority when it comes to my thoughts about this book and I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more. I think that it didn’t really match what I look for in a retelling and that’s okay – I already have a favourite Alice retelling in The Looking Glass Wars series, which twists the source material in a way that I enjoy. I rated Heartless 2 stars on Goodreads, purely because I had such high hopes for this book which, for me, it didn’t meet.
As with all my reviews, this is just my opinion. Just because I didn’t enjoy a book doesn’t mean that you’re wrong if you did. I had serious reservations about posting this as one of my first reviews here, but I want to be able to share my opinion, even if I’m in the minority. Being honest about my thoughts on the books I’ve read is important to me and I refuse to be the kind of person who only says good things about books in fear of receiving negative comments.