Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. 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 a secret courtship.
Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
Warning: unpopular opinion alert.
I really wanted to love this book. I loved most of the entries in the Lunar Chronicles, and I still liked the ones I didn’t love. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I did.
The prose was gorgeous. Meyer remains fantastic at bringing locales, people, clothing, and food to life. The banter was often witty, the twists on ‘traditional’ Wonderland staples were fabulous, and there were definitely times when I flew through the pages.
But then there were times when I had to force myself to read. Part of that was because, well, I knew how the book had to end, and I didn’t necessarily want to get to that. But a larger part of it was Cath (and, to a lesser extent, Jest).
I didn’t like her. I admired her dreams, but she was too weak-willed and spineless and indecisive. She forgot about other people when her own problems overwhelmed her, she couldn’t say what she really wanted, and I felt that rather than character growth, she simply descended deeper into a personality that was already there, inherited from her mother.
And then there’s Jest. There were moments when he was interesting, and moments when I didn’t get what Cath saw in him – and plenty of moments when I had to wonder what he saw in her. The reveal about his reasons for being in Wonderland helped some pieces fall into place, but not all of them.
Now, warning: THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK, OR SKIP TO THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH! Okay, so. I don’t mind self-fulfilling prophecies when they’re done in ignorance. But when they’re done because of stupidity, it really grates on me, and that’s exactly what happened here! So frustrating! And, honestly, I wish that the two characters most to blame (aside from the sisters, of course, who are probably meant to be the Fates even if their names are ‘wrong’) would have accepted that it’s their fault, but they still seem determined to blame only each other.
In conclusion, I really struggled with this novel and with what to rate it. In the end, however, I’m going with 3.5 out of 5 stars. I did really like quite a few of the side characters, the prose was lovely, and I loved what Meyer did with Wonderland (and the Looking Glass world).
If you like Meyer’s prose and/or Wonderland ‘retellings’, you’ll probably find something you enjoy in Heartless.