Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Published November 8, 2016 by PanMacmillan
Source: the publisher
Rating: 2 stars
From the blurb: A girl who has a talent for cooking magical confections that can alter a person's emotions catches the eye of the King of Hearts, who wants her for his bride. She will do anything to avoid this fate, particularly as she finds herself falling in love with the mysterious new court jester...
I've only read the first 3 books of the Lunar Chronicles (I'd like to re-read them before I finally move onto the final book) and I found the series really creative and unique. So, I was excited to hear about Marissa Meyer's latest release, Heartless, an Alice's Adventures in Wonderland re-telling. I have never read Lewis Carroll's original, but I'm a big fan of the Disney version (I know, I know, that doesn't count!)
Unfortunately, Heartless didn't work for me. It is in no way badly written, it's very detailed and cleverly created. It had a great fairy tale atmosphere and at first I was enchanted. Lady Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of the Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove, lives in luxury. But she yearns for a different life. She loves to bake and dreams of opening a bakery with her maid, Mary Anne. Unfortunately, her mother, the Marchioness, has other plans such as catching the attention of the King.
I didn't feel much for Catherine and that's probably where my problems began. I admired her love of baking - the story involves lots of descriptions of baked goods, but there wasn't a lot more to her. She is unhappy with the path her mother is trying to force her onto, but she rarely spoke up, and when she did, she was easily quieted.
I wanted to like the romance between Catherine and Jest, but there wasn't a lot to go on. Catherine has been dreaming of a yellow-eyed boy and when the new court joker appears, she's sure it's him. They fall for each other, but nothing really happens between them, other than talking about how they can't be together.
There's a lot going on in the background, and I'm sure it was meant to build mystery and suspense, but it to me it felt like a lot of scenes that went no where. Jest is hiding a secret and refers to it but then repeatedly tells Catherine he can't discuss it. Peter and his wife were obviously up to no good but they felt very one dimensional. I thought perhaps the King was hiding something, but ultimately there wasn't any more to his character other than what's described. All of this became repetitive and the plot moved too slowly.
Ableist language: usually this section of my review is just a list of words used by the author, but in this case I take issue with a main character. I know Wonderland involves a lot of talk of being mad but the portrayal of the King was a bit harsh. He's almost never referred to without being called a name such as dim, simple, simpleminded. Other words used frequently: doltish, fool, idiot, loon, dumb, twit.
I got to the final 150 pages and decided to skim-read the rest because I just couldn't see myself finishing any other way. It seems like the pace picks up considerably only to lead to quite an abrupt ending. I think perhaps some of the middle could have been edited out to leave room for a more developed ending.
Thank you to PanMacmillan for my review copy.