Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on November 8th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Booktopia
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Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, the infamous Queen of Hearts, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favourite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King's marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. 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.
I love The Lunar Chronicles and I love food, so I was pretty excited to read Heartless. Going into the book, it’s best to detach yourself from the Lunar Chronicles, because it’s more of a straight retelling of Alice in Wonderland than a story that’s inspired by fairy tales.
From the Mad Hatter’s tea party, to the invisible Chesire Cat and the rose gardens of the palace, the world and characters are incredibly faithful to the original. We already know what to expect of the quirky characters and the bizarre setting. Because of this, the world building didn’t feel terribly unique to me, even with Meyer’s imaginative storytelling.
We already know what the Queen of Hearts is like. But how did she turn out that way? Cath is a sweet and obedient girl who simply wants to make her parents happy, but also wants to pursue her lifelong dream of owning a bakery. However, when the King pursues her to be his bride and she can’t think of anything worse, she starts undergoing an internal turmoil when it comes to expectations vs reality.
We’ve all struggled with parental expectations and may have rebelled against them, and that’s exactly what happens with Catherine in Heartless. While other girls dream of royalty and marriage, I loved how Cath’s ambitions extended beyond this. However, refusing him is unheard of and she struggles against parental and public expectations when it comes to this. I really felt for Cath as copes with unwanted advances from the King, overbearing parents and disappearing dreams as she tried everything in her power to do the right thing.
I wasn’t surprised when she found solace in Jest, the handsome, charming and chivalrous Court Jester who understands what she’s going through. This is where the book took a dive for me – it heavily centres on the romance and I wasn’t convinced. While his back story had potential, I found him to be a rather bland love interest who we didn’t really get to know well. I’m pretty sure we weren’t meant to, but I also ended up feeling sorry for the King as the two courted each other over stolen glances and borrowed time. Cath was pretty much leading him on at this point to avoid disappointing her parents and it was actually kind of selfish.
This is why she enjoyed baking. A good dessert could make her feel like she’d created joy at the tips of her fingers. Suddenly, the people around the table were no longer strangers. They were friends and confidantes, and she was sharing with them her magic.
Inevitably, the book takes a darker turn with Cath’s descent into evil. While the catalyst to her change felt a bit rushed, I liked seeing her turn and everyone’s reactions to her callousness, especially in contrast to what she was like before. There’s also the sinister threat of the Jabberwock in the background, who threatens to eat the townspeople. It’s the mystery surrounding this that kept me reading; I wanted to know whether it was going to be defeated and the twist was a welcome one.
Heartless definitely made me hungry, as the descriptions of baked goods are abundant and had me drooling throughout the book. I loved how throughout the book, Cath seeks out ingredients for her recipes and how her talent for baking was pretty much her superpower. This book will make you crave everything from spiced pumpkin pies to layered cakes and lemon tarts.
As an origin story of the Queen of Hearts, Heartless stayed faithful to the original Alice in Wonderland and tells us a very different story when it comes to her past. With a mystery, romance that I wasn’t convinced on and delicious baking descriptions, there were parts of this book that I definitely enjoyed and other parts that I wasn’t too keen on. I definitely think if you’re a big fan of the original that you’ll love this one, but don’t go in expecting it to be the next Lunar Chronicles.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a review copy!
Giveaway – Win paperback of Heartless by Marissa Meyer (Australians only)
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Well,I haven't read Marissa Meyer books yet 😀
But heard/read awesome things about her Lunar Chronicles,and fairytales retalings – like the sound of it 🙂
Heartless,sounds interesting 🙂
I’m glad to hear that, I hope you enjoy it when you pick it up!
Hehe I hope you had a good thanksgiving!
I did thanks, Jeann! I actually ended up going to Target and they had an exclusive version of Heartless for only $10 on sale so I got my copy 😛
I thought a lot of the same things about this book, Jeann! I was not really invested in the romance, even though I did like the character of Jest. I just feel like I needed a bit more from him, other than his charm and whatnot.
I also felt for the king, too. Cath was really quite horrible to him, especially since he had never done anything bad to her. Being incompetent is a crappy personality trait, sure, but it didn't warrant her behaviour and thoughts towards him at all.
The ending and transformation was so rushed, especially since this is a pretty big book. I think there could have been a lot more about how she descended because it all came about so quickly.
Glad you were able to enjoy it overall, though!
Yeah, I was just disappointed because TLC is my favourite series of all time. I’m glad to hear that you felt the same about the King! Everyone sort of cast him aside but he’s harmless and Cath is intentionally leading him on in a way. It was pretty crappy. I wish there was more about the transformation and less of the romance at the start. Thank you Chiara! <3
I am still excited for this but have definitely tempered my expectations. The food sounds wonderful in it!!! Great review!
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Thanks lovely, I hope you enjoy it Grace!
I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this one more! I will be reading this one later this week. I will try and go in with lower expectations. NOTHING can be like Lunar Chronicles, that's for sure.
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Yessss I love TLC so much and I kind of expected it to be more creative in a way. Thanks Cynthia!
I wonder if I would enjoy this book more since I haven’t read Lunar Chronicles. It looks like everyone compares them. I loved original story, though I’ve read it in Russian translation (I definitely need to read it in English). I can understand your issues with relationship between Cath and Jest. If a book is heavy on romance, the romance definitely should be good to keep reader’s attention. Wonderful review, Jeann!
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Yeah, I think lots of people felt the same way about the romance in that book. It\’s definitely an enjoyable read and you won\’t have any pre-conceived expectations too! I hope you enjoy it Ksenia.
Yess @ the food porn, haha! Definitely one of my favorite things about the book. I also agree about the bland romance :\ It was definitely a weak part of the book, and Jest's character was so hard to connect with, I couldn't really bring myself to feel too much emotion during the big "twist" of the book.
Yeah, the romance really wasn't my favourite because even though Jest wasn't your typical prince, his personality was so bland. The twist happened so quickly as well!
I definitely had similar thoughts to you! The description of the baked goods were AMAZING, but other than that I couldn't really connect with anything. Great review, Jeann.
I know, I loved the baked goods! They were so good and made me hungry but I ended up being disappointed with the characters.
I can't wait to read this! Sounds super interesting, I love the idea of a retelling, not to mention Alice In Wonderland has always been one of my favourite stories. Looking forward to it and I'm glad you like it!
Yesss it sounds like you'll really enjoy this one!
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Glad you still enjoyed this despite some of the not so good parts. I totally agree, I wish the romance was a bit more convincing, but man, the food description sure made me happy, haha.
I'm really excited for her new series! Hopefully that one will have a bit more of a unique world-building and we can have a new series to fawn over!
Great review, Jeann!
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Heheh yeah the food definitely helped to tide me over until the next one. Me too, I can\’t wait for it to come out! I love Marissa Meyer hehe.
This story sounds so good. I haven't read many re tellings (or Alice in Wonderland) so I'm looking forward to reading both books!
Glad to hear you're keen on reading this one!
Everyone has mentioned how hungry Heartless has made them! Looks like I need to avoid this book…or read it? Which to choose, my diet or my love for food + books? DIFFICULT DECISIONS.
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LOL yes this one will definitely make you hungry Geraldine!
That's totally worth it, also just wondering did you buy the hardback because of the naked cover too 😉 LOL yeah it was like all romancey and stuff then all of a sudden EVIL!
Lol the food descriptions are definitely worth it 😀
Great review, Jeann! Too bad that book didn't live up to your expectations. I really like Alice's world and on one hand, I'm glad to hear it's so faithful to the original world, but on the other hand, with Marissa Meyer, I kind of expected… I don't know, more differences and originality like in the Lunar Chronicles maybe? I think I'll read that one anyway, because it sounds good and I enjoy Alice's world, and… the food. I can't resist THE FOOD. 😀
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Thanks Marie! Exactly like you said, I kind of expected something a bit different because of TLC. But I guess once I got over that hump, I appreciated the extension of the world that felt so faithful. THE FOOD WAS GOOD.
Darn it. I was enjoying this one for the most part and since I'm not at all familiar with Queen of Hearts, I didn't know where the story was going. Oh, well. I'm just hoping that there will not be a love triangle in the future (though, I don't know why there would be).
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I actually think this one is a standalone? Yeah, it was interesting connecting the dots while reading.
Oh man, I've read some many so-so reviews of Heartless today, makes me think that it's definitely a retelling for those that are new to the genre, and don't know too much about Alice in Wonderland! The baked goods sound DELICIOUS though, I would read the book just to salivate over the descriptions. Mmm tarts.
I actually think it's more for massive fans of Alice in Wonderland who wanted more! Yesss the baked goods omg. I needed tarts next to me while reading.
Ahhh I love foodie books and villain stories are usually interesting. But I'm also yet to start The Lunar Chronicles and I'm wary about the romance heavy plot. Great review Jeann 😀
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I guess if you go in knowing it's going to be heavily romance focused, you might have better luck with it! It definitely sounds up your alley especially with the villain story 😀
I understand not being able to fully connect with a book that's very romance heavy. I like when an author takes the time to explore the characters and their different facets, and doesn't just keep characters around for romantic value, etc.
Great review <3
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Yeah, I kind of felt like Jest was more there for the romantic plot line. Thank you lovely!