By Marissa Meyer
* * * * *
“Murderer. Martyr. Monarch. Mad.”
Marissa Meyer is one of my favorite YA authors of all time. Her Lunar Chronicles series left me speechless, and is one of the best YA stories I’ve ever read. That said, I knew from the very start that Heartless was not going to disappoint me. What I did not know, was just how much I would love it.
Here we follow the story of Catherine, talented baker, beautiful daughter of a marquis, and future Queen of Hearts, as she is thrust into a marriage she does not want, has her dreams questioned, and is denied the one true love of her life.
Before I begin I must admit that I have never read Alice in Wonderland, and while I have never really liked any of the film adaptations. That said, I know enough of the general story to have gotten all the references made by Meyer. In fact, it is these hints to the original stories that always make Meyer’s stories as amazing as they are. She has a way of weaving in original fairy tales into her own creative stories, creating something unique and entertaining in the process.
As with most fairy tales and stories that take place in magic lands, setting is a very important aspect. Recently, I read Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi, a story that, while not based on Alice in Wonderland, was obviously inspired by it. While, as always, Tahereh’s writing was beautifully hypnotizing, the setting was overwhelming. These was simply too much Furthermore, the world over powering the plot and the characters, and I worried that this would suffer the same fate. Thankfully, that was not at all the case. Meyers has a way of creating outlandish worlds and making them feel real, almost commonplace, despite their magical, impossible nature. It is easy to see this the kingdom of Hearts and imagine how life functions in such a way. It was all marvelously done.
The start of the book is very sweet, dreamlike, one might say. There is magic and tea parties and cake. There is a levity to it all that makes you wonder how someone as sweet as Catherine could possible turn out to be the Queen of Hearts. Little by little, as we are exposed to the world, and shown the depth of these characters, is when the true tale starts to unravel, along with Catherine’s sanity and kind persona. The change creeps in on you, leaving you speechless to abrupt and shocking finale. It is not until the very last few chapters that you realize that the Catherine before you is not the one you met in chapter one.
Despite its beginning, the book is dark, and it is nasty. There is blood, there is revenge, and there are men eating monsters, all thrown in a whimsical world where hatters are mad, and ravens are like writing desks. Somehow, through all of this, Meyers find a line of balance and brings us this wonderful book.
The characters are great, from Catherine, to Hatter, to Cheshire, to Raven, to the ever-loving Jest. The setting is magical, and the plot is engaging. Marissa Meyer has done it again, and I would highly recommend.