Heartless by Marissa Meyer (ARC review)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: November 8th, 2016
Pages: 449
Song I Played While Reading: The Turnaround by Gemini
Rating: 5 stars

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 on of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal us unthinkable for a young woman who could be the next queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. 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 an intense, secret courtship.
Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her own terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. 

When I think of the Queen of Hearts, I picture Helena Bonham Carter's abnormally large head and small body from Through the Looking Glass. I know she's technically the Red Queen, so she isn't the Queen of Hearts... but all I see is her screaming "OFF WITH HIS HEAD!" and acting like a fool. And besides watching the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, I've never really been into Wonderland and its politics. I didn't even know what the hell Through the Looking Glass was, until I read a review of Heartless, so I was going into this blind. Which, I think, was the best move for me, because I had no expectations. I didn't know what was going to happen, who was going to be in this story, and how it was going to end (besides in pain, obviously). So, for anyone worrying that you wouldn't understand anything if you haven't seen any of the movies or read the original story, don't worry. I actually think it heightens your experience, since you don't know what the hell is going to happen so you're constantly on your toes.
I loved this. I wasn't expecting to, but I did. Meyer, who I firmly believe is the fairytale retelling queen, has grown extraordinarily as a writer. This is her best work yet, and everything flowed beautifully: the dialogue, the characters, the plot, and the narrative. I didn't even feel like I was reading this; instead, I was seeing this all play out in my head like a movie. It was that vivid and engrossing, making this almost 500 page book fly by.
I adored Cath, who suffered from too much of an independent spirit in such a sexist and suffocating society. Meyer got a lot of her background and etiquette from Victorian-era London, so women were essentially the property of their families and husbands. Catherine was the daughter of a Marquess and Marchioness, so she had even more pressure heaped on her to be the perfect daughter. She found comfort in baking, her one true passion, which Meyer really threw herself into, because I was drooling for half the book. Seriously, the baking scenes?!

"The tarts had taken her all morning. Five hours of weighing the butter and sugar and flour, of mixing and kneading and rolling the dough, of whisking and simmering and straining the egg yolk and lemon juice until they were thick and creamy and the color of buttercups. She had glazed the crust and crimped the edges like a lace doily. She had boiled and candied the delicate strips of lemon peel and ground sugar crystals into a fine powder for garnish."

*Inconspicuously wipes drool from the corner of my mouth* DO YOU SEE?

Let's talk about another delicious aspect to this story: Jest. I was worried that this would be a bad case of insta-love, since this was an older time period and people tended to fall in love first before actually getting to know the person. (But with such rigid courtships and etiquette, plus a short life-span, who can really blame them?) Luckily, this wasn't the case. Maybe a little, buy Meyer wrote it well enough where it didn't feel that way. They had in instant chemistry, but it was subtle enough at first so it didn't feel like she was trying to shove it down our throats. I loved his backstory, which threw this book into such a different direction and feel that I fell even harder for this book. (Another perk of going into this story without having read the original fairytale!) He was charming, witty, thoughtful, and handsome. I fell surprisingly hard for him.
The other characters were just as vibrant as our main character, and I loved seeing them all come into play: Cath's parents, her best friend Mary Ann, Hatta, the King of Hearts, Margaret, and the other slew of royals. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Cath and Hatta. They were an intense pair, brought together a little unwillingly by Jest, and I loved seeing them circle each other, acting friendly one moment and then going off on each other the next. Hatta was a complex character with many, many layers to him, so we never really knew how he was going to act. Plus, his background was equally as fascinating as Jest's was, so I looked forward to scenes that featured him.
There's a good chance that I'll watch Through the Looking Glass now, since Heartless has stolen my heart. Romantic, engrossing, haunting, and vicious, this is one book that everyone needs to get their hands on.

"Bravo, Lady Pinkerton!" said the King. The audience that was watching from the sidelines started to cheer as well, having picked up on the King's preference.
"It's not who wins or loses!" Margaret shrieked. "It's how one stays the same!"
"Well said, Lady Mearle!" cheered the Duke, standing along to the side of the crowd.
"No one asked you!" she yelled back."

"I can't stop thinking about you, Lady Catherine Pinkerton of Rock Turtle Cove. I've been trying, but it's useless. You've had me mesmerized from the first moment I saw you in that red dress, and I don't know what to do about it, other than to use every skill at my disposal to try and mesmerize you back."

"I don't want his generosity, or his kindness, or any other favors!"
Her mother sneered. "Then you are a fool."
"Good. I've become rather fond of fools."

"I wish for you all the joy this darkened world can employ."

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