I’ve been a fan of Marissa Meyer for a long time. Her characters are complex and intriguing and always feel like unique voices in a sea of similar ones. I was very excited to hear she had a new book coming out this fall, Heartless.
Heartless follows Catherine, the soon to be Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, a fictional town in the land of Hearts. This book is a prequel to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, all about the Queen of Hearts. It could have been a riveting story about love, loss, ambition, and the sacrifices we make for the promise of power, but instead it was 450 pages of a disillusioned teenage girl whining about how she wanted to go against the status quo and open a pastry shop.
Cath is a terribly unlikable character. Her blatant disregard for reality was not endearing, simply annoying, and her ignorance about how the choices she makes impacts others was ridiculous. Often times I felt like she made a decision so the plot would be more interesting- not because it was the right decision. When Cath finally realizes the error of her ways, it’s much too late to change anything, and is a little jarring. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, she’s transformed from a meek pastry chef into a ruthless queen. It just doesn’t feel like a natural progression. The last 100 pages, when Cath is transformed give you a glimpse of what Heartless could have been, but given the sudden change, the story feels a little too late to salvage.
Heartless also tries to capture the whimsical quality that made Alice in Wonderland so popular. Unfortunately, that quality is not executed well in Heartless. It seems whimsical to the point of sillyness, like when your little sister talks about how she wants to have a unicorn princess tea party on top of a rainbow this weekend.
I love Marissa Meyer, and perhaps had too high expectations for this novel, especially coming off of the enormous success of her Lunar Chronicles series. Hopefully Heartless is an anomaly, and she will go back to writing captivating sci-fi novels with complex protagonists soon.