Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Published: Feiwel & Friends on November 8th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Legends, Myths, Fables, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Going into this novel, I think it’s fair to say that my expectations were through the roof. Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles happens to be one of my top favorite series of all time, so when news broke about a new novel, I had to get my hands on it. As one of my most anticipated releases of 2016, Heartless is an utter disappointment and falls short in comparison to Meyer’s other novels.
Heartless follows the story of Catherine Pinkerton, a girl who longs to fall in love, long before she is the terror of Wonderland. Catherine is one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a bakery with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delicacies and confections. However, such a goal is unthinkable for a young woman who could be the next Queen, according to her mother. 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 an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land flourishing with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
I really loved the premise of the novel, with the depiction of the Queen of Hearts before she becomes an evil, murderous, raging… I’ll let you finish that sentence. However, I have to admit that I was quite disappointed with the novel. I felt like Heartless was a very underwhelming read. Now I’m not saying that I disliked this book, I just feel like I didn’t really connect with any of it the way that the Lunar Chronicles hooked me in. I didn’t really feel anything for the characters or with the plot line (other than an intense craving for macarons). More often than not, I struggled with trying to find the focus of the novel and questioned what the purpose of some occurrences in the novel were for.
Marissa Meyer has a fantastic voice for retelling and is an incredible writer, that is undeniable. However, I feel like in this novel, there were several different occasions where she went into too much detail over little things that didn’t have any significance to the story. It just became extremely tedious and boring, and I actually found myself skimming over some of these parts. (Please don’t kill me.) I also had issues with the pacing and inconsistencies with Meyer’s writing. There were several chapters that just seemed like a filler, with no real purpose to the plot, and if I’m being honest, the novel didn’t get interesting until about 60% in.
Though I understand that the writer needs to spend time building the world and relationships, as well as the characters, it didn’t work for me because I still never got attached to the story line or to characters. Some parts of the novel were just hard to get through, and once something interesting actually happened, it happened very quickly and was quite predictable. Obviously it is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland so readers already know where the plot is heading, but I just feel like Meyers never delivered a shock factor or a moment in the novel that clicked with me.
I also didn’t really LOVE the characters of the novel. Perhaps it was all a little too predictable for me. The romance between Catherine and Jest also felt very superficial and almost fake. I wasn’t invested in their relationship, nor did I find their love very believable. This was quite disappointing considering the level of how much I enjoy a book is extremely dependent on the characters. After all, they are the ones that essentially carry the plot. No case of “the feels” this time.
Though I did enjoy Cath as the main protagonist, I found myself quite disappointed with Meyer’s execution of her character development. Right from the synopsis and the original story line of the Queen of Hearts, readers already know where the plot is going. However, I thought that Cath’s transition into the raging, murderous queen that we know her as was extremely rushed. It was like one day she was the most sought after girl in Wonderland with a passion for baking and a heart of gold, to being evil, vengeful, and heartless (pun intended) the next. Her transition wasn’t believable to me and I wasn’t able to buy into the series of events that led to her becoming the Queen of Hearts that readers know.
One of the aspects that I enjoy so much about retelling is the integration of the original plot into the author’s piece of writing. The click that readers get when the recognition of integrated characters and events is one that I enjoyed thoroughly throughout the Lunar Chronicles, especially since the world that Meyer created for that series was so different and spectacular. The fairy tales that were being retold were also mainstream, such as Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Red Riding Hood. I can admit that Alice in Wonderland isn’t my favorite story so I never really got into it. Perhaps someone who holds the story close to their heart or is quite familiar with the Alice in Wonderland story would enjoy this novel more.
Heartless was a frustrating read for me. It was definitely disappointing for me considering I had waited a whole year after finishing the Lunar Chronicles for my fix, only to have it not live up to my expectations or the hype surrounding it. Perhaps it is my own fault for anticipating what I thought it “should” be. Meyer’s beautiful writing is the only thing that really got me through this slow novel. If you’re interested in fairy tale retelling or are just searching for a great series to read, stick to The Lunar Chronicles.