[Heartless]: A Review

Happy sunny Monday, my friends! It rained all week last week so we are super excited to already see the sun to begin this one!

Y’all. I am officially caught up on my reviews! This is the last book I read! That means I need to get reading 😉 I am, of course, reading several books simultaneously as I usually do. Loving The Alchemist so far–it’s fascinating! And enjoying Jo’s Boys and the familiar tone and storytelling style.

Today I am reviewing Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I was super excited to finally read this novel. I love Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series! Check out my reviews here (links to previous books in the post) and here. These fairytale retellings are so well written with such fun connections to the original stories. Go read them all!

Heartless is not connected to the Lunar Chronicles but is another retelling–this time we get the backstory on the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. And Meyer is again at her best.

This is a novel that you know the end from the beginning. It’s a prequel, after all. Cath becomes the Queen of Hearts (that isn’t really a spoiler). So look out for some spoilers in my review below. It’s just the nature of writing about this type of novel.

Initial Thoughts:

  • I loved all the clever allusions and details Meyer includes connecting her story to Carroll’s classic like the classic riddle “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” and the queen’s famous line “I’ve sometimes come to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” We also get some fun connections to Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven.”
  • Honestly, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is not my favorite children’s classic. I read and reviewed it for The Classics Club a few years ago. And while it’s certainly entertaining, it’s just so weird! I enjoy Disney’s animated adaptation best. But this story was really fun for me. I was captivated by the way Meyer recreates the Kingdom of Hearts.


Heartless by Marissa Meyer chronicles the backstory of the Queen of Hearts, before she became the intense queen that Alice meets in Wonderland. Goodreads summarizes, “Catherine may be 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 shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen. Then Cath 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 terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

“The easiest way to steal something, is for it to be given willingly.”

“Impossible is my specialty.”

“Over everything, I choose you”

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Meyer is fantastic at creating new stories completely connected to the original tale. She even writes in Carroll’s unique and quirky style! Sometimes between the confusing morals, the clever word play, and the quotes from the original novel, this book reads like Carroll himself wrote it. Meyer also has so many clever wonderland allusions from the vanishing Cheshire cat, to Cath’s friend Mary Ann, to the future moralizing duchess, the duke’s pepper loving cook, the singing flowers, Hatta’s famous tea parties, the hibernating door mouse, the mock turtle, and even an added dimension with Peter Peter and the Jabberwock. Meyer clearly sets her story in Wonderland with all its quirky, memorable details. I found myself constantly smiling or laughing at the ways she fit her story into the Wonderland paradigm. For me, that ability is one of Meyer’s greatest strengths as a writer.

Another of my favorite aspects of Meyer’s novels is her exciting, fast-paced plots. The action drives the story so intensely in this novel. I love Meyer’s writing style and always find her novels to be page turners. I was continually surprised by all the twists and turns that Cath goes on. As this is a prequel, I knew how it ended (Cath married the King of Hearts, not Jest) but, wow, what an incredible journey we go on to get to that ending! I could not believe how much happened in this novel. I think that makes it a great YA novel. YA fiction is all about compelling plots with crazy twists and edge of your seat action. This novel fits that description perfectly!

I also enjoyed the well developed and intriguing characters. Meyer is true to the mystery and oddity of Carroll’s famous characters like the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, March Hare, King of Hearts, the White Rabbit, and, of course, the Queen herself. My favorite characters were Cath, Jest and Hatta (the eventual mad hatter). I loved Cath’s optimism and dreams early in the novel. I loved how she fell in love and fought for Jest which makes her fall from happiness all the more tragic. I loved Jest because he was mysterious. He is the court jester and known for his ability to create magic and fool his audience. But he also falls in love making him more likable for me. And Hatta is just so beautifully written. He is a strange character in Carroll’s novel and we get such a neat backstory on how he tried to outrun Time and the madness he felt was coming. Getting more details about these famous characters was really neat!

“’Is this what’s going to make you happy?’ . . . . ‘How different everything could have been, if you had thought to ask me that before.’”

“To be all right implies an impossible phase. We hope for mostly right on the best of our days.”

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

**Spoilers ahead!

The one part of the novel I didn’t love was the ending. While I knew it was coming, it was just so dark! Again, I knew that Cath and Jest wouldn’t end up together, and I knew that Cath became the intimidating, tyrannical Queen of Hearts. That didn’t make the ending easier to accept. It breaks my heart when Cath loses her true love. But I was also disappointed that she allows her anger and vengeance to overpower her whole world. Again, I understand that Meyer is working within the Alice paradigm. It was just more angsty than I anticipated.

Overall, another fun and fast paced novel from a favorite YA author of mine! Meyer again creates a compelling, engaging story that had me on the edge of my seat. I love the way she incorporates the original story through specific details and characters. The ending was a bit dark for me which is why I’m not giving it 5 stars. Still a great novel that is as exciting and engaging as the Lunar Chronicles! Definitely a book for Alice fans and YA fantasy fans alike!

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What are your favorite fantasy retellings?
Do you love Alice in Wonderland? Why or why not?

5 thoughts on “[Heartless]: A Review

    1. She’s one of my favorite YA authors! Heartless is a standalone novel which is nice because you can finish it quickly. I love the Lunar Chronicles as well–there are 4 books in the main series then a short story collection and extra novel. That’s more of a commitment but also so clever and exciting! 🙂

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