Book Review: Heartless

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I’ve decided that it’d be good practice to write book reviews and post them here.  This will not be the main purpose of the blog, nor will the reviews be a regularly scheduled feature.  I read books slowly, so expect maybe 15-20 reviews a year if I keep this up.

Okay, let’s get this started:

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars

Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass.  Neither the books nor the various movies really appeal to me.  That being said, the blurb for this book made me curious enough to download a sample, which led to me reading the entire book.
My main concern for this book was that Catherine’s metamorphosis from hopeful young girl to the tyrannical Queen of Hearts would be abrupt and not built up properly.  After all, we already know how the story ends, so Cath’s transformation is the whole point of the book.  I needn’t have worried.  Cath shows signs of the “Queen of Hearts” personality in the early parts of the book: she is temperamental and easily frustrated.  And at the end, her new role and personality emerge from a tragedy that no one else in Hearts is really willing to empathize with.  After all, she is now a queen.  What life could be better?
The story is solid and makes good use of various parts of the Lewis Carroll mythos (with a nursery rhyme thrown in).  However, I did guess one of the major twists less than halfway through, so the plot can’t be called subtle. There are a couple of subplots and some elements that all tie together neatly during and after the climax.  Cath’s love interest, Jest, fits well into the world of Wonderland, which is difficult to do with an original character.  Even so, at first he seems a little too perfect, so it’s a relief when he starts displaying insecurities and hesitation.
I believe that my main issue with Wonderland is that the original books and further adaptations are a little bit too whimsical and dream-like, which leaves me with nothing to relate to.  Marissa Meyer hits a sweet spot here.  The Kingdom of Hearts feels like a real place, while still being whimsical and colorful enough to be identifiable as part of Wonderland.  An interesting point to note is that the Kingdom of Hearts still has forms of magic which are unknown to it.  You’d think the outlandish would be mundane in Wonderland, but its characters are still capable of being amazed, bewitched, and terrified by the impossible.
Overall, I would highly recommend this stand-alone book.

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