Friday, January 20, 2017

Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

When it comes to re-tellings of classic stories, I'm a bit hesitant to dive in. I'm always worried that it won't live up to my expectations or it won't contain the same magic that made me fall in love with the original story. Yet, I still find myself reading re-tellings frequently. (Especially fairy tale re-tellings. There are a plethora of those being published every single year.)

However, I've put my faith and trust (but not pixie dust, at least not yet) in Marissa Meyer's ability to write re-tellings. I adored The Lunar Chronicles, which if you don't know re-tells several beloved fairy tales as futuristic, science-fiction stories. (Honestly, it's a dream come true for this book lover.) So when I heard she was doing a re-telling of Alice in Wonderland and that it would be a prequel and that it would focus on the Queen of Hearts origin story... I was ecstatic.

So I went to an author signing and met Marissa Meyer (and attended a tea party talent show), and I held Heartless in my hands. And yet, I was still worried. Worried it wouldn't feel like Wonderland. Worried I would hate the characters. Worried I would care about the Queen of Hearts.

Well, I shouldn't have worried. Marissa Meyer pulled through and wrote a fun and interesting story that gave us a glimpse of the heart beneath the crown of a well-known literary villain.

The aspect I loved most about Heartless was the characters. Mainly Jest, but there were other ones I enjoyed as well. The tea party gang, the Cheshire Cat, and of course the Jabberwocky. These characters brought the story to life for me.

There were a lot of  wonderful moments with these characters from the tea party talent show to the revelation of Jest's abilities to the bakery contest and the formation of the Mock Turtle. These moments made the story magical and enjoyable. The characters plus the moments made me eager to continue reading.

The plot, also, was nail-biting. I mean, I knew it couldn't end well because it's a prequel about a infamous literary villain. But I kept hoping that something good would happen in the end. Every time I thought Cath would snap and the Queen of Hearts would finally emerge, something would spark an inkling of hope again. Of course, it does end with Cath turning into the Queen of Hearts, but the execution (pun definitely intended) of that scene was spot-on perfect that I couldn't help but smile. Basically, it was the perfect way to wrap up the story of about the Queen of Hearts.

The only disappointment is a lot of the world didn't feel in tune with what Lewis Carroll wrote. Frankly, it wasn't MAD enough. There weren't enough bizarre conversations or odd circumstances. There weren't enough riddles or wordplays and puns. Sure, there were some. And there were tons of little details and references to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that tied nicely into Heartless. But it felt like it was missing the biggest chunk of why I love Carroll's stories so much. Still, she did a great job exploring how certain things came to be in Wonderland before Alice arrives.

Overall, Heartless was enjoyable and entertaining for what it was: a fantasy story about a villain's origin. If you can look past the small-ish details of Wonderland (such as why there was a lot that had potential to be explored in another book perhaps--one about Jest?), I think you will find you can enjoy this book. If you like Marissa Meyer's previous work, you should definitely give it a chance. If you're a hardcore Lewis Carroll fan, you might want to skip it in favor of re-reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for the umpteenth time.

If you're looking for a fun, clean read, give Heartless a shot. You might surprise yourself, and you also probably need to meet Jest.

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