A year ago when several lucky booktubers were hauling an advanced reader’s copy of “Heartless”, a new stand alone novel by Marissa Meyer, I was feeling rather jealous. The ARC looked stunning and the final version was beautiful too. I had not read a single book by the author, but I was extremely interested in reading “Heartless”.
“Heartless” is a retelling of a story about Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Catherine might be a daughter of marques, but her dream is to become a baker and open her bakery. Her mother, however, dreams of her daughter to be wed to the King of Hearts. Catherine is struggling to find the balance between her parents’ wishes and her own dreams, until one day she meets Jest, a royal joker, and she is immediately attracted to him. But nothing is what it seems, and their secret courtship is overshadowed not only by the impending marriage to the king, but also the attacks by hideous and murderous monster named Jabberwock.
In spite of a great premise, I felt disappointed by the book. I read the first 100 pages and then got stuck, not because I hated the writing or was completely not interested in the plot, but rather because the story felt too slow-paced and too reflective for my taste. I felt almost bored when I was reading it, that is why I found myself picking up the book less and less, until I put it aside for a month or two. Frustrated, I decided to switch to an audiobook version, especially since I found out that it was narrated by Rebecca Soler, who voiced Nimona, and whom I rather liked.
So, I switched to an audiobook, started from the very beginning, and found that, although it was much easier to get through “Heartless” while colouring or doing something else, I was still getting annoyed by the fact that almost nothing was happening. Cath seemed too weak-willed to turn into a real Queen of Hearts. Her shiness and modesty didn’t match with the image of the queen yelling “Off with their heads!”. Jest was intriguing enough, but too good to be true, and I kept waiting for a big dirty secret to be revealed about his past and, unfortunately, was let down. I found some of the secondary characters more interesting than Cath herself.
However, no matter how many problems I had with the action and plot, I found the world wonderfully written. Marissa Meyer did an amazing job intertwining all the elements from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass world together into something that was very fascinating on its own. I would have loved another book set in this world, but not related to “Hearltess” in the plot.
Although Rebecca Soler does a great job voicing different characters, I found her British accent quite annoying and unnecessary. Her Cheshire and Hatter sounded too similar at times. Her King was extremely annoying (purposefully, I assume). Jest was lovely, but I could barely stand Cath or her friend Mary-Ann (not sure if it was because Rebecca is so good of a narrator of it is because I just disliked the characters).
I think the downfall of Heartless for me lies in the predictability of the ending. I mean, we all know what kind of character Queen of Hearts was in Lewis Carroll’s books, so it was never about the ending, but rather about the journey to that ending. ‘The journey’ failed to deliver and ‘the ending’ was just as expected, which turned this book, to my surprise, into a three star read.
I enjoyed the book, I liked the world and some characters a lot. I think that it was very well written. But the plot line made me want to grab the book and shake it until everything gets mixed inside and all the puzzle pieces finally fall into right places. I am still on the fence about how I feel about the book. I liked it, but I might have overhyped it to myself (I wanted to be so badly swept off my feet by it!), so it turned out to be a letdown. It is in no way as bad as some other retellings - it is well written! But it could have been so much better!
Therefore, I am splitting the ratings as follows, as I am not able to give just one rating to this book:
Plot: 3 stars
World/characters: 4.5 stars
Narration: 4 stars
Overall: 3.5 stars
If the author ever decides to write another book in this universe, that would have a completely original plot, I would totally down for it. Otherwise, I am glad that I only spent an Audible credit for an audiobook and didn’t succumb to the urge to buy a physical copy, no matter how pretty the cover is.
P.S. I am totally NOT OKAY with what Marissa Meyer did with Jest and Hatter at the very end. NOPE. That was just UNFAIR.