Author: Marissa Meyer
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Release Date: 9th February 2017
Publishers: Macmillan Children’s Books
No. Pages: 464
Buy at: BookDepository | Wordery | Amazon
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. 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.
Meyer’s debut series, The Lunar Chronicles, is one of my favourites. So, to say my expectations for her newest book were high would be an understatement.
Heartless in a nutshell is the origin story of the tyrannical Queen of Hearts. The story follows Catherine, a talented baker who one day hopes to open her own bakery, despite her mother’s rampant disapproval. Her mother hopes for Catherine to one day become queen, and it seems like her wish is going to be granted when the King of Hearts makes his intentions to propose to Cath known. However, when Catherine meets Jest, the King’s new joker, she’s immediately attracted to him and the pair enter into a secret courtship.
Even though I finished this book some time ago, I still can’t decide if I like Catherine or not. Whilst I admire her desire to go out and build her own business in a very sexist society, she doesn’t actually do anything to make it a reality. The majority of this book is spent with Catherine talking about how she doesn’t want to marry the king and how all she ever wanted was her bakery, and it’s fine for the first 100 pages but after a while it gets a little tiresome (especially since it feels like all talk and very little action). There were times whilst reading this that I wanted to climb into the book and scream at Cath to stick up for herself. Whilst in the last few chapters she definitely improves, I do think it happened too late for me to suddenly love her character.
Cath isn’t the only character I was feeling a bit ‘meh’ towards. I also really did not care about Jest – who is your typical dark-but-actually-a-sweetheart YA male character. I think part of the reason I didn’t enjoy this book more is because of how little I cared for the romance, which is essentially most of the plot. It’s not that the relationship was bad, it was just suffering from a very bad case of insta-love. Had Meyer spent more time developing the relationship and giving us a reason as to why these two should be together, maybe I would’ve been more invested.
In contrast, I did enjoy Hatta who was probably my favourite character. I absolutely loved the backstory Meyer gave him and I wouldn’t mind reading a book about him instead.
In terms of plot, this book was lackluster. Apart from the romance, it focuses very heavily on the King’s, a ridiculous and childish man, attempts to court Cath. Minus a few Jabberwock appearances, there was no action. The last few chapters do pick up and they definitely saved the book for me but they still weren’t enough to make me love it.
The world-building was also not what I expected/wanted. Whilst we do have a range of strange and eccentric characters that resemble the types of characters you’d expect in wonderland, the setting feels nothing like it. The book is set almost entirely in the kingdom of Hearts which lacked the whimsical feel of wonderland and could’ve been any old kingdom set in the real world.
I think Meyer is a wonderful story-teller and even though I wasn’t wowed by the plot of this book I still wanted to keep reading simply because of her style. I’ll definitely still give her next release a chance, although my expectations will be significantly lower going into it.