Cath may be the greatest baker in all of Hearts. All she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend and maid, Mary Ann.
But Cath is also the daughter of a Marquess, and daughters of Marquess’ do not start businesses with their maids. Daughters of Marquess’ marry their King, if he has his eyes on her–and the King of Hearts certainly does.
Except Cath doesn’t love the King. He’s a simple man who, while fifteen years her senior, acts as though he’s fifteen years her junior. He, like most of the kingdom, prefers to sweep problems under the rug rather than take them head on. And he loves her baked goods, but even Cath knows Queens can’t be bakers.
Still, Cath goes along with the King’s advances to please her mother and society. What should she care, she will probably open her bakery, and reject the King in the end. And it’s not like she’s in love with anyone…
…until she meets the King’s new fool, Jest.
The first half of Heartless is brilliant. Up to par with what she presented in The Lunar Chronicles, Meyer’s Wonderland draws on the source material and makes it her own. I was entirely enchanted with her world. I loved how she didn’t explain the rules of Hearts, giving just enough context so the reader could accept aspects of the world without worrying too much over the details. I am, of course, referring to the dreams that result in material objects.
Likewise, her characters were well designed. I liked the way Cath’s obsession with food was conveyed through the language used to describe the desserts. I was completely enthralled with Jest, who was charming and kind. It was very easy to sympathize with Cath over the King (god, he was annoying). I especially appreciated how rounded Cath’s character was. I identified with her dreams, I understood her indecision, and I recognized her flaws and judgement.
But Heartless just drops the ball halfway through. It was such a strange experience–I was so invested in the story for the first half, and then it suddenly bored me. I can even pick out the exact scene where it happened.
I analyzed it for a while, and I think what made me so disinterested was that the story got lost in the source material. It tried clinging to original elements from Alice in Wonderland, without truly explaining it.
And I know I mentioned earlier in this review that I enjoyed how Meyer didn’t completely explain the rules of Hearts. But the rules of the treacle well, looking glasses, and the maze sort of need explaining. I didn’t understand the political struggles at all, and cramming this information without properly expanding upon it made me disinterested and distanced. It took the tension away from the climax. It took the excitement out of the ending.
And yet, I wouldn’t completely disregard the book. I think the story itself is fairly compelling in terms of considering the effects of our decisions, about who we put first, and about what happens when we aren’t active in our fate. I think I’m going to end up posting a few more thoughts on this later on, because despite it all, this novel really made me think. And while the story may not have been as compelling as I expected, the themes certainly were.
Final Verdict: Maybe. As much as I appreciate and respect Marissa Meyer, I don’t believe this was her best work. While I enjoyed her writing and premise, the story loses momentum halfway through.