ARC Review: Heartless


Title: Heartless

Author: Marissa Meyer

Series: N/A

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Release Date: February 9th 2017


Four Stars

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 favourite 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.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“This was why she enjoyed baking. A good dessert could make her feel like she’d created joy at the tips of her fingers. Suddenly, the people around the table were no longer strangers. They were friends and confidantes, and she was sharing with them her magic.”

I was really excited for this book to be released. I am a massive fan of both Marissa Meyer and Alice in Wonderland, so a book by one of my favourite authors inspired by one of my favourite fairytales was always going to be an auto-buy for me. I’ve seen some mixed reviews for Heartless but overall I really enjoyed it; the plot was kind of slow to start and there was a little insta-love between Cath and Jest, but overall it was a great story.

As the daughter of a marquess Cath is destined for greater things than owning a bakery with her best friend, but that is what she wants. She is a great baker; all of the Wonderland courtiers and the King love her desserts, and together with Mary Ann who has a head for numbers Cath believes she can be a success. But when she discovers by accident that the King intends to ask for her hand it puts all her plans in disarray.

She flees from the ball with the help of Cheshire and Jest, the new Joker in the court of Hearts, and manages to miss the Jabberwocky attack that later occurs.

Cheshire’s yellow eyes slitted as he held her gaze for one beat, two. Then he began to unravel from the tip of his tail, a slow unwinding of his stripes. “These things do not happen in dreams, dear girl,” he said, vanishing up to his neck. “They happen only in nightmares.”
His head spiralled and he was gone.

The Kingdom of Hearts is scared, but all Cath’s parents can think of is the King asking for her hand. Cath plans to say no, all the while working towards her goal of opening her own bakery and spending more time with Jest. But while attending a tea party Cath finds herself in the middle of a Jabberwocky attack, and later discovers there’s more to Jest than what she’s seen so far.

For the most part this book was about Cath’s journey, her discovering who she is and what she wants out of life. It seems like everyone wants something from her that Cath herself doesn’t want. All Cath wants is to open a bakery with Mary Ann, a dream she seems determined to make a reality no matter how many people believe otherwise.

…The Characters

“You’re the daughter of a marquess. Look around. Look at the things you have, the life you’re accustomed to. You don’t know what it’s like to work every day so you can feed yourself and keep a roof over your head. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. To be a servant.”

Cath is a dreamer; ever since she started baking and discovered her love for it she has been holding tight onto the dream of owning the best bakery in all of Hearts. She keeps believing in her dream even with her mother pressuring her to marry the King and Mary Ann starting to doubt whether their dream will become a reality. Cath wants to live her own life following her own dream and falling in love herself rather than being forced into a marriage she doesn’t want.

Even in the beginning you can see the glimmers of the mad Queen of Hearts you know from the original tale in Cath. Some of her thoughts, that may only there for an instant, are dark and slightly mad.

“You’ve had me mesmerized from the first moment I saw you in that red dress, and I don’t know what to do about it, other than use every skill at my disposal to try and mesmerize you back.”

Jest is a wonder; he’s magic and probably slightly mad himself. Jest knows a lot more than what he reveals to Cath, and his own thoughts and emotions are very hard to read. He seems to have feelings for Cath, seeking her out, even if it’s just meeting her eyes in the middle of a crowd, but at the same time he’s helping the King with his courtship and telling Cath she should accept his proposal. I don’t think Jest himself knows what he really wants but there is part of him that is drawn to Cath.

It felt a little bit too much like insta-love between Cath and Jest. When their eyes meet for the first time at the ball there is an instant attraction between them but after that they seem to fall in love very quickly. The relationship between them is heartbreaking at the same time though; based on the original story you know how things turn out for Cath, and you know what that must mean for her and Jest at some point.

“So?” he prodded.
She blinked. “So what?”
“Was it a good dream?”
“Oh.” Her lips puckered in thought, but then she realized he was teasing her. She scowled. “To be frank, I found it rather dull.”
“Ah, but you can’t be Frank. You’ve already told me that your name is Catherine.”
“I’ve changed it.”

The relationship Cath has with her parents is a distant one. Her father constantly seems cowed by her mother’s determination and strong will, and all her mother wants is for Cath to marry the King. They say they love her and only want her to be happy but at the same time they seem to override her wishes for what they think is best for her. Maybe that’s what parents are supposed to do but you can see how it affects Cath trying to make her parents proud of her while still following her dreams.

…The Setting

“I heard the most delightful tale at the party today,” he said, dabbing his napkin at the corner of his moustache, “about a little girl who discovered an upward-falling rabbit hole just off the Crossroads, and when she started to climb, her body fell up and up—”

One of the things I most looked forwards to in Heartless was the setting of Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland is my favourite story and I loved the opportunity to go back and see it before Alice fell down the rabbit hole. There was more history behind the King of Hearts and the marquess of Rock Turtle Cove, more history behind Hatta and the Red and White Queens of the kingdom of Chess. There’s the Jabberwocky, the vorpal sword, croquet and tea parties. However at the same time Cath’s life feels more like it belongs in Regency era England than among the courtiers of Wonderland. I loved this book but at the same time I wish there had been a little more of the crazy Wonderland influences I loved so much in the original tale.

If you’ve read Alice in Wonderland then you know how this story ends for Cath, but despite that you still hope for a different ending to her tale; at least I certainly did. It was hard to read this at times knowing Cath’s happiness would never last, but at the same time it was wonderful getting this new look into the life of the Queen of Hearts before Alice tumbled into Wonderland.

What did you think of Heartless? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

39 thoughts on “ARC Review: Heartless

    1. Wow I can’t believe you haven’t gotten around to this one yet either! Especially considering it came out in the US a good three months before it did the UK.
      Hopefully you’ll be able to get around to it soon though and hopefully you’ll really enjoy it as well! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed this! This author is, if anything, on a great run. One greatly praised book after another. I have to say that I didn’t know food was such a big part of the story hahah That’s definitely a nice little twist. Then again, when I think about it. Baked goods in Wonderland? Sounds like a perfect match! 😀

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah overall it was a really good story, then again I think Marissa Meyer could publish her shopping list and I’d say the same thing about it. The food aspects were a great addition, oh I loved the descriptions of everything Cath baked. Desserts and Wonderland is a perfect combination in my opinion as well! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so happy that you enjoyed this book, too, Beth! ❤ Jest is so swoon-worthy and I really liked Cath's characters, even though she could be a bit boring at times. I agree that the connection between Jest and Cath was a bit too insta-love, but the way Meyer wrote their relationship was so sweet and heartbreaking, I didn't mind it in the end. I was looking for a bit more Wonderland description, as well. There were quite a few references, but I thought there could have been more done with the setting. And even though the ending was to be expected, I still thought it was so sad 😦 Marissa dis really well with this retelling I think! Amazing review, Beth! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah overall I really enjoyed it. Jest and Cath were both amazing characters, I really connected with them from the beginning and actually I didn’t really find Cath that boring. The insta-love could have bothered me a lot more in this book but I think like you said the way Marissa Meyer wrote their story just made me able to overlook it. I wish there had been more made of Wonderland, the references were fine but there could have been a lot more developed of the world.
      Oh I knew the ending was coming but I still hoped there’d be a happy ending. Overall though I’m kind of glad Marissa Meyer stayed true to the original tale.
      Thanks so much Azia! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, the world-building was much weaker than expected, but the characters kept the story aloft 😀
        Deep down I was wishing for a happy ending, but that’s just not how this story goes haha.
        No worries! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly, I think for me character development is needed for me to be able to connect with the story itself. If I don’t care about the characters I won’t care about the story.
        I like to imagine what could have happened, give Cath and Jest a happy ending in my head at least! 🙂


  3. Great review, Beth! I read this a while back (I think it was published in Aus a bit earlier) and would agree re: Jest and Cath’s romance being a bit insta-lovey, though I generally enjoyed the book. Cath’s relationship with her parents really resonated with me — I relate to the whole “parents want the best for you but discount your wishes” thing that can get a bit complicated sometimes. 😛

    That ending killed me! I’m not a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland (that’s to say I’m not an anti-fan; I’ve just never really been that into it) and ended up quite surprised by how it all happened. Such a shame, but I guess it stayed “true” to the original story like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Reg, and it probably was, we got it really late here in the UK for some reason. I still enjoyed Cath and Jest’s relationship but it could have been stronger, I’ve read other books where insta-love has been something I have just hated so I guess it wasn’t as bad in this one could I could look past it.
      I think in the end most parents are like that; it’s down to how well they handle it as well as how well you handle it you know? I guess in Heartless Cath’s parents didn’t handle it well at all.
      I like how the ending stayed true to the original story but I still hoped for something more. I wanted them to have their happily ever after but I guess it just wasn’t to be. I still loved the ending though it killed me a little.


  4. Lovely review, Beth, and I’m glad to hear you’re among the people who enjoyed this book! I haven’t read it yet and I’ve been wondering whether or not I should, because well, bad reviews got to me a bit haha. However, I think I might be able to take the insta-love a bit, I’m very curious about this story now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie! 🙂 There are mixed reviews for this book but I think part of what helped me enjoy it more is that I hadn’t actually read any of them so my opinion wasn’t influenced by what other people had already said in their reviews. I do find that with books sometimes, if I read too many negative reviews before starting a book, I’ll pick up on everything the reviewers mentioned.
      If you do read it I hope you enjoy it as much as The Lunar Chronicles series which I know you loved! And actually the insta-love wasn’t too bad, I’ve read books with worse instances of it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You could always read Heartless first (as you haven’t already) and then read Alice in Wonderland afterwards to act as a sequel story. It’s kind of what I want to do now I’ve read Heartless.
      Thanks Donna, I hope you decide to give both books a chance and really enjoy them as well. 🙂


  5. I really enjoyed this one, too. I’m seen some people suggest Cath is annoying, which I suppose is true at times, but I think you’re right in noting that it’s probably glimmers of the characteristics that eventually lead her to become a villain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a really great retelling wasn’t it? Overall Cath’s character didn’t actually annoy me at all. I really did feel for her at times, but yeah you got glimpses of what made her the Queen of Hearts in the Alice in Wonderland book we all know so well. I almost want to see more of this story, more of Cath before Alice falls down the rabbit hole.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I’m sad it’s apparently not a series. (Also, I was kind of up for a sequel where she tramped about the other kingdom rising from pawn to queen. Maybe we can at least get a Jest prequel or something.)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad you ended up enjoying Heartless, Beth! 😃
    I’ve heard a lot of great things about it but then some mixed things as well. I really need to finally read it sometime this year since I got a copy in one of my OwlCrates. I’m really intrigued by the fact that it’s more of a villain backstory rather than a straightforward retelling. Plus, I hear that it talks about a lot of desserts. Did you end up wanting something sweet while reading it? lol
    I’m a little worried about the whole insta-loveish aspect but I think I could look past it. Great review as always! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it was definitely an enjoyable book, and it was one I had high hopes for which made it even better! 😀
      There are a few mixed reviews out there. I guess this is one you just need to read and judge for yourself more than anything else, but given you’ve got a copy already there’s nothing to stop you getting started on it soon is there! 🙂
      I loved being able to get this glimpse into Cath before she became the Queen of Hearts, it definitely added a little more to the character I remember from Alice in Wonderland, and yeah the desserts and food definitely made me wish I had someone like Cath who could bake me all those treats! 😀
      The insta-love aspect didn’t bug me as much as it could have which I guess is a positive thing. Hopefully you’ll be able to look past it and enjoy this book as well Melissa. Thanks! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s good to hear! Yeah, it does seem like one of those reads that really depends on the reader more than anything. But yeah, I will definitely be trying to go to is this year since I have a copy.
        I can so see myself want to bake a lot or just go to the store for sweets. I’m terrible when it comes to books that describe food. I always ended up wanting what they describe. 😂
        That’s good to hear about the insta-love. I hope so too. You’re welcome, Beth!! 😊♥

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m sure if you go into this book with an open mind it will be one you really enjoy. I was really excited for Heartless and while it wasn’t quite what I expected I still thought it was a brilliant read so I’m sure you will too.
        It made me so hungry as well. Honestly the descriptions of Cath’s food and the way she bakes made me want to try some of her recipes. I may have to one day actually. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. “It was hard to read this at times knowing Cath’s happiness would never last, but at the same time it was wonderful getting this new look into the life of the Queen of Hearts before Alice tumbled into Wonderland.”

    Yes!!!! This!! I felt this exact way whilst reading this book as well. I remember telling Lilly from Lair of Books that I felt like my heart was going to break because we knew the outcome of this story. It wasn’t a happily ever after. I thought this was a wonderful retelling of the Queen of Hearts. And like you stated, it was great seeing all these characters before Alice came into the picture.

    Great review as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, because you can’t help but hope can you. Like when Cath, Jest and the others start making their way to the other Kingdom (Chess isn’t it?) you somehow think maybe everything will be OK and they’ll get a happy ending, and it just hurts even more when it doesn’t turn out that way. Oh this was a brilliant retelling of the Queen of Hearts, then again I didn’t really expect anything else from Marissa Meyer. Heartless left me with a strong need to re-read the original Alice in Wonderland again so it could act as a sequel almost! 😀
      Thanks Gretchen.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would love to see Marissa Meyer write more on her spin of Alice and other characters in this world. Maybe even have Hatter have his own story. Idk it would just be so cool! And you’re welcoem

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely a brilliant book. I can’t say it’s my favourite Alice in Wonderland retelling, or even my favourite book by Marissa Meyer, but it’s still amazing. Oh I hope you love The Lunar Chronicles in that case, that is one of my all-time favourite series, honestly I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone! 😀
      Also thanks for the link, I’ll definitely check out your review.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I own this one and I STILL have yet to read this, but I’m to see you enjoyed it! I’ve also heard mixed things about this one, but I’m still totally pumped to read it. Not to mention the book is stunning. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least you own it, that’s halfway to reading it. It’s not released in the UK for another couple of weeks which is why I was so glads to get an ARC of it but I’d started hearing mixed things when it was released in the US. Still I was really excited for it as well, it’s Marissa Meyer and Alice in Wonderland, who wouldn’t be?
      Definitely stunning. I can’t wait to get my hands on my actual physical copy of it! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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