by Marissa Meyer

Overview -

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.  Read more...

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More About Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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.

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

  • ISBN-13: 9781250044655
  • ISBN-10: 1250044650
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
  • Publish Date: November 2016
  • Page Count: 464
  • Reading Level: Ages 12-18
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Young Adult Fiction > Fantasy - General
Books > Young Adult Fiction > Romance - General
Books > Young Adult Fiction > Fairy Tales & Folklore - Adaptations

BookPage Reviews

This evil queen's got her reasons

Heartless is the stuff of dreams, but not always happy ones.

In her bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer enthralled fans with super-cool sci-fi takes on Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White. In Heartless, she turns her attention to a fairy-tale character who, in our popular imagination, isn’t considered as goodhearted as her fantastical peers—because her catchphrase is, “Off with their heads!”

The urge to figure out why someone behaves a certain way, especially when their actions seem inexplicably rude (or murderous), is not uncommon—so readers who delight in psychological analysis will love Heartless, Meyer’s first standalone young adult novel. It’s a backstory for the Queen of Hearts that has a little bit of everything: adventure, romance, familial strife, betrayal, terrifying monsters . . . plus the Hatter and the Caterpillar, among other beloved Lewis Carroll characters.

Heartless begins with our heroine (and eventual anti-heroine), Catherine, called Cath, baking scrumptious lemon tarts and commiserating with her gossipy friend, the Cheshire Cat. She secretly dreams of opening a bakery with her friend Mary Ann, one of the maids who works for Cath’s parents. 

Alas, Cath doesn’t realize just how strongly her parents will object to her becoming a business owner; they’re set on urging her into a romance with the foolish King, and Cath’s happiness is secondary, if that. As Meyer pulls readers further and further into Cath’s life, with its opulent clothing and fancy balls, magical vegetables and dancing lobsters, it becomes clear that the Kingdom of Hearts is a special, wondrous place—and that Cath is too naive, at first, to fully grasp her parents’ expectations or the risks she’d have to take if she wants to forge her own path.

“In telling Cath’s story, I wanted there to be a series of things going on in her life that would constantly push her down the pathway to becoming Queen of Hearts,” Meyer says in a call to her home in Washington state. “Everything becomes the perfect storm pushing her toward making these decisions. . . . At that age, we’re all trying to figure out who we are and what we’re trying to become, pushing against boundaries, trying to find that independence.”

Heartless is the stuff of dreams, but not always happy ones: There are plenty of nightmarish and danger-filled goings-on, just like in Carroll’s wacky and weird Wonderland (the Jabberwock makes its terrifying presence known, too).

When it comes to characters, Meyer says she “didn’t have a whole lot of trepidation” about pulling from Carroll’s stories, because “when you mention the Mad Hatter or White Rabbit, people know them, but nevertheless there’s very little information about them. So there was a lot of room to grow and explore, and give my own view and twist on them . . . to pay homage to and not go against them, but still take them and make them my own.”

One aspect of Carroll’s work did give Meyer a bit of pause: “I really wanted to respect the vibe . . . and his brilliant word work, turns of phrases, clever little jokes throughout the book,” she says. “I don’t consider myself a master wordsmith, so it was a challenge for me in writing this book.” This led to a lot of research, including multiple readings of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (three times) and Through the Looking Glass (twice), plus researching scholarly papers.

Naturally, Meyer also considers Gregory Maguire’s Wicked to be highly influential in the creation of Cath’s story. “I felt like the doors were open to take a villain so infamous and well known in our culture and turn her on her head, go back into her past and look at it, to figure out how she became the character we see in Alice in Wonderland.”

Though many writers begin writing stories later in life, the 32-year-old has always known this is what she wanted to do. Meyer has two degrees in writing, wrote copious fan fiction during her teen years and attempted her first novel at 16. “It was my dream from the start,” she says. In many ways, Heartless is a masterful, magical culmination of Meyer’s lifelong love of fairy tales—and not just the pretty, happy ones. 

“When I was a kid, my grandmother heard I liked Disney movies and gave me a book that included the original Little Mermaid story, which of course is nothing like the movie,” Meyer says with a laugh. “I was just horrified and so disappointed in it—but it also made me very curious. That’s what launched me into reading other fairy tales, and into wondering, what happened to the original Cinderella? Aladdin?”

Like the source-material fairy tales of yore, Heartless doesn’t gloss over the painful, heart-wrenching parts of Cath’s story—and readers get an extraordinary opportunity to see the Queen of Hearts as a bit less mysterious, to travel along with her as romance and dreams, desire and fate, terror and adventure collide—forever changing the trajectory of her life. 

It’s an imaginative, exciting, sometimes shocking read. After all, says Meyer, “It’s in our nature to want to sanitize and protect children from [scary, sad things], but kids are fascinated by this. . . . They can handle a lot more than we want to give them credit for.”


This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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