Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Monday 25 September 2017

Long before Alice fell down the rabbit hole...
And before the roses were painted red...
The Queen of Hearts was just a girl, in love for the first time.

I want to say that Marissa Meyer has done it again, that this is just as good as Fairest, that it's a great 'before they were bad' story. But I can't. I can't, and that pains me because I love Meyer's work, I do. I just... Didn't enjoy this.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting, given that I'm not the biggest fan of Alice in Wonderland. But I seemed to forget this - or at least thought Meyer would use the original tale as a much looser inspiration - and I went into this, blinded by the idea of a villain's prequel story from one of my favourite authors.

Oh how I wish I hadn't. I blame myself, entirely, as I know that I don't like Alice in Wonderland so why did I expect this to be any different? Yes, it's a retelling, but it's still set in the nonsense world of Wonderland that drives me up the wall. Things are bizarre and quirky just for the sake of it, and there are no explanations for anything because - you know - it's Wonderland! Weird is normal! Wacky is accepted! But it's not enjoyable to me! And I can't help but feel that if you aren't familiar with the story of Alice the setting could be quite alienating.

Gripes about the world aside, I also have plenty of problems with the plot. And the pacing. And all of the characters. And basically everything about this book other than the writing style, which was its saving grace. Meyer is talented - I'm not disputing that - she just let me down with this. I felt that there was no real story. We just followed Catherine around as she baked and fought with her mother and whined about the King. There were a few side plots (namely the Jabberwock and the whole pumpkin thing) but I felt that there was never any real sense of urgency or importance. They were just added for the hell of it, never fully explained, and resolved poorly as I had guessed the ending at least 200 pages before Cath learnt the truth. There was the potential to make this a thrilling, action-packed tale of Catherine becoming a hero and dealing with the monster plaguing Hearts. But no. Instead she whines and moans and says one thing but does the exact opposite, takes absolutely no responsibility for anything she does, and turns into such cow. I could never tell if she truly disliked the King, or if she was just saying it for the attention and to be a pain, because she hardly ever acted on anything. I can't blame her for being meek around her parents - her mother is truly horrid - but every other instance? Gah, she was infuriating!

And the love interest. Please don't get me started on him. Not because I disliked him, or because he was bad to Cath - I actually didn't really mind him and could brush most of the romance aside. Which is an odd thing to say, seeing as how the book kind of revolves around romance. I was just mightily confused by him. And not because he was an especially complex character. Okay, there's a bit of mystery surrounding him, but he's not too hard to understand. Except he is. Because I felt Meyer didn't explain things clearly. He tells Cath the truth but in the next breath says something contradictory. He's all sweetness trying to spare Cath from being punished, but the way in which he goes about it is either so fake or so convincing that I was left thinking that he hated her.

Not even the change in tone in the last 100 pages could save this for me, which I am quite upset by. Things changed from whimsical and wishy-washy to dark and foreboding, but it was too little too late. By that point, I'd guessed most of what was going on and was too annoyed by the rest of the story to fully appreciate the dark side of Wonderland. Perhaps if it had been a bit shorter and more plot driven I would have liked this more, but as it stands I can't say that I really enjoyed this.

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