Heartless | Fangirl Friday

“But hoping”, he said, “is how the impossible can be possible after all.”

This book was a rollercoaster.
For two reasons. One. Emotionally I was prepared to be shattered into pieces. It’s about the life the Queen of Hearts had before being queen and we all know how her life turned out to be. So I was afraid of enjoying the happy parts. Two. Some parts were amazing. Lewis Carroll would have been proud. Others I really did not like – and would have changed.
I guess it’s easiest for me to talk about my feelings about the book, by analysing it’s components. Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite books of all time, I really love it and Cheshire and the Queen are two if my favourite characters (of all time, obvs). So, as soon as it was revealed Marissa would publish a book about the Queen of Hearts, I was madly excited, but then Amazon had some shipping issues, so I was glad when it arrived two days ago. And isn’t the cover gorgeous? Maybe even more so then the Lunar Chronicles ones, if I dare say so. I actually could have written about Fantastic Beasts this week, but I decided a book set in Wonderland written by Marissa Meyer is more important.

Heartless

Writing
Marissa Meyer’s writing is wonderful, I loved it since Cinder and still think it’s one of the most beautiful in English YA. And it is even more amazing in Heartless. She really managed to add those Lewis Carroll vibes to her own writing. I was on the verge of crying sometimes, because it was so beautiful. The way Marissa played with words in this one is enchanting.
I feel like I need to devote pages to her describing food, I was hungry during the entire read. Sure, this is not saying much, considering I’m always hungry. When Cath was talking about tarts, macarons and cake, I was practically drooling, because it’s not just “oh, here’s a macaron”, but a describtion so beautiful I see and taste that thing. And then cry, because it’s not actually here.

Cinnamon-roasted pecans, and a soft sticky bun, the type that melted on her tongue and coated her lips in honey and chrushed walnuts.

Tell me, you’re not drooling.

Characters
Of course, I have to mention Cheshire first, he is wonderful and such a beautiful interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s character – I have to admit, all the movies, books (excluding Alice in Zombieland, because it’s more of an AU) and pictures I came across blend together in a way, so I accept certain things that Carroll did not necessarily write as canon. Anyway, Cheshire is the cutest and probably my favourite in this book. A lot of the characters in Heartless change over the course of the book or you see them in a different light, but he is always an adorable fluff ball, that changed his fur colour matching the food he ate. He has a lot of unbiased judgement to him and often put the things I thought into words.

His wiskers twitched. “Won’t we be lucky to have you, miserable wretch you’ve become.”

Cath has two polar sides, she is very strong in some parts of the book and I truly admire her when her Queenly-ness comes through and she does not keep up with other people’s shit. But some of her actions are very weak and stupid, because she does not put any thought into them. I’m emotional and impulsive myself, but I think her main issue is that she does not take a real stand and a risk – sure Marissa does have to make her end up where she is when Alice’s Adventures begin. Yet I was wondering why a character like the Queen of Hearts would not speak up to her parents at a much earlier point. After all, the angry personality boils within her from the very beginning, but by the end you really see the intriguing person the Queen of Hearts is and of course I’m biased because I liked her beforehand, but Marissa managed to turn a good character evil desperate in an angry, resentful way and still make you like the character (but then again, just think of Fairest). I have both empathy for her and am truly impressed.

“An empty threat from an empty girl.”

The Joker (which I can’t help but thinking of Batman) or Jest is often compared to Carswell, which I do not really see. Sure, he is a joking and (I guess) experienced guy, charming and at first I was really spellbound, but I soon found him to be too lovestruck and too little sassy. That of course is personal preference, yet I think he lost a bit of his charm when the whole love thing came along – which Carswell never did, he managed to pull off both, the struggle with being hopelessly devoted to (sorry, that was Grease) falling in love and still being a charming sarcastic idiot (or fool, if you will).

“What pride?” Cheshire folded his paws. “Our King is an ignoble idiot.”
A weak smile flittered over her lips. “So he is.”
“Of course, ignoble idiocy seems to be an epidemic around these parts.” Cheshire began to fade away. “So he shall not be alone.”

The other characters were close to the original without making them boring, Marissa did give them live and a story and I really enjoyed the Knave and was wishing for him to become a close friend of Cath’s (yes, I admit it, I was low-key shipping them even though they only had a few moments filled with anger).
The character I really disliked was the Mad Hatter/Hatta and I guess a lot of people do not appreciate that Meyer turned him into somewhat bad character (his reasons are explained later on, though I once was in a similar situation and he is just overreacting). But let me tell you, I loved what Marissa did. I’ve always had issues with the Hatter, I liked him sure, but I kind of enjoy this dark twist even more. And I think the way she did it turned out so amazing. You know, the way it is amazing when an author manages to pull of a character you dislike and you are both intrigued and somewhat appalled? That’s what she totally rocked here.

Romance
A few months back I was aching for a heart wrenching romance, but did not find one, I had that now when I wasn’t really looking for a tragedy. But I would have wished for it to be a bit more exciting, sure, I shipped them and wanted them to be happy, but a few more kisses would have been fine with me as well. I could relate to the instant attraction, I felt it myself once or twice, but since Cath is about to become the Queen of Hearts, I would have wished for it to be a bit more obsessive – you know what I mean?

Realizing with a sudden certainty that she was losing her heart to this fool.

Yes, I felt the sparks and stuff, the desparation, that made me want to end it before all the tragedy I expected would rush over them. Still, for me it was a bit of an instant love as well, a problem of standalones, I guess. For me it felt like they had met an entirety of one or two hours before declaring their undying love for each other. And I get it, there is passion, maybe some sort of fate, yet compared to The Lunar Chronicles – and especially Winter I have my issues with believing it.
Also, as Cheshire pointed out so wonderfully, there would have been alternatives for them.

“But if you were the Queen, perhaps you could have your cake and eat it, too.”
She cocked her head. “What’s the point of having cake if you can’t eat it?”
“I’m only saying that you might be the King’s wife, but who is to say you couldn’t also have more clandestine relations with the Joker?”

And let me be honest here, sure fidelity is great and imporant, in relationships you actively choose to be in. But if you get married for your parents sake, money, reputation (and in a book set in a fictional version of the Victorian era), why not have an affair with the one you love?
I’m aware that she has some other reasons not to marry the King, but as they vanish into oblivion… why the hell not? But the whole will they? won’t they? – could have done without it.
I want to mention as well, that I was totally aboard this Liz/Darcy thing the Duke and Margaret had going on.

Story
Now with all my critique on the romancy thing, I still want to say this is one of the best Alice based books I’ve read. Marissa says in the annotations:

I sincerly hope that the spirit of Lewis Carroll will find more amusement than offense in my attempts to expand on his crazy, kooky, quirky world.

And I think he totally would, she worked out a crazy and amazing background story for the Queen that is both working wonderfully with the story as a prequel and adding a lot of extra spark and new ideas. It is truly amazingly (too many adverbs?) worked out with all the things she involved in her story, from Time to the Hatter to the Jabberwock and back.

References
I think you have most fun reading this book, if you know Alice’s story quite well, because there a lot of little allusions towards the book that are not that obvious, I’d say. In a why she truly explains how the characters at Wonderland Alice encounters came to be and why there relationships are one way or another. Just thinking of the Duchess/Margaret her (and her cook and baby), not sure though if that wasn’t also a nod to Pride and Prejudice. There are indeed more references to other works of fiction, like Poe’s The Raven and Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater and the three fates of Greek mythology. And weaving those things into the story of Wonderland worked sooo well. though, of course all the allusions towards what’s to come for the folks down the rabbit whole make my heart smile. I think especially with the tarts and their importance to the queen was beautifully worked out with her being a baker herself (which I found a cute idea and dream indeed).

“These things do not happen in dreams, dear girl,” he said, vanishing up to his neck. “They happen only in nightmares.”

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