'She fidgeted with a yellow ribbon. 'With this hat, it seems possible. Why' - her eyes brightened - 'this morning, I even had a fantasy that I'd single-handedly balanced the budget for the Royal treasury, and all of Hearts saw me as a hero.''
I bought this book as a preorder because I was so excited about the blurb. It took me 2.5 months to waft through, so it might not come as a surprise that I didn't really completely enjoy it.
Heartless is written by Marissa Meyer, who's mostly famous for her Lunar Chronicles -series, which are reimaginations of classic fairy tales. (Which I've not read and after this one, never might) Heartless is different in that it's the origin story of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, so it's kind of like a supervillain's origin story. No, exactly like one.
Catherine Pinkerton is, at the heart of things, a very likeable character. She is the daughter of the Marchioness and has somehow caught the attention of the King of Hearts, who wants to marry her. This couldn't be farther away from Cath's wishes, as she just wants to open a bakery with her servant/best friend, Mary Ann. She also meets a court jester (called Jest, haha wow such creativity) who manages to steal her heart almost instantly. She can't just marry the King, whom she doesn't even love, can she?
What did work for me in this book is that it was generally well-written. The description was good and the dialogue okay. I liked most of the characters, and especially Cath herself and Mary Ann were very likeable. On the other hand, while I initially swooned over Jest much like Cath did, I soon found that as a character, he was boring, cardboardy, chivalrous, too good to be interesting in any level. This is really a bad omen in a book were much of the centre is taken by how much I'm supposed to like him and want him and Cath to be together. I must admit I would've never been sad if Cath had just gotten over him and started that bakery with Mary Ann.
The main issue I had, however, was the plot. It is difficult to write something where everyone knows the ending - hello, she's the Red Queen, of course she marries the King of Hearts - but it can be done well. Just look at Romeo and Juliet and all those other "hey guess what, at the end everyone dies" -type of books. It can work, but it needs to be done in a good way, if you hear me? What Heartless tried is this 'did she or did she not' -game where plot twist after another has you trying to figure out whether she did marry the King or not. Instead, the focus really should be on how that happened.
With all these plot twists that didn't feel too interesting, the story also moves at an agonisingly slow pace. Sometimes I could swear it doesn't know which story it wants to tell and thus ends up picking up a cherry on top of each cake, one at a time.
In the background, there's all this "women aren't suited for the man's world of business" and "you shouldn't sell your dowry because that's your only worth" -stuff going on and it was actually a quite interesting portrayal of the Victorian times when that was the focus (not often). There were also some interesting slight undertones of study of determinism, which was quite cool. All the characters eventually got their own fates and no matter how no one wants it, fate is fate.
Anyway, 2/5, wouldn't recommend but a ton of people seem to love this so maybe I'm the one who's wrong.
For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this book in category 14: A book you’d choose by its summary on the book cover.