Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

'Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favourite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. 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 a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans'. (Goodreads)

This book was whimsical, confusing and fascinating. Meyer’s intertextual references were intriguing. I found a blend of Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Disney’s somewhat interesting adaptation, and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010). The novel is not a retelling, as I have seen it referred to so frequently, but rather an origin story. It is the origin of the notorious Queen of Hearts, and of the infamous phrase that is ‘off with their heads!’ Additionally we are provided with some eagerly anticipated answers to the familiar question of ‘why is a raven like a writing desk?’

Heartless was possibly one of the most anticipated young adult novels of the year for me. Having of a love of the setting of Wonderland and of Alice’s character, I didn’t think it would be possible for me to form a stronger bond and feel more attached to another Wonderland character other than her. However, Catherine Pinkerton stole my heart. It was her development from an ambitious girl with dreams of opening a bakery with her best friend to the much feared Queen of Hearts that keep me captivated throughout.

However, Meyer's intertextual references were also intriguing and amusing with the Raven quoting lines from Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven'. The Raven uses language such as 'nevermore' I found this interesting and a clear example of the fact that Meyer hadn't decided to write Heartless without conducting extensive research first.

The novel opens and allows us entry into a Wonderland that any fan of Alice in Wonderland would be all too familiar with. However, we are introduced to new characters such as the ‘silly’ King of Hearts, our protagonist, and her oppressive parents. It was Catherine’s strained relationship with her parents that pained me the most. Their very characters were a constant source of angst throughout the novel. I very quickly, however, became attached to the heroine that has the ability to dream up fruit trees in the garden and has an extraordinary talent for baking.

However, due to Catherine being our current guide through the world of Wonderland, her development means that the novel begins to take on a sinister tone. As a reader I began to hope that the inevitable future of the Queen of Hearts would not be actualised.

 With regard to other characters in Meyer’s Wonderland, I was very pleased and entertained. I found the Cheshire cat to be very much himself, selfish and unhelpful. He appeared momentarily though-out to offer unnecessary facts to Catherine. However, at the point of the climax in the text, I felt that Cheshire broke character and appeared to be sympathetic toward Catherine’s impossible dream of the bakery. But this lapse in harshness and madness and introduction of sympathy to his character was unwelcome by my imagination.

 However, a character I did not enjoy was Meyer's portrayal of the Hatter. The Hatter is one of the characters I fell in love with after Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in 2010. I felt a distance, however, from his character in Heartless. I felt that, especially toward the climax and end of the novel, the Hatter was sinister in his madness and riddles. Perhaps this was because I was viewing the Hatter through the eyes of Lady Pinkerton. I found his character irritating unfortunately.

Having said that, the best parts of the Hater that I had originally hoped for were embodied by the Joker for the Court of Hearts, introduced to us as Jest. I think that this made up for it. Jest was much more endearing on the basis of him being Catherine's love interest.

To conclude, I felt Heartless was stimulating. It embodied everything that I'd originally fell I love with regarding Wonderland. Origin stories such as Heartless, and Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars trilogy, enable Wonderland to be so accessible.

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

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