Story Rating: 3 Stars
Performance Rating: 4 Stars
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars
I should preface this review by saying I generally have a distaste for stories I already know the endings to. Obviously I understand that that’s the whole point of this—that we know the ending, but not the path that got the characters there. Still, I was extremely apprehensive about investing myself in a novel that ends with me hating the main character. However, my love of Marissa Meyer and a friend’s recommendation gave me the motivation I needed to dive in.
Heartless is centered around Catherine Pinkerton (nicknamed Cath) who happens to be the future crazed Queen of Hearts that everyone loves to hate. Before she met the infamous Alice and became obsessed with decapitation, she was the daughter of Marquess Whelagig Pinkerton and Marchioness Idonia Pinkerton. Cath is a lady in every way, which is inconvenient because that’s the last thing she wants in life. Her true passion is baking and all she dreams about is opening a confection shop with her best friend and maid, Mary Ann. One night her bitching shrew of a mother comes to help Catherine get ready for a ball, making emotionally abusive remarks before forcing her into a too small ball gown. Cath is confused about all the fuss until she learns of the King’s plan to propose, that very night, from Cheshire. In sheer panic, she flees and bumps into the court’s new fool, Jest, whom she feels an instant attraction.
In a series of truly unfortunate events, Catherine is cornered into a courtship with the King and pushed farther away from her dreams of a simple bakery life. The pressure from everyone to accept the King’s offer is overwhelming and she starts drowning in everyone else’s expectations. Meanwhile, her relationship with Jest continues to grow against their will and provides the only ray of hope in Cath’s life. While dodging blows from a Jabberwock that’s on the loose, Cath learns that Jest, Hatta, and Raven are on their own mission that she soon gets entangled in. Right when things seem hopeless, Jest comes up with a plan to save everyone and get a happy ending, a plan that almost works until something goes terribly wrong.
In this story, no spoiler alerts are needed—our Queen of Hearts doesn’t get her happy ending, or her Jest. Fate has it’s own plans for our beloved characters and there’s no fighting against fate.
*Sighs* This book was emotionally exhausting to listen to. Watching Cath’s slow descent into evil villainy was like torture and made me feel truly helpless most of the time, which is why I avoided this book to begin with. I completely understand that this was done on purpose. We’re suppose to feel just as powerless as Cath does, but that doesn’t make it any less agonizing. And what made me want to rip my hair out were all the warning signs Cath gets ahead of time that go ignored. So much BLATANT foreshadowing that she brushes off or makes excuses for. WOMAN. HATTA AND THREE MYSTICAL SISTERS THAT LIVE IN A WELL ARE TRYING TO WARN YOU ABOUT THE FUTURE. If an impeccably dressed man that can make magical hats and three fortune-doodling girls that live in a well tell you not to enter a door, YOU DON’T ENTER THE GOD DAMN DOOR. The whole thing was just infuriating. Of course, I couldn’t really blame Cath for entering said door and saving her friend, but don’t act surprised when all the fortunes come true afterward! They told you not to enter AND YOU DID. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS.
It also amazed me how idiotic and terrible the people of Hearts are. The King is kind of an airhead, they all gossip too much, and everyone is pretty much worthless in any kind of emergency. Plus, Cath’s parents are TERRIBLE and it takes her so long to stand up to them. Every time she cowered away and kept her bakery dream a secret, I wanted to kick her. The Marchioness says and does the most horrid things and Cath just takes it. For a really long time—over half the book! It was hard to watch.
That being said, all the torture I endured in the beginning three-quarters made the ending that much sweeter. After getting past the awful Jest incident, Cath loses her give-a-damn and finally stands up to everyone. It’s AWESOME. She finally says everything that I had been thinking and I can’t tell you how gratifying it is. The sensation was odd because I knew she had turned into an evil bitch, but I was weirdly happy about it. Marissa Meyer is a magician.
And despite being quiet about her future dreams for most of the novel, Cath is still a strong, unique spirit for the entire story. My love for her character is part of the reason why I gave this story the rating I did. Even in the end after she turns evil, Cath is still smart and independent—clearly way more capable than most of the court. The way she separates herself transforms at the end into something darker, but that original uniqueness is still there. In the beginning she’s a happy free spirit, full of dreams, hopes, love, and a quiet wit. By the end, she’s an emotionless Queen that’s high on cunning and low on sympathy. No matter how you slice it though, she’s a force of nature.
Of course, I can’t forget about the narrator Rebecca Soler who did a lovely job reading this story. Her voice was perfect for bringing Cath to life and I loved her different accents. She voiced the animal characters in unique ways with a hint of refinery that completely matched Wonderland. And her voice for the King was FLAWLESS. He sounded so goofy and it totally synced up with his personality. She even captured his awkward giggles and I freaking loved it.
I won’t lie, the beginning of this book is agony because even during it’s happiest moments, you know it all comes crashing down. You may even want to rip your hair out at times like I did. However, Cath’s interesting character transformation and the fun cast of characters, *cough* Jest *cough* makes this a worthwhile read.