Marissa Meyer’s Heartless is not a feel-good story. Watching the young Catherine struggle to assert herself, follow her dreams, be happy in love, and then fail at all of it is not easy. Don’t worry there are no plot spoilers here. We all know the Red Queen and her infamous line: Off with their heads!
As a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the book works. Meyer’s has populated her book with characters from the famous tale and peppered the text with direct quotes, places, and events appearing in Carroll‘s story as well. This imitation of the original lends the novel an air of familiarity that I felt helped add an intensity to the story that was otherwise lacking.
I enjoyed the story, but I was, from time to time, downright annoyed at Catherine. Her hesitancy and inability to stand up for herself drove me crazy. Her position in society, the King’s desire for her, her lack of any true support – all of this adds up to an impossible situation. I’m just used to my YA female protagonists striking those obstacles head-on and overcoming them. Clearly, this can’t happen. The Red Queen can’t have a happy ending.
I can’t quite figure out the relationship I have with Catherine between annoyance, pity, and empathy. I certainly understand the Red Queen more now, but I can’t quite accept the choices she makes based on her admittedly horrible experiences.