Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite 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.
Marissa Myer authored my favorite YA series since Harry Potter. So naturally, I wanted to read her most recent venture so that I could see how she fared as a writer outside of the Lunar Chronicles, since that’s the best way to see the abilities, strengths, and weaknesses of an author. I am here to tell you, dear readers, that I was let down.
I’ve never been a fan of Alice in Wonderland in any capacity. The book never fascinated me enough to pursue its various companions, and each movie version leaves me a little less wowed. This book did nothing to draw me in or wow me with the appeal of Wonderland. Serving as an origin story for the Queen of Hearts, Heatless follows Catherine, a moderately tolerable protagonist with a passion for baking, who falls in love with the first moderately interesting male character she sees, Jest. For me their apparent instalove developed naturally enough for people who decide at first sight that you’re the greatest thing on two legs, but the fact that I barely found the two of them interesting served as the real challenge for caring about their development. Furthermore, why would I want to care about these two when there is so much nonsense happening in the background with characters such as Hatta and Cheshire Cat?
Some of my main eyebrow raises came from the sloppy incorporation of the Jabberwocky, which has little place in Carroll lore. The canonical Jabberwocky features in a poem found by Alice in Alice Through the Looking Glass, never as an actual monster gobbling up lions and the citizens of Heart. The addition of this iconic monster felt more like when a guy sends you a good dick pic taken at an angle. Misleading and setting you up to be disappointed. It appeared at random when the plot got a little too slow, never taking anyone but the characters by surprise. On top of that Catherine’s entire court drama with the king’s interest and her mother’s pressure was exhausting. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t connected to her, but literally everything about her life was #firstworldproblems #upper/middleclassproblems all the way through. She wants to marry for love in a regency era time. How original. Groundbreaking.
Furthermore, I was highly disappointed in Myer for deciding to make the Red Queen’s origin story one where the “villain” character of later stories one who reaches her hate and rage showcased in Alice and Wonderland by having her heart broken. After Jest is killed by Sir Peter that becomes the tipping point for Catherine to lose all sense of morality, propriety, and characterization. There is a moment before this where Catherine becomes unnaturally rude and uncaring to everyone around her, and then inexplicably switches back to being a pushover. This happens again after Jest is killed, eventually propelling her into the deal that will make her into the Queen of Hearts we are so familiar with. I was not impressed with Catherine’s sudden turnaround from pushover to total bitch mostly because it made no sense in the narrative. Instead of being a gradual shift it happened like whiplash, giving nothing to the tale being told. I especially have no affection for Catherine since she brought the end of Jest and her own misery on herself by not listening to those around her in her flee from the land of hearts. Nothing quite like having every supporting character and the reader yelling at a protagonist not to do something and watching them do it anyways.
As far as I’m concerned, this story does nothing for the ongoing story of Wonderland. Myer fails to bring a poignant and interesting spin on the world, providing us only with a C grade love story with a flashy setting and little caring for characterization. I will leave Wonderland in no more wonder than I entered it with unfortunately.