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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Heartless is by Marissa Meyer, author of the best-selling Lunar Chronicles series. This stand-alone novel examines the possible origin story of the villainous Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. So don't expect a great role model here, but do expect to get a little empathy for a character who starts out hopeful and sweet and ends up consumed by revenge. If you know the classic tale (and it really helps to understand all the references, so you might want to brush up), you know that some heads will roll. Also, a heart is plucked out willingly and a Jabberwocky beast terrorizes the kingdom of Hearts, carrying off and probably eating a few minor characters. Wine and cordials show up at parties with barely a mention and of course our eccentric friend Mr. Caterpillar puffs away on his hookah.
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What's the story?
In HEARTLESS, Catherine, the best baker in all the Kingdom of Hearts, wants nothing more than to open a bakery with her best friend. She just has to work up the courage to ask her parents, the Marquess and Marchioness. But her parents have their hearts set on her marriage with the buffoonish king and don't intend to let her spend her dowry on a store. They're so set on the match that they don't even tell Catherine that a black-and-white ball they're attending is her engagement party. They just corset her up extra-tight beneath a bright red dress to catch everyone's attention. Catherine is mortified when the Cheshire Cat tells her what's going on, and she flees the ballroom. She races through the royal gardens and bumps into the king's new clever and mysterious court jester, Jest. And Catherine promptly faints -- the corset was that tight. As Jest helps revive her, she's instantly attracted to him, even confessing she had a dream about him and woke up to a lemon tree growing in her room. But what's Catherine to do with the king's engagement still looming? Could she have the bakery and Jest?
Is it any good?
With equal parts doomed-to-fail romance and the reimagined magic of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, this Queen of Hearts origin story satisfies but doesn't dig too deep. Or at least not as deep as expected after author Marissa Meyer's fantastic villain story Fairest. In that book, Meyer really gets to the core of why Queen Levana from her Lunar Chronicles series is so flawed, manipulative, and all-around terrible, and she gets readers to feel for Levana just enough. In Heartless, Meyer spends more time entertaining us with her take on Carroll's world, and the tension doesn't build as smoothly.
That said, the way this story entertains will make readers grin like the Cheshire Cat. The tea party scene, the description of Hatta's wild hats, and the turtle-and-lobster dance are all big fun ... so much fun you almost forget where the story is all headed -- or not headed. (Sorry.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about villains in Heartless. When was there no turning back for Catherine, making her destined for her role as Queen of Hearts? Is it all her own doing? Or is it mostly fate?
Compare author Marissa Meyer's vision with the original, classic story. Where has she made changes? What has she kept the same?
Why were you interested in Heartless? Have you read the author's popular Lunar Chronicles series? How does this book compare?
- Author: Marissa Meyer
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Book Characters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Fairy Tales, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
- Publication date: November 8, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 464
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.