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“She would be queen and . . . queens did not open bakeries with their best friends. Queens did not gossip with half-invisible cats. Queens did not have dreams of yellow-eyed boys and wake up with lemon trees over their beds,” Catherine. –Heartless
by Marissa Meyer
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 to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets a handsome and mysterious jester called 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. Catherine is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
Catherine’s sweet and fiery nature will have readers falling in love with her from the very start. Readers will empathize with her troubles. Catherine desperately wants to make her parents proud, so she often hides her feelings. Catherine wonders, “Was she so afraid to disappoint her parents and the King, that she was willing to put their happiness before her own?” To make matters worse, her domineering mother doesn’t listen even when Catherine tries to be honest, and her mother constantly harasses her about food. At one point, her mother takes away custard and says, “You’ll be mistaken for a walrus at the festival. . . You’ll become an elephant!”
Heartless takes the reader into the imaginative world of Heart, a reflection of the land in Alice in Wonderland—a place with walking cards, magical pumpkins, and hats that give hope. Even though the setting is magical, the story isn’t a sweet love story. Instead, Catherine’s transformation into the Queen of Hearts that we all know from Alice in Wonderland is heartbreaking. Throughout the story, Catherine’s good intentions repeatedly lead to disaster. It doesn’t matter if the characters acted out of love, the results are always disastrous.
If you’re looking for a cheerful Alice and Wonderland based story, Heartless is not the book for you. Heartless is an engaging story with complex characters and sensational surprises. Catherine’s story will have you reflecting on fate and wondering if people have the ability to choose their futures or if their futures are predetermined. Readers will either love or hate Heartless, but either way, the characters will stay with you a long time after you close the book.
- Catherine daydreams about Jest’s “arms lowering her onto a bed of rose petals. Fingers tracing the contours of her face. Kisses trailing down her throat. . . And if her dreams were to be believed, he was a very, very good kisser.”
- Catherine doesn’t want to marry the king. One of her friends suggests, “I’m only saying that you might be the king’s wife, but who is to say you couldn’t also have more clandestine relations with the joker.” Catherine is aghast.
- While at the theatre, one of the entertainers “peeked up the skirts of the passing actresses.”
- After Jest declares his feelings of love, he kisses Catherine. Jest “kissed her—soft at first. . . Another kiss, hesitant, growing bolder. . .Catherine grinned, delirious once more, and pulled him down onto the grass.”
- Jest and Catherine run from Heart. When they think they are safe, Jest “grabbed her suddenly, crushing his mouth against hers. Cath threw her arms around his neck, delighting in the way her heart expanded as if it could consume them both.”
- Catherine leaves Jest to help a friend. Before she goes, “She threw her arms around him and silenced him with a kiss, digging her hands into his hair. . . His arms drew her closer, melding their bodies together.”
- Catherine meets Jack “who had been out of pity after losing his right eye in a game of charades.”
- A Jabberwock attacks the castle. It “shattered one of the windows and took two of the courtiers right from the ballroom floor. Then it just flew off with them. . .” Later, someone finds pieces of the courtiers.
- While at a tea party a Jabberwock attacks. “The Jabberwock screamed again. It was followed by the sound of splintering wood and creaking nails. The wall trembled. . .”
- As the guests flee, a turtle “froze.” Catherine goes to help the turtle. “Every limb tightened and she could see its neck outstretched and its fangs bared and its tongue lolling toward her. . . The Lion threw himself in front of Catherine, one massive paw lifted as if he would bat the Jabberwock out of the sky.” The scene is described over six pages.
- In the Hatta’s family, everyone goes mad. Hatta says his father “killed himself. With a brim tolliker.”
- Catherine reads a mock turtle soup recipe. “Begin with a medium-sized mock turtle. . . Using a sharp butcher knife, remove the calf head. Mock turtles die slowly, so be aware that the head will continue to mewl and the body may try to crawl away for some minutes after decapitation.”
- At a festival, a woman grabs Catherine’s wrist. “She rubbed her wrists, glad that the wounds weren’t deep and had already stopped bleeding, though they stung something dreadful.”
- The Jabberwock attacks a theatre. “With a gurgle in its throat, the Jabberwock leaped forward, jaws unhinged. Catherine screamed. . . He [Jest] leaped onto the stair’s balustrade and dashed toward the best like running up a marble statue. He rolled in the air, landed on the back of the monster’s long neck, and grabbed one of the spindly whiskers that grew from its head as if he were gripping a leash. . .” The monster flies away. Catherine is injured. The fight scene is described over six pages.
- Jest talks about where he lives, saying, “I’ve watched so many die on the battlefield. I’ve taken so many lives myself—pawns of the Red Queen, mostly, only for them to be replaced by new soldiers and sent forward again.”
- While Catherine is trying to free a friend, the Jabberwock “crashed to the ground, blocking her path. The best curled its serpentine neck towards the sky and snorted, its nostrils steaming. . . A scream was ripped from Cath’s throat and she charged forward, swinging the sword as hard as her arms would allow it. The blade made one fast, clean cut. . . The Jabberwock’s head disconnected from her slithering neck. Her body crashed onto the rows of abandoned pumpkins.” The Jabberwock’s attack is described over ten pages.
- After Catherine kills the Jabberwock, a man attacks Jest. “. . . There was the sound of blood sputtering across the ground. . . Jest. Mutilated. Severed. Dead.”
- After Catherine becomes Queen of Hearts, Three Sisters magically take her heart. One of the sisters, Lacie “raised the dagger and plunged it into Cath’s chest. Catherine gasped. . . Lacie pulled out the blade. A beating heart was skewered on its tip. It was broken, cut almost clean in half by a blackened fissure that was filled with sawdust.” Catherine still lives, but her only emotion is rage.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Several times throughout the book, adults drink wine. For example, wine is served at a royal ball.
- Mr. Caterpillar smokes “from a large hookah.”
- Catherine’s parents drink “cordials.”
- When Catherine is injured, Jest gives her “treacle.” When she takes the treacle, it “contains mythical healing properties.” Her ankle begins to heal itself. “She hardly felt it. The slow straightening of the joint, the shrinking of the lump, the gradual reduction of her swollen flesh.”
- A lady yells, “YOU BLOODY BIRD! CAN’T YOU AIM STRAIGHT FOR ONCE?”
- Catherine’s world is full of magic.
- Many characters are animals or other strange creatures, such as playing cards.
- When Catherine dreams, she wakes up to find a lemon tree once, and another time a rose bush climbing her bedpost. Later a vine with “hundreds and hundreds of small, delicate hearts surrounded her—all of them bleeding.”
- A turtle suddenly begins to change. “Upended on his back, exposing the softer underside of his shell, his arms and legs flailing. He was still groaning and pressing his flippers to his stomach, his voice hoarse with pain, his eyes wide and frightened. . . His screams turned gargled as his head, too, began to morph into something strange, something horrid.” Parts of the turtle’s body change. “His reptilian tail stretched and curled and spouted a tuff of fur on its end. His tail, too, was now that of a young cow.” His transformation is described over three pages.
- Hatta makes hats from “unique materials” that give them magical properties.
- Jest can change into a raven. “Jest’s body dissolved—a shadow, a flutter, a wisp of ink-dipped quills.”
- If someone steps through a magical-looking glass, they are transported to another place.
- A woman eats magical pumpkins that turn her into the Jabberwock. Later, the pumpkins tell Catherine that she should “run away with your human legs, run away. . .”