Edna Lopez-Rodriguez ‘20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
It is no surprise to find author and fairy tale–enthusiast Marissa Meyer putting a twist on yet another fairy tale. Parting from the unique sci-fi setting of The Lunar Chronicles, Meyer makes Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland world her own. Published in 2016 by Feiwel & Friends, Heartless is the origin story of the Queen of Hearts.
Catherine Pinkerton, a young baker from the Kingdom of Hearts, is confronted with the discovery that the King of Hearts has chosen her to be his new bride. She then faces a dilemma between what her family wants her to do and what she wants for herself. Everything is challenged further when Pinkerton finds the mysterious Joker, a new member to the Kingdom of Hearts, occupying her thoughts and dreams.
Meyer does a wonderful job of adapting the whimsical world created by Lewis Carroll into a young adult novel. Many characters, such as the White Rabbit, the Cheshire cat, and the Jabberwocky, make an appearance, but are given new personalities and stories. As Meyer states in her author’s note, she took the liberty of adding her own twist to one of Carroll’s most notable works, while staying true to the spirit of the story. Meyer not only adapts Carroll’s story, but, remarkably, blends the work of Edgar Allan Poe in as well. In Heartless, the Joker’s assistant is a raven. The raven, much like in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven, is a peculiar creature that talks in single words and rhymes. Meyer connected the two stories through Carroll’s proposed riddle: “why is a raven like a writing desk?” Even though Raven does not belong to Wonderland, the character never feels out of place. Much of Wonderland itself is made up of talking animals and whimsical characters.
The societal structure in Heartless can be traced back to the social norms in Victorian England. While this is meant to be an essential part of the plot, it limits Pinkerton’s story arc. A great amount of her tale is dedicated to her concerns about her reputation. Her concerns about her social class add to her characterization, and offer room for character development, but it overshadow the most interesting parts of the book; for instance, the legend of the Jabberwocky comes into play in the story. However, it does not become an important part of the plot until much later, leaving the interesting legend to drag.
In addition, Pinkerton’s story revolves mostly around her forbidden thoughts—and eventual romance—with the Joker. Yet one of the most interesting parts of Pinkerton’s character is her ambition to become an incredible baker. She wants to open her own bakery, but after she grows more involved with the Joker, it seems as if her own ambitions are no longer her top priority. Unfortunately, Heartless falls into the trope of women becoming villains because of their love interest. It would have been much more interesting to have explored Pinkerton’s character beyond her romantic relationship and reputation struggles. Perhaps Pinkerton could have gotten more involved with the Jabberwocky legend, or she could have tried to find a way to use her status with the King to her own advantage.
Meyer adapted a wonderful world that could have been expanded, but it felt as if the overall plot had been done before.