Here’s the thing about me and unhappy endings in YA fiction – I can’t stand them. To me, YA needs to be like a Disney movie, with maybe more curses and romance and action and darkness, if needed, but it must end well to be enjoyed. That is not to say that I haven’t loved books with unhappy endings – John Green’s books are among my favourites, and I have zero complaints about the ending of the Divergent series. But. Generally, I avoid the unhappy.
This is the reason why I’ve yet to read Fairest, Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles spinoff novel, and this is the reason why I hesitated to read Heartless. However, I love Alice (who doesn’t?) and the Red Queen is an interesting character, so I decided to soldier on. I knew this book was about how the Red Queen became the person she did, which meant inevitable tragedy. I steeled my heart and started reading the first chapter… and found myself liking Cath, the young girl who only wanted to start her own bakery. All the descriptions of her pastries made my mouth water. And Cath is so sweet, so warm, so HOPEFUL, that I found myself thinking, surely nothing would go wrong, after all, this isn’t a direct retelling, the story could take an entirely different take…
And then, I was utterly heartbroken. Utterly. Heart. Broken. UGH.
I can’t recommend it to those who love their happy endings more than me, and Alice fans may enjoy A.G. Howard’s Splintered more, but I can say that Marissa Meyer’s writing is as addictive as ever, and this retelling is just as cleverly done as any of the Lunar Chronicles books. She balances the original tales and her own ideas/worlds so perfectly, and I love that this book, too, is rife with word plays and riddles and the occasional mathematical reference. And chess, of course. Can’t forget the chess. And the Chesire Cat, he was such a jerk, I love him. And I liked the references to other works, like the nursery rhyme “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater”, and Poe’s “The Raven”.