Heartless by Marissa Meyer ~Audio Book Review

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Heartless 
By Marissa Meyer
Narrated by Rebecca Soler
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Duration: 14 hours 34 minutes
ISBN13: 9781427267948
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. 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 an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.


my-thought

Anyone who even remotely knows me knows I am infatuated (maybe unhealthily) with all that is Wonderland. Picking up Heartless was a gimme, but finding the time to read it was becoming a challenge. I do happen to own a physical copy that I had originally pre-ordered. However, between my neverending TBR and constant bouts of vertigo, audio seemed to be the best solution.

“A heart, once stolen, can never be taken back.”

Heartless takes us back to a time before Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole into the infamous Wonderland. We are introduced to Catherine, a young girl with a passion for baking and a heart that desires true love. Courted by the King but longing only for the court joker Jest, Cath begins a forbidden affair that may have disastrous outcomes. This is the story of how a girl in love will rise to the throne and eventually become known as The Queen of Hearts.

Characters were a mixed bag for me in Heartless. This is a fast paced retelling that incorporates the familiar denizens of Wonderland to provide us with a prequel. We are given a rare opportunity to dive behind the scenes and take a look at the “ingredients” that lead up to the final cake, AKA the Queen of Hearts. Catherine is our protagonist. She is young and full of ambition, driven by her desires to open her very own bakery with her best friend and household servant Mary Ann. But when the King decides to court Cath, she soon finds herself facing an endless list of obstacles that will not only challenge her aspirations but her heart that belongs to Jest, the court Joker. I have to be honest, while I appreciated our heroine’s emotions and situation, there was a part of me that continued to feel a tinge of annoyance. She knew what she wanted, but I felt her voice and actions were weak at times. There was this ongoing attempt to approach matters logically that had me pulling hair at times. I did not dislike her, but I couldn’t help but feel she was her own worst enemy.

Additional characters included a customary entourage ranging from the Cheshire Cat to the Mad Hatter. We are even offered an extension into Wonderland’s occupants with the introduction of some new faces such as Jest and Raven. There is no shortage of bizarre and eccentric behavior that offers a bit of welcomed predictability.

The plot was straight forward, lacking some of the imagination I have come to expect from Meyers, but that is not to say it disappoints. This is the making of a Queen that will come to reign terror on Wonderland, and for all purposes that story has been accomplished. However, it is told with little emphasis on the actual world. World building or lack of is where I struggled the most with Heartless. As an avid fan of Alice in Wonderland, I have always held firm to the idea that this is a tale that has always relied on the whimsical world to succeed. After all, it was the time down the rabbit hole that added a real element of magic to Alice’s adventures. But that constant need to explore and uncover the oddities that we are accustomed to was absent. This may be a rare case of the author actually placing too much faith in the reader’s knowledge. Wonderland is meant to adventurous and immersive. This was more character driven and I missed that facet.

The story telling and writing is every bit reminiscent of what I have come to expect when reading Meyer. It flows with a steady narration that facilitates a fluid and fast paced experience with a few unexpected twists. It is fun and effortless. I appreciated that while there is a love story contained within our protagonist’s tale, it unfolds slowly with many elements that prove to be more realistic than the typical instalove you encounter in many retellings.

The audio narration took a few chapters to settle into, but eventually came into its own. It is my understanding that Rebecca Soler also narrated the Lunar Chronicles. I found her tone and pacing to be ideal in terms of the story, but struggled with some of the dialog. However, this is always my complaint with audio. I enter with this unrealistic expectation that each character should have a truly unique voice (i.e. like 20 narrators for one story). I do feel that Soler eventually achieved this individuality to an extent and gave a life to Wonderland’s inhabitants that ultimately provided an enjoyable listen.

While I was surprised with the lack of world construction and desired more of an imaginative approach to Cath’s story, it was still a solid one that managed to paint a history that fits well into the grand scheme of things. This is a must read for all fans of Wonderland and retellings that offers satisfying back story, and it successfully provides more depth to a beloved classic.

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51 thoughts on “Heartless by Marissa Meyer ~Audio Book Review

  1. Wonderful review Danielle! I’m in agreement in regards to world building or lack thereof. I’m also a big fan of Alice & so the idea of getting a backstory to the Queen of Hearts by Meyer was exciting. She’s an amazing story teller but I do feel she feel short here & I wondered if it was due to creative license. Still, very entertaining & I wish all audiobooks were full cast narration 😆😃

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  2. I read this earlier this year. Lovbe the cover! I loved how Meyers described all the yummy tarts and such! Yet, I was somewhat disappointed in the book.

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    1. Yes, the world building (lack of) caught me off guard. But her writing is still very fluid and there is definitely an entertainment value to be found. Just maybe does not live up to the hype fully for myself. I do hope you enjoy!

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  3. Excellent constructive review! I still have to pick up Heartless, but I might do a reread of the original story first to refresh my memory… Especially if Heartless counts on the reader being familiar with the story already.

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    1. I think she relied on the reader in terms of world building and understanding Wonderland. You could certainly read this without a prior read of the original, but I was a tad let down that there was not more exploration in this. I still recommend testing the waters for yourself though. It was fun enough.

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      1. I would probably have expected more exploration of the original Wonderland as well… It’s been so long since I read Alice In Wonderland that the details are quite fuzzy, but it’s good to know Heartless can be read without it.

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  4. I don’t think I have read anything by this author yet.. I’ve heard of Lunar Chronicles of course but for some reasn retellings don’t really pull me… maybe I just need to give them a chance 😀 how judgemental am I, eh? 😀
    Glad you were able to enjoy this book even though it was lacking in world building, it does sound somewhat interesting but I’m not sure I will ever pick this book up… hmm…

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  5. I really wanted to read this when I first heard of it, but then I saw so many mixed reviews that I decided it wasn’t worth my time. I would definitely miss detailed world building.

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  6. I’m sorry that it wasn’t quite what you were hoping for, but I’m pleased you enjoyed it nonetheless. I find novels that explore the back stories of those we traditionally perceive as villains to be fascinating. I believe, to a certain extent, that we’re shaped by our experiences and I find myself looking to certain fictional villains (Jafar from Aladdin, for example) and thinking “What happened to make you like this!?”
    I have yet to actually listen to an audio book. I think what puts me off is what you mentioned…when I read to myself, I can imagine each of the character’s voices and I worry that will be lost with a narrator. However, the thought of someone reading to me does sound quite appealing 😛

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    1. Haha I am a sucker for villain back stories! It is always so interesting to see what has triggered the change or set events into motion! I mean after all, we generally perceive there must be a reason for anger and hatred. Audiobooks took me a while to adjust to but with my symptoms, they have become a friend at times ❤

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  7. If things stay as they are, I’m gonna have to drive to the uni and back every day, meaning three hours in the car, so I’ll have to find audiobooks, but they’re so expensive… And like you, the dialog is always a bit complicated as I expect very different voices!
    You already know I’m not the biggest reader of retellings, and I’ve read mixed reviews about this one. I like how you explained your conflicted feelings about the Queen-to-be. It’s too bad that because it’s a retelling and we know the world, the author did not focus on building it more in her book. Fantastic review, my Twin Pea!

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  8. Ooh, I love all things Wonderland, too! ❤ And retellings tend to be fun and interesting as well. 🙂
    Sounds like an overall fun read. You reviewed it very well, and made such an excellent point about world building and exploration being so important in Wonderland-based stories. There's such a whimsy to Wonderland that it just seems such a missed opportunity for her not to have really played with the world and all it is capable of encompassing. Great post! 🙂

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  9. You scared me a tad with this review… I had the feeling it was a middling one for you… I think?! When you said that all. Sher books had this same story flow and narration… it made me pause, I won’t lie… I have yet to read one of her books but I plan to this year… it probably won’t be this one… (not your fault) I’m super crazy worried though I won’t like any of Meyers books and will be doomed to not u deratand the hype… I too take a little bit the settle into narrators in an audio book, I’m glad this one eventually evened out for you!

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    1. I actually love Meyers writing ❤ I am enjoying the Lunar Chronicles so much. This was a fun read, I just have super high expectations when it comes to world building and Wonderland 😉 This was very much more character driven. And I do get it because it is a villain in the making, but still.. Wonderland haha. I wanted to explore more. I think you will enjoy her work.

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  10. I really appreciate that you turned to the audiobook for this. I also depend on audio books for quite a bit of my reading. I do way more driving than I’d like to admit, so it’s nice to get my reading done then. But you’re right, audio books can be made of broken by narration style. I’m glad this worked out for you– it wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a flop.

    Ugh. World building is the problem? That’s unfortunate. I feel like that happened when I read The Looking Glass Wars. I get so frustrated when retellings assume the reader’s knowledge. It’s been years since I’ve read Alice in Wonderland. Will I still appreciate this story?

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    1. Oh no!!! I just picked up The Looking Glass Wars not too long ago haha. The whole concept of Wonderland thrives on exploring the Whimsy.. so when that falls short, it can be very disappointing. Luckily Meyer writes beautifully and still provided a solid story 🙂 I plan to have more audiobook reviews in the future.

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  11. yeah I found this book somewhere in the middle too- the characters and story were both a bit of a mixed bag. And while the writing was good, I didn’t think it was as original as her lunar chronicles series. It’s good to hear that the audio version gave life to this, even if it did take a bit to get going 🙂

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  12. Such an excellent review of this bestseller. I’ve seen so many people rave about this title, especially because of the author, but I loved that you were quite more critical about it than others by comparing it to its source material. The whole world immersion is definitely key to the classic Alice tale and is sad to see that this title doesn’t really explore it that much. Then again, it definitely sounds like a great book and that anyone can greatly enjoy! Again, fantastic review Danielle! 😀

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    1. Thank you! I struggled here because I did enjoy the book. I cannot deny that it is fun and I still appreciated the backstory, but there was an equal amount of disappointment in not exploring the world more. It can be hard to convey issues without discouraging others from exploring the book on their own 🙂

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