Book Review: Heartless

by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Form: Audiobook & Hardback
Big Themes: Fate, Freewill, Love, Friendship, Baking

Summary from Goodreads: 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.

“But hoping,” he said, “is how the impossible can be possible after all.”

My thoughts: At it’s core, this book is a tragedy about a girl trying to build her own life and everything that prevents her. Girls of today will read this and be so grateful that they don’t have to deal with the social norms and restrictions that were common for women years ago.

The theme of fate vs freewill is developed beautifully. Throughout the book, you root for Cath’s freewill–for her bakery plans to come to fruition, for her to choose Jest over the King. She knows what will make her happy, but fate and those around her keep getting in her way. The tragedy in this story is that ultimately it is one choice she actually does make that results in her losing everything.

One moment that really broke my heart was on Cath’s wedding day, when she is marrying a man she doesn’t love, her parents finally ask,

“Is this what’s going to make you happy?”
“How different everything could have been, if you had thought to ask me that before.”

Marissa Meyer did such an outstanding job of capturing the whimsy and nonsense of Wonderland in this origin story for the Queen of Hearts. The characters, dialogue, and world all felt like an authentic new addition to Carroll’s canon.

And the nods to Poe through Raven were an unexpected fun touch!

If you are a foodie or enjoy binge-watching The Great British Baking Show… this is your book. Cath is a passionate and gifted baker, and the descriptions of her baking are enough to make this book worth reading purely for that alone. One chapter in, and you’ll be craving lemon tarts.

I highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by Rebecca Soler. She was FANTASTIC as a narrator. I began this book as an audiobook and finished the last 40 pages in hardback. The audiobook really brought Marissa Meyer’s words to life and captured a tone of whimsy that was hard to recreate in my own head. I just can’t recreate the Cheshire Cat’s drawling voice like the narrator could.

Overall: A wonderful and whimsical tragedy from Marissa Meyer. Highly recommend the audiobook. 4.5 stars

Book Review: Cress

by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Form: Purchased Hardback
Big Themes: Rebellion, Survival, Responsibility, Space, Love, Friendship

Reviews of Previous Books in the Series:
Cinder (5 stars)
Scarlet (4 stars) And… I can’t find my review ANYWHERE.  So confused.  Basically, from what I remember, I really liked this book, but parts were really scary and reminded me of a zombie apocalypse.  And I hate zombies.

The series continues, but this time adding to the cast of characters: Cress.  A girl who has lived as a hacker and spy for the past seven years from a satellite orbiting Earth.  But her satellite is a prison, and Cress feels no loyalty to those who have trapped her there.  With her hacking skills and knowledge from years of spying, she would make a fine addition to the rebellion against Queen Levana.

Spoiler Free Section:

If you like book series with a wide cast of characters and expansive world-building, Marissa Meyer is delivering.  Her characters are lovable, well-developed, and quirky.  The history and depth of the world she’s created makes this a great escapist novel.  But most of all, her series is FUN.  For me, this book was the perfect read to curl up with after a long day at work.  I caught myself actually smiling and giggling as I read.  Meyer is highly influenced by Star Wars, and it’s fun to spot parallels between the two.  If a grand space adventure with a fun cast of characters sounds like your thing, I urge you to give this series a shot.

If you don’t want the series ruined for you… then I suggest you stop reading.

What I Loved:

Characterization: What I find especially remarkable is how the friendships and relationships between characters is making each character stronger.  Marissa Meyer is doing a beautiful job of using characters to bring out the strengths and flaws of each other.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Thorne’s character until this book.  I felt like he was a bit of a caricature–too perfect, too handsome, and with too many one-liners.  But when paired with Cress, he became more human, more real.  Cress herself was quite naive and idealistic.  But when the two were paired together, it forced realism upon them.  Thorne couldn’t be as perfect as Cress believed him to be, and we saw his flaws.  Cress, seeing the bad in the world along with the good, grew into a character that was stronger as she shed some of her naivete.

Another dynamic that I think worked beautifully in this book is Cinder and Kai.  They started the series on unequal ground.  Kai as emperor and Cinder as the lowest of the low, a cyborg servant.  Despite this, there was still chemistry between them.  As the series has progressed, Cinder has grown not just in strength of character but also in what responsibilities she has undertaken.  In one of the final scenes, where Cinder and Kai have their first real talk since the ball in the first book, the sense of understanding between the two characters is breathtaking.  Both Kai and Cinder feel the weight of responsibility, and it brings depth and beauty to their relationship.

Cohesiveness of Plot and World: With each book, the world and plot get larger and more expansive.  Meyer’s ability to make it all work is impressive.  From the futuristic technology to the plague to the intergalactic war, Meyer has managed to not just have it make sense, but also to interweave these elements.  The addition of bio-warfare was a twist I didn’t see coming and it further tightened the plot.  I admire how Meyer weaves some science into a series of books that would be considered too light and fun to be hardcore sci-fi.

Raising the Stakes: Meyer does one of my favorite things: throws her characters into the worst possible situations.  I looooove this.  Oh look, the whole gang is safe together in space… LET’S SEPARATE THEM.  Cress is going to finally escape her satellite… LET’S CRASH LAND HER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SAHARA WITH NO SHOES AND A BLIND MAN.  Marissa Meyer is AWESOME.  I want the characters in the worst possible situation.  I want to be on the edge of my seat.  I want to see them fighting to get out of it, using their skills and wits.  And please, no magical resolution.  Make them work for it and make the resolution an earned pay off for all that struggle.  Meyer does this 100%.

Humor: If you like witty dialogue and banter…  If you like when each character has their own voice and quirks…  If you like when quirkiness results in humorous interplay between characters… Then you’ll love the humor that Meyer has going on.  One of my favorite bits in Cress was Iko, the robot with the ridiculously girlish personality.  The scenes with Iko provided just the right levity and humor.  Her character is absolutely hilarious.

HR sealofapprovalOverall: Five big beautiful stars and I’m giving this book the official Hughes Reviews Seal of Approval.  That’s how much I loved it.  This is, without a doubt, my favorite book in the Lunar Chronicles series.  It just hit all the right notes for me.  I’m anxiously awaiting the final book, Winter, though I can’t imagine it topping my warm fuzzy feelings for Book 3.

Cress on Goodreads

My post on meeting Marissa Meyer