“Murderer, martyr, monarch, mad.” // Review of “Heartless” by Marissa Meyer

Title: Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre:
YA/fairytale retelling
Date Read: 30/11/2016 – 06/12/2016
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review: 

With it now being about a year since I finished reading the final installment of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, I had forgotten just  how much I loved her writing. Heartless certainly reminded me!

Catherine is the daughter of the Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove, and destined to be married to the King of Hearts. All she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend, Mary Ann. When she falls for the mysterious new court joker, she knows she will put him above everything else, and if the worst happens, she will seek vengeance.

Meyer once again creates a vibrant ensemble cast of characters. Catherine’s journey from idealistic, privileged young girl to cold and hardened Queen of Hearts is a well-written progression, even if towards the end I did want to shake her and tell her that she’s only seventeen and new love will come her way.

really loved Jest as a love interest, mostly because he’s not that entitled douchebag of a love interest that seems so popular in today’s YA fiction. While his origins are mysterious (we learn more about him as the book goes on and he starts being more honest with Cath), he comes to genuinely care for Cath. While their romance was over-the-top in that way that teenagers are always over-the-top about that sort of thing, insofar as this is a teenage romance we’re reading, it read and developed really well (even if it is in a similar vein to Romeo and Juliet in terms of heaps of passion in a short amount of time all ending in tears).

The side characters are all well-drawn, even if I do want to shake them. The King is bumbling and shy, Cath’s parents are well-intentioned but frustrating. Hatta, a colleague of Jest’s who you may have guessed is the precursor the Mad Hatter, was a particular favourite, along with Jest’s Raven, who speaks in rhyme in the same meter as Edgar Allan Poe’s (in fact, in her author’s note, Marissa Meyer says she likes to think that this Raven is the one from the poem, and I’m very happy to roll with that).

The world-building is simple, but effective, and Meyer works in many references to Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. The plot ducks and weaves, and there was a period in the middle where I thought it started meandering a bit, but as with the Lunar Chronicles, everything ties up very cleverly in the end. And when I say “cleverly” I mean, everything falls apart and the ending will leave you feeling like you were punched in the gut, but…

I had high hopes for this book because I find it so hard to find any Alice in Wonderland-inspired books that I actually like. I really hope more writers take a leaf out of Marissa Meyer’s book, rather than trying to do the whole “quirky teenager finds out she is the descendant of Alice Liddell”-type story. This one really worked!


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“My best guess, You Majesty, is that it’s breakfast, but I can’t be sure until we taste it.” // Review of Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor

Title: Seeing Redd (Looking Glass Wars #2)
Author: Frank Beddor
Audio Book Narrator: Gerard Doyle
Genre: YA/fantasy(/steampunk?)
Date Read: 30/05/2016 – 02/06/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:
seeingreddcoverThis series continues to be nothing especially mind-blowing, but still a great deal of fun. However, I felt this installment had a little too much focus on the villains and not enough on Alyss and her court.

Alyss is barely back on the throne of Wonderland when attacks at border outposts start happening at alarming speed. Alyss is distrustful of the King of the neighbouring country, King Arch, but cannot pin anything on him directly, and if the Caterpillars’ visions are anything to go by, Redd is back in Wonderland.

There was a lot of time spent on Redd and King Arch, and I have to admit, they are both somewhat cartoonish in their villainy (especially in the audio book, where the voices used by Gerard Doyle really emphasise this). Having said that, Alyss and her team weren’t really doing much. A lot of their time was spent observing various attacks from a security centre within the Palace, and Alyss then trying to use her Imagination to remotely assist where possible. There were some cute moments between Alyss and Dodge; their relationship is definitely a romance now, but it’s not an all-consuming passion like so many YA romances are. It’s sweet and unassuming and doesn’t overpower the main plot.

Hatter Madigan and Homberg Molly both end up in Borderland, and we do learn some interesting things about Hatter’s past, some of which I had predicted in the previous book, but we got more detail than my theories went into. A lot of the action sequences were thanks to events in Borderland, and I continued to enjoy learning about the various weapons of the Millinery. There was one fairly major character death and it bothered me that it happened, even though I saw it coming a mile away. It would have been nice for an author to not take that route for once.

The world-building continues to be one of the highlights of the series, though not much is really added to in this book. We did learn more about the Caterpillars, though, which was fun. Thanks to Gerard Doyle, I can’t help but imagine them as the Beatles, though, because he voices them with Liverpudlian accents.

There is some good setup for an epic showdown in the third book, and I must admit that I am looking forward to seeing exactly what alliances form in that one and how the various characters deal with the fallout from the ending of this one.


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Book Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard

Title: Splintered (Splintered #1)
Author: A. G. Howard
Genre: Fantasy/fairytale adaptation
Date Read: 17/06/2015 – 21/06/2015
Rating: ★★

Review:

splinteredcover Look at that cover. I had really high hopes for this book, pretty much based on the cover alone. Alas, it was not to be.

In Splintered we meet Alyssa, the descendent of Alice Liddell, the namesake of the titular character in Alice in Wonderland. Her female ancestors have always been cursed, hearing insects talk and other weirdness. Eventually, Alyssa finds out that the Wonderland in the stories is real, that she is the only one who can save it, and most importantly, that her childhood friend, Morpheus, who visited her in her dreams when she was young, is really sexy but less than trustworthy.

I’ll get my ranting out of the way first. Though I only mentioned Morpheus above, there is actually a love triangle, with Alyssa’s best friend’s brother, Jeb, as the other point. Jeb was awful. He was controlling and over-protective, and it drove me crazy. He wouldn’t let Alyssa make any of her own decisions, even though she was the one who actually had latent memories of Wonderland and of the two of them, was going to be capable of getting them home alive.

Morpheus, on the other hand, while definitely morally ambiguous, at least had faith in Alyssa and her abilities. He always let her choose. Even when it often turned out that he was on his own side more than Alyssa’s or Wonderland’s as a whole, he was still preferable as a love interest.

Alyssa as a character was okay. I got the sense the author was trying to make her “quirky” and “alternative” with dreadlocks and a skateboard and that sort of thing, but she still felt pretty bland. She spent a fair bit of time swooning over either of her two guys, though when she was with Morpheus, she did at least want to take charge a bit more.

The world-building itself was pretty good; I’ve read a few Wonderland adaptations before and this one took things in different directions, which I did appreciate, even if I wasn’t entirely I liked the direction. It was definitely a much creepier Wonderland than usual, and some of that I got really into, while there were other parts that made me go, “… really?”

Overall, I felt this book could have been really great, but suffered from objectionable or boring characters. I read a few reviews of the second one because a small part of me was interested in continuing the story, but based on a few things I read, I decided not to. I think it would just make me crankier.