Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA/fairytale retelling
Date Read: 30/11/2016 – 06/12/2016
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.
I 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!