Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 464 pages
Source: Purchased Book
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. 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 a secret courtship.
Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
Protagonist: All Catherine has ever truly wanted is the chance to sell her confections in her own bakery. Her dream has slowly started to become a reality. She has a logical partner with a head for numbers, a local storefront has recently become available, and her skills at baking are among the best in all of Hearts. Her parents, the marquis and marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, have other plans for her, however. Cath's baking talents have caught the attention of the King of Hearts, who has decided to propose marriage to the dumbstruck Catherine. After keeping him at bay, for the time being, she hopes to find a way to open her bakery, but how long can she push away her fate to become the infamous Queen of Hearts. I really liked Cath, she's fiery, determined, and while she is nowhere near the crazed Queen of Hearts, it's not hard to see the path that may lead to her fury becoming unleashed.
Romance: Before venturing into this book I wasn't expecting there to even be a romance in this book. That being said, I'm actually very happy that there is a romance in this book, not only because of its role in the story but because it's probably one of the best-written romances I've read. At least at first. I don't think I'll ever get to the point where I could root for a couple who pronounce their love moments after meeting, it just wouldn't feel realistic to me, but if that was the route the author went here, it wasn't by the way, I could almost believe it. I don't quite know what it was but the near instant connection between Cath and Jest was extremely palpable and their chemistry, in the beginning, was undeniable. I won't say that this was a perfect romance, this is Cath's journey to become the crazed Queen of Hearts after all, but for what this romance is, and what's it's supposed to be, it's darn near as close to perfect as it can get.
World Building: Boy, is this Wonderland wondrous. In the past, I've read Wonderland retellings or adaptations that either take the wonder out of Wonderland (no talking animals, no real sense of magic, etc) or twist it into something dark. It was refreshing to see something embrace the wonderfully strange and curious elements of Wonderland, and bring them to life in such a vivid way. There are appearances from many fan favorite Wonderlandian characters, and I was pleased to see that the author wove in other classic characters from stories and nursery rhymes to the story adding to the depth of this world even more. This world just jumps right off the page. At first, at least in regards to the pacing of the story, I was a bit anxious. This book, in the beginning, feels very much like the first installment in a series, not a standalone tale. If the author wished I could have easily seen her expand this story so much more, and yet, as the story progressed, and it became obvious just how the author was going to transform Cath into her villainous alter ego, everything made sense, and given that this is not a short story by any means, there was plenty of time to explore nearly every question posed by this world.
Predictability: I've been trying to figure out a way to talk about the predictability of a book, wherein the end, we know what's going to happen to our main character. It's inevitable and yet still I found myself hoping that Cath got a different fate. Even when Cath's not so innocent or clear-headed side started to rear its ugly head, I still wished that all her dreams would come true, knowing that, in the end, she'd be saddled with a husband she doesn't love and become the crazed shrew that has become a cultural icon. Now I will say that even though the reader knows going in what the main character's fate will be, it doesn't mean that this book is incredibly predictable, there is a main plot that's sort of separate from, yet entwined with, Cath's fate. That story does have some rather unpredictable turns. There are things that start to piece themselves together and make this book, that might feel, initially, like it would have a lot of loose ends, come together into a twisted and spectacular climax.
Ending: Again, how do I discuss an ending that's fated, an ending that we as readers knew before ever diving into this story? I can talk about the plot that's separate from Cath's fate, how the author, many times before the end, made me almost believe that this story might have a happy ending. I could talk about how the final climax was something I didn't quite expect, and yet made perfect sense with this story. I can talk about how I was blown away by the events that finally lead up to Cath becoming the infamous Queen of Hearts and how even after what I consider to be the final climax, in a traditional sense, of course, there was still more story to tell. Finally, I can talk about how the ending, the final words lined up perfectly with what this story was supposed to be.
Okay look, this rating isn't much of a surprise. I knew going into it that I would love it. What I didn't know going into it was that I would love it so much that I would feel compelled to savor it and take many more weeks to read it than I had initially planned. In fact, I had planned to binge read it within a day, and instead, it's been almost three weeks since it came out.