My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow, just wow.
I read this a couple of weeks ago but my emotions were so all over the place on finishing that I had to leave it for a little while before writing a review. I’m still not entirely sure I’ve recovered so I will apologize in advance if this is a little all over the place.
Having read, and loved, the Lunar Chronicles it’s safe to say I had high hopes for this book but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite that good. I laughed, I cried, I begged and I was jumping up in down in my seat with anxiety. I loved every moment.
For those who don’t know this is the origin story of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. As a prequel you do know how it will end but I found myself hoping against hope that this story would have a different ending.
Cath, our heroine (and future villain?), begins this story as a young and naive girl who’s so full of hope and dreams that you can’t help but like her. She comes from a privileged background but unfortunately her parents have mapped out exactly how her life will go. They want status and security, so are determined to throw her into the path of the King of Hearts hoping despite their differences that he’ll marry her. All Cath dreams about however is opening a little bakery with her maid and escaping the prison of her home and parents expectations.
Then one day at a ball, Cath meets the new court Joker, Jest, and it’s love at first sight. He’s like no one she’s ever met before and she’s completely enthralled. She begins to imagine a future in the bakery with Jest at her side but can that dream ever become a reality when the King has her in his sights and her parents are determined that the match will go ahead.
What I love about Meyer is that she has this incredible ability to borrow from other works and yet make the story, the world and the characters wholly her own unique creations. She keeps elements of the original but twists them so that while they are recognizable they feel brand new and unique.
Unlike the Lunar Chronicles, which were futuristic retellings of classic fairytales like Snow White and Cinderella, as a prequel this has more obvious links to the original Alice in Wonderland. It’s the same world with a lot of familiar characters. As well as Cath and the King of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat and Hatta feature quite heavily and a few others make an appearance too. Per the original Alice there are a lot of riddles and nonsense which I loved but there are a lot of little differences.
One of my favorite differences was new character Jest. He’s a complete mystery, funny and magical his past is a secret so you never completely know what he’s thinking or what his motivations are. He’s so sweet and cute though I could totally understand why Cath liked him so much. Their romance is adorable but full of problems and a little bit uncertain as neither can declare how they feel.
The story is a little bit slow in the beginning but I think it needs that to develop the characters and get you completely invested. After that it really builds and from then on it never lets up until a dramatic and emotional conclusion which I won’t go into but which you do get indications of throughout the story. It’s these little hints that I think make the story so great. You can see what’s coming but are powerless to stop it.
I can honestly say when I finished this book I was completely wrecked. As well as potential emotional damage I should also add a warning that this book is not suitable for those on a diet. There are so many descriptions of scrummy cakes I found myself having a tea party for one.
I think this is definitely one of my favorite books of the year and would recommend to everyone.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. I believe it’s out now in the US and will be released on the 17th November in the UK.