“It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.”
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
Feelings: The thing about prequels and retellings is that you know where they’re going to end up. You kind of like Cath until you remember that she’s going to end up as the bad guy in Alice’s story. I thought Meyer did a great job of weaving in some references to Alice’s world here and there. We met some familiar characters, as well as some magical items with a twist.
Issues: I didn’t understand Jack’s role in the story. He was a super childish dude who clearly (but maybe not?) hated Cath. Was it love-hate? Or just straight up hate? I don’t know and he really doesn’t serve a purpose. It seemed like he would a couple of times, but then nothing would come of it. Not a big issue for me, since he’s a nobody character…but I just felt like something was important about him and I was wrong.
The dream magic wasn’t ever explained. Cath would wake up from dreams with lemon trees and roses growing around her bed…why? Was it because the Sisters were speaking to her about her fate in her dreams? Not really sure.
Finally, the pacing was a bit slow. I read it really quickly and it was easy to follow, but it was just a slow moving story from time to time. But then the ending felt rushed and one scene in particular felt like it came out of nowhere. It made me feel a little disjointed.
Characters: Catherine is an imperfect character. We knew where she was headed since this story serves as a prequel. We knew that she wouldn’t be a Cinderella kind of character, always cheerful and full of optimism. She’s even a bit judgmental and selfish from time to time, which makes it so that her turn towards evil isn’t completely out of left field. If she was Snow White-y or Cinderella-y, it wouldn’t make sense and it’d be hard to buy in to. But that’s just not the case here. She was actually pretty relatable for a while, big dreams and a drive to see them through, yet there was a series of obstacles in her way. I think Meyer made a strong creative choice with the story’s ending. It all makes sense and we can see how she got from Point A to Queen of Hearts.
Oh, Jest. What a love interest. Was this classic YA insta love? Meh. Sort of. It wasn’t like the “I just met him and his eyes are amazing and I want to marry him” kind of insta love, more like insta strong feelings. They did go back and forth one too many times for my taste, but then again…it was a pretty complicated situation.
The minor characters in this story were an interesting cast. You have Mary Ann, Cath’s partner in crime. They seem like sisters for the majority of the book, even though one serves the other. Then you have Cath’s parents, with the classic pushy gentry mom and the generic laid back pushover dad. There’s the king; the kind but stupid king. Where are everyone’s back bones? Where’s the courage and the guts? This book has an entire kingdom of people with their blinders on, in need of a leader. Enter the Queen of Hearts, ready or not, I guess.
Comparisons: I know a lot of people want to know how this book compares to The Lunar Chronicles, but really…there’s no comparison. Cinder and her friends get a lot more page time, a lot more room for character development and possibility. This book is a standalone, so what’s done is done. If you’re a fan of TLC, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like this story, especially if what you enjoyed most was the science fiction element. That’s just not a thing in this book. Meyer’s writing shines through, though, just like it did in TLC. Plus, the tones of the two stories are totally different. So that’s my two cents when it comes to comparing.
Final thoughts: If you’re not a huge fan of Wonderland like me, don’t be put off by this story. I really enjoyed it, even though I never could connect with Alice or Through the Looking Glass. Too much whimsy loses me, but Meyer does a great job of balancing the story that already exists and taking creative license. Overall, I liked this book. I wasn’t just super crazy about it, but I generally enjoyed it. My advice: don’t read it on an empty stomach. There’s talk of baked goods on every page.
Pick this up if you liked:
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Goodreads rating: 4.14/5
Amazon.com rating: 4.3/5
My rating: 4/5
Happy reading! – Caitlyn