~will include spoilers~
Long before Alice fell down the rabbit hole…
And before the roses were painted red…
The Queen of Hearts was just a girl, in love for the first time.
Like anyone else, I have always viewed The Queen of Hearts as a crazed, cruel villain, with her notorious catchphrase “off with his head!”. But this novel opened my eyes to the possibility of Catherine being more than just a tyrannical dictator. The Queen of Hearts in Heartless portrays Catherine as a headstrong, independently minded girl who has an affinity for baking and is only just experiencing what it is like to fall in love for the first time. Already, from this short description, Catherine is being displayed as a more compassionate person.
Catherine faces multiple dilemmas throughout the novel. Her and her best friend/maid Mary Ann long to open up a bakery, a concept that her parents and her society hugely disapprove of. They have other plans for Catherine, of which include marrying her off to the simple but well-intentioned King, who is besotted with her. Throughout the novel, we see Catherine fighting to keep the King’s advances at bay whilst struggling with her own feelings that are fast developing for Jest, the King’s Court Joker.
As the reader, I could sense the frustration and restrictions that Catherine feels build up more and more as the story progresses, so that when Catherine eventually snaps under all the pressure, I was internally fiercely applauding her. It becomes crystal clear why, when Catherine (eventually) has no choice but to accept this proposal and become The Queen of Hearts, she becomes so immensely detached from her heart and ruthlessly powerful.
The destiny of Jest, Catherine’s love interest, broke my heart. He deserved so much better. My opinion of Jest coincides with Catherine’s: he has a particular, remarkable aura about him that automatically draws you to his character.
I found the representation of The Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, The White Rabbit, among many other well known Alice in Wonderland characters, to be equally as fascinating as Catherine’s. They were written into the story in a way that provides just enough back story to do the character’s justice, without taking over the plot in a way that overshadows Catherine’s story. After all, this book is about how her, and how her experiences moulded her into corruption.
In terms of how the book is written, I found it to give off a colourful, lively image in the parts of the novel where Catherine still has hopes and dreams and passion. Once this begins to fade, so does the colour. The words seem as empty and lifeless as Catherine in the final chapter. The book was cleverly littered with food and cooking comparisons, e.g. “Jest’s presence lingered in the corner of her eyes, as tempting as fresh vanilla ice cream”. These well crafted comparisons narrated by Catherine shows huge contrast to when the King tries his hand at this, “Oh, Lady Pinkerton, my decadent truffle”. His shining immaturity adds a certain comedic element to the story. The King’s desperate attempts at trying to win Catherine’s affection almost endeared me to his character, but I just couldn’t stand his weak side, where his timidity and incompetent nature lie.
THANK YOU FOR READING!