Ever wonder why the Queen of Hearts is so…heartless?

Lady Catherine Pinkerton is the heiress of Rock Turtle Cove and the apple of the King of Heart’s eye. Cath’s parents would like nothing more for their beautiful daughter than to see her crowned as queen above all other eligible maidens in Hearts – even against Cath’s own wishes. Catherine would like nothing more than to become a bakery, open her own bakery alongside her friend Mary Ann, and bake sweets for the people of Hearts.

During one of the King’s royal balls, Cath meets Jest, the King’s new mysterious court jester. Their relationship is unfamiliar at first as each tries to understand one another. Slowly, over the course of various encounters, they begin to build a romantic relationship, one they must keep hidden at all cost. To make matters worse, the kingdom of Hearts is being terrorized by a deadly Jabberwock and the King seems intent to ignore the threat.

Cath, no longer able to deny her feelings for Jest and wishing to escape Hearts, attempts to flee to Chess, the kingdom Jest was originally from. Things, however, do not go as hoped.

Heartless is Marissa Meyer’s origin story surrounding the infamous Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Already a master at retellings with her Lunar Chronicles series, Meyer crafts a masterful story detailing how seemingly villainous characters did not always start that way. Though a wonderful story full of delightful imaginary, I felt the story a little slow paced for my tastes. I also felt Jest’s backstory wasn’t explored as much as it could be. That might have been on purpose to keep the audience reading from Cath’s point of view in the dark as much as she was. I would like for a story from Jest’s point of view as a companion piece to satisfy my curiosity – even a short novella will do.

Overall, I did enjoy Heartless. I’m not usually one to read and root for the villain, but when an origin story is as well done as this one, I do not mind it so much.

My rating: 3.5/5


The Winner’s Curse

The Winner’s Curse is the first novel in the Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. I read this to prepare for a convention panel I had presented with a friend, but it has been on my TBR for a while.

Kestrel is the daughter of a prominent general, living in the house and country of the conquered Herrani people. She is beautiful, but her beauty is not as important to Kestrel as her music. Within the year, like every young person her age, Kestrel must decide to either join the military or marry. Her father wishes her to enter service and become an even more brilliant tactician than she already is. But Kestrel wants to continue with her music, a past time often frowned upon.

One day, Kestrel unwittingly enters a slave auction. At first an observer, she soon finds herself bidding on – and winning – a young Herrani blacksmith. Though slaves lose their original names, Kestrel discovers that her new acquisition is known as Arin. At first, neither of them get along; in fact, Kestrel – the rightful owner – does not give Arin any work and so the house butler forces the blacksmith to forge countless horseshoes. Upon hearing this, Kestrel takes Arin as her companion escort, as young women cannot travel unattended.

Soon, the pair discover they speak each other’s languages and have a great deal in common. Thus begins first a friendship and a rumor, which soon turns to something more. But Kestrel is unaware that Arin is actually part of a secret rebellion, one that seeks to free the Herrani from their conquerors. Kestrel has always been sensitive to the plight of the Herrani and reluctant to enter the military. Will she side with her father and her people? Or will her heart guide her towards Arin and his rebellious wishes?

I was intrigued the first time I read the summary for the Winner’s Curse. It seemingly had all the fantasy elements that I like in a book: a strong hero/heroine, a touch of realism, and a well thought out world. The prose is beautiful as Marie Rutkoski is an English professor. I thought I would really enjoy it.

However, I was a tad disappointed with the story. I’m not sure why. It is a bit slow paced, being more focused on world and character building than action. I usually like stories that take their time and build on itself. Being a trilogy, there is likely more coming that I haven’t yet seen. But I just don’t feel interested enough to continue – at least not at this juncture. Perhaps in the future when my TBR isn’t so enormous and overwhelming (like that will ever happen).

My rating: 3/5

Keeper of the Lost Cities

I apologize for not posting last week. Projects were due and my attention had to be diverted. Classes are nearly done for the semester so I should be back to posting regularly with few hiccups.

Onto the review!

Keeper of the Lost Cities is a middle grade novel by Shannon Messenger. Sophie Foster is a 12 year old prodigy. She is a senior in high school and, like most child prodigy’s, she doesn’t get along with her classmates. But it is not only her mental abilities and age that separates her; Sophie is also a telepath. She can hear the thoughts of everyone around her, and no one is aware of her abilities. Sophie keeps her abilities to herself as she is unsure how she will be received by family and acquaintances.

One day, while on a field trip to the museum, Sophie meets a young man named Fitz. Only a few years older than her, Fitz seems unusually interested in Sophie. She thinks it is just teenaged attraction – until she accidentally discovers that Fitz can also read minds. Sophie soon learns that her mental abilities are not human, that she isn’t the human she thought she was. Sophie is actually an elf from a parallel world, where nearly everyone has some sort of magical ability. But Sophie seems to be a rare case as all elves possess blue eyes; Sophie, however, has always had brown eyes.

In an effort to better control her telepathic abilities and discover more about herself, Sophie leaves her human family and attends Foxfire Academy to study. There she must unlearn everything she knows as magic doesn’t follow the laws of human nature. Once a prodigy who didn’t have to struggle with her grades, Sophie now finds herself just above average – and even struggles in some of her subjects.

All too soon, Sophie learns that there are far greater secrets about her than just her unusual origins. Who were her elven parents? Why are her eyes brown? What else, other than telepathy, can Sophie do? And, most importantly, who is behind it all?

I came across Keeper of the Lost Cities while visiting the children’s section of my local Barnes and Noble. For a reader who often buys books because of their covers, Keeper is definitely one of those. But it is currently a five book series so I wasn’t sure how I would like it. I decided to check it out on Overdrive from my local library. I find it an intriguing read. For a middle grade novel, it is rich and imaginative. Having Sophie raised as a human lends some weight to her narrative. The reader feels like they are experiencing all the newness of being an elf right alongside her.

I really enjoyed this novel, but am holding off on continuing to see how many more installments there are. While there are lingering questions, the first volume doesn’t end on a huge cliffhanger so I feel it is a good place to pause for the moment. I do highly recommend it for those interested in reading middle grade.

My rating: 3.75/5