A dark, imaginative, and romantic Alice in Wonderland prequel.
Recommended grade level: 7 and up
Pages: 453 (for ISBN 9781250044655)
Tone/Style: dark, romantic
Pace: leisurely to moderate
Topics: Alice in Wonderland, magic, baking, royalty, nobility, unwanted marriages, Victorian, illicit romance, fairy tales (Alice in Wonderland isn’t quite a fairy tale, but it appeals to the same crowd so I’m sticking the tag in here.)
Summary: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. 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 an intense, secret courtship.
Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. (Source)
Who will like this book?: Romantics and drama lovers with a morbid side will eat this up. Give it to fans of dark fairy tale retellings and illicit, tumultuous romances.
Who won’t like this book?: Those who dislike romance should stay far, far away, even if they do like fairy tales. Cynics and pragmatists might have some problems with it, as well as those looking for something light and fluffy. It would be a hard sell for most boys.
Other comments: This have some violence and some heavy petting. It may have also implied sex, but I wasn’t quite sure; readers probably won’t see it unless they’re looking for it.
Readalikes: Fans who have not yet read of Meyer’s previous Lunar Chronicles series should enjoy that as well. Other dark retellings: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes, and Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (recommended for grades 8 and up). East by Edith Pattou and Robin McKinley‘s fairy tale retellings are not as dark but could be good for those avoiding mature content. Those interested in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can try Splintered by A.G. Howard (recommended for grades 8 and up), The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, and, well, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (naturally).
Image credit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18584855-heartless