Playing with the Queen of Hearts


Heartless, by Marissa Meyer – The author of the Lunar Chronicles turns her attention to the work of Lewis Carroll, presenting the back story of the infamous Queen of Hearts. The book explains why the Mad Hatter and March Hare appear in both Alice books in different capacities, why the Duchess‘ baby turned into a pig, the origin of the Lobster Quadrille, how the Mock Turtle stopped being a real turtle, and even why the Queen hates white roses. You could reasonably argue that these things didn’t need to be explained, as Wonderland operates on dream logic. Tim Burton’s attempt to turn the Alice stories into epic fantasy was popular enough to merit a sequel, but it didn’t work for me. Meyer cites Gregory Maguire as an influence, and while I haven’t read anything of his other than the four Wicked books, I thought his take on Oz removed a lot of the whimsy that made L. Frank Baum’s fairyland appealing in the first place. That said, I think Meyer’s take on Wonderland works. It makes sense out of some of Carroll’s nonsense, but it’s still a strange place where just about anything can happen. The narrative shows a definite familiarity with the original books, incorporating such minor elements as the Dormouse’s story about the three sisters in the well (here sharing some traits with the mythical Fates), the riddle about the raven and the writing-desk, the White Rabbit’s maid Mary Ann, the Hatter’s relation to Time as an entity, and the reference in Carroll’s earlier draft Alice’s Adventures Under Ground to the Queen also being the Marchioness of Mock Turtles. The future Queen is introduced as Lady Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, who dreams of opening a bakery. She also becomes involved in a love triangle, as the King of Hearts courts her, but she has feelings for his court jester. The joker, whose name is Jest, turns out to be on a secret mission for the Kingdom of Chess. The story is basically a tragedy, telling how Catherine changes from idealistic dreamer to furious monarch obsessed with beheading. There’s plenty of humor along the way, though, and an indication that Catherine’s sacrifice did some good. Jest describes Chess as a place of constant war between red and white, which he seeks to stop by fulfilling a prophecy. In Through the Looking-Glass, the chess game is still going on, but the Red and White Queens are close friends. Meyer focuses almost entirely on characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, although as indicated there are a few references to the inhabitants of Chess, and the Jabberwock plays a significant role. I assume the Lion isn’t the same as the one who fights with the Unicorn, for reasons that become obvious if you read the book, but he might be a relative. One character I was kind of surprised didn’t appear is the Gryphon, as his best friend shows up several times. A character who wasn’t in Carroll’s books but fits quite well into the tradition of nursery rhymes coming to life is Peter Peter of pumpkin fame.

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This entry was posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Fairy Tales, Lewis Carroll, Nursery Rhymes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Playing with the Queen of Hearts

  1. Korto Z-T says:

    So you would recommend reading this? My sister has been recommending the Lunar Chronicles for a while now.

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