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 favourite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King's marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. 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.

Our Review

As the author says in her acknowledgments she was heavily influenced by the work of Gregory Maguire and this certainly shows in this book. In general I like fairy tales when they have been reworked so I thought I would enjoy reading this book.

Catherine, the protagonist, learned to bake with her parents cook and then taught herself more recipes from tattered books. Her baking offers her comfort and a sense of control in a life ruled by her overbearing mother. With all her creations in the kitchen Catherine “baked her very heart into them.” Catherine and her best friend Mary Ann want to open a bakery together but first they need to find a way getting her parents to approve her using her dowry to pay for premises. “Her mother would never approve of her only daughter, the heir to Rock Turtle Cove, going into the men’s world of business, especially with a humble servant like Mary Ann as her partner.” Her parents, particularly her mother, have other plans for her life involving her marrying the King and becoming the Queen of Hearts but as the book develops Catherine has other ideas who should have her heart. Cheshire is one of Catherine’s fondest friends and loves to tell her any gossip that is doing the rounds in the kingdom of Hearts.

At the beginning of the book we learn that she woke that morning to find that a lemon tree from her dream has grown at the bottom of her bed. When she is telling Cheshire about her dream about the lemon trees she leaves out the bit about the handsome and mysterious stranger because she doesn’t want the rumour mill to turn on her. “Mostly it was his eyes that haunted her. Yellow and shining, sweet and tart. His eyes had been bright like lemons ready to fall from a tree.” It is via her friendship with Cheshire that the reader discovers the King is intending to marry Catherine and her reaction to this news. “The King. The simpleminded, ridiculous, happy, happy King. Her husband? Her one and only? Her partner through her life’s trials and joys? She would be Queen and Queens…Queens did not open bakeries with their best friends. Queens did not gossip with half invisible cats. Queens did not have dreams of yellow-eyed boys and wake up with lemon trees over their beds.”

The author’s descriptions of the King were my favourite in the book because the king was the opposite of how you would expect a King to be, “It was not at all that he was an intimidating man, much the opposite. The King, perhaps fifteen years her senior, was round-bodied and rosy cheeked and had a tendency to giggle at the most inopportune times. It was his very lack of intimidation that kept Catherine on her best behaviour otherwise it would be too easy to forget that he was her sovereign.” I liked the way he was shown to be hapless, “The King was a sweet man. A happy man, which was important, as a happy King made for a happy kingdom. He simply wasn’t a clever man.”

Marissa Meyer managed to weave things from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ into this tale without the reader really thinking of them as something they have seen before like Hatta, Caterpillar, the White Rabbit and the Jabberwock. “Jabberwock was a creature of nightmares and myth, of tales told by firelight to frighten little children into good behaviour…As far as Cath knew, no Jabberwock had been sighted in Hearts for countless generations told of them being hunted by great knights centuries ago, until the last of the Jabberwock was slain by a king who carried the mythical Vorpal sword.”

The book begins with a description of “three delicious lemon tarts” which were glistening up at her. “Setting the towels aside, she picked through the curled, sugared lemon peels laid out on parchment and arranged them like rose blossom on the tarts, setting each strip on the still-warm centre. The aromas of sweet citrus and buttery, flaky crust curled beneath her nose.” The descriptions of the baking made me feel constantly hungry.

I found this book highly readable and I felt a familiar sense of disappointment that it had finished. I cared about what happened to all of the characters and wanted to read it again as soon as I had finished reading it.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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