Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, 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 unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath 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.
In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
I am a huge fan of Lewis Carroll's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I read both on repeat as a kid and Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favorite Disney movies. Ever since I was young I have found myself escaping reality by reading. And going down the rabbit hole to Wonderland was a place I liked to visit often.
I have read a lot of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland sequels, prequels, and retellings. But I have never read one that honestly made me feel like I had stepped in the same Wonderland Lewis Carroll created. The references to the world we all know didn't feel like obvious cheesy cameos, but instead it felt like I was reading the history of these characters I love (or hate). Marissa Meyer's writing is absolutely gorgeous and easy to read. I haven't read a story of hers that I didn't fall in love with, this was no exception.
The characters are what really got me. I think it's because we know what is going to happen by the end of the story. At least to a certain extent. But we don't know how we are going to get there and what will cause these events. Catherine is already labeled as the "terror of Wonderland" in the synopsis. You know she's going to be the Queen of Hearts. But you don't know how, especially since she is trying everything in her power not to be. And boy is it painful and heartbreaking. I loved Catherine. I got incredibly mad at her at times but for a lot of the book I was mad for her. Every single one of her decisions are being watched under a microscope and she obviously has a talent that is being treated like nothing by her parents. I love her passion and her heart. Which is what makes the ending so incredibly painful. I do wish she was a bit braver in her attempts to stand up to her parents, who are the absolute worst, but I understood why she was hesitant. She grew up for so long listening to her parents, doing what they say so she could focus on her baking and her dreams to open a bakery. I also loved all the baked goods references that Catherine was making. Seriously, do not read this book on an empty stomach. All you'll want is baked goods and anything sweet with all the talk of Catherine's masterpieces. With that being said, her lack of spine kind of drove me insane, and I feel like if she was braver she may have been able to change the course of events that happen. Her "forbidden" love interest, Jest, had me completely charmed from the beginning. One thing Marissa Meyer is great at is writing characters with great romantic chemistry. Which Catherine and Jest had tons of. His generosity and ability to brighten up any moment were definitely traits that made it easy fall in love with him. Cheshire was a delight and I was so happy that he was in the story. Little me loved Cheshire so much. He was the same smug, a bit annoying, but overall lovable disappearing feline. Also, Hatta was amazing. When I was younger I may have loved Cheshire and Alice, but as I grew up and kept re-reading the stories I realized I loved the Mad Hatter even more. Hatta's backstory broke me. All of the backstories of these characters fit so well with the original one.
I loved the plot. I think of course, the trope of the young woman in the Victorian era being pressured to marry someone royal or wealthy that the woman doesn't really want to. But this story takes that trope and changes it a bit. One being that the King is actually kind of sweet and he's incredibly kind. So you don't want Catherine to break his heart, but you also don't want her to marry someone she doesn't want to marry. I think it was a cool way to use the trope with these characters we already know pretty well. And like I said earlier, I think Catherine and Jest's romance was done so beautifully. Their dialogue back and forth and obvious chemistry made it easy to love them together.
I've mentioned Meyer's amazing writing when it comes to the characters, chemistry, and plot. But she's also really great at painting a scene in your head. Both the tea party and croquet scenes were so much fun and I think they were my favorite. I felt like I was there with Catherine. All the ball/party scenes also had amazing imagery.
This is definitely a book that is going on my list of books I need to buy for my collection. I already want to reread it after rereading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It honestly feels like they should all go together. And it makes you think of the original story in a completely different way. It is almost like Meyer has made me love and feel for the story more than I already have. I am happy it is a stand alone novel because of how perfectly it ends, but I have to admit when I turned the last page I was shocked to see the Author's Note instead of a new chapter! It ends brilliantly, I just wasn't ready for it!
I highly recommend this book. I am so happy I finally read it and the more I sit and think about it the more I love it. If you love the original stories, I bet you'll love this amazing prequel retelling also!