The tiny and furious Queen of Hearts who shouts "Off with their heads!" was not always so angry.

In Heartless, an imagined prequel to Lewis Carroll's 150-year-old classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Marissa Meyer (the Lunar Chronicles) introduces the Queen of Hearts at the tender age of 18, when the King of Hearts, a giggling simpleton, is over the moon for her and for the scrumptious pastries she's famous for baking. The young, yet unmarried Queen of Hearts is Lady Catherine Pinkerton of the Kingdom of Hearts, but her friends call her "Cath." A match to that ridiculous royal is unthinkable to her. Cath has been dreaming for years of opening a bakery in town with her best friend (and maid) Mary Ann, but one night her fantasies take another turn. She dreams of a "hazy, beautiful boy" with lemon-yellow eyes... and then meets him at a party. He's the king's new court jester, a "joker" named Jest, and he dazzles her with his wordplay and breathtaking tricks. The story of the blossoming, forbidden romance between Cath and Jest is absolutely swoon-worthy, and their witty repartee and obvious chemistry make the suspenseful narrative sizzle.

Those well versed in the mesmerizing world of Alice will revel in how cleverly, seemingly effortlessly, Meyer works Carroll's beloved characters into her story. What begins as a witty, ingenious romp darkens and deepens until it grabs its readers by the throat. Will the brave, fierce Cath buckle and marry the king? Will she follow her heart? Meyer's foray into Wonderland will unhinge hearts and drop jaws as it charms and chills. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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