In her best-selling Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer has drawn from the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood. But her first standalone novel, Heartless, follows a familiar face from the other side of that hallowed line between good and evil: The teen who will become Alice in Wonderland’s decapitation-happy Queen of Hearts.
Heartless won’t hit shelves until Nov. 8, but check out an exclusive excerpt — and a first look at the prickly cover — below. And to tide you over until the release of Heartless, Meyers’ Lunar Chronicles story collection, Stars Above, is just around the corner, releasing on Feb. 2, 2016.
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Excerpt from Heartless by Marissa Meyer
A prequel to Alice in Wonderland by the bestseller author of the Lunar Chronicles.
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.
Catherine fled out to the balcony, running as fast as her heeled boots and strangling corset would allow. The cool night air sent a chill racing across her enflamed skin, but every breath remained a struggle.
She lifted her skirts and slipped down the steps into the rose gardens. She heard a splinter of glass and startled cries behind her and wondered what chaos Cheshire must be causing now, but she dared not look back, not even as she reached the gardens.
The world tilted. She paused at a wrought-iron gate, gripping one of the decorative finials for support. Catching her breath, she stumbled on. Down the clover-filled path between rose arbors and trickling fountains, passing topiaries and statues and a pond of water lilies. She reached for the back of her dress, desperate to loosen the stays. To breathe. But she couldn’t reach. She was suffocating.
She was going to be sick.
She was going to faint.
A shadow reared up in front of her, backlit from the blazing castle lights so that the silhouette stretched over the croquet lawns. Catherine cried out and stumbled to a halt, damp hair matted to her neck.
The shadow of a hooded man engulfed her. As Catherine stared, the silhouette lifted an enormous ax, the curved blade arching across the grass.
Trembling, Catherine spun around. A dark shape dropped toward her out of the sky. She screamed and threw her arms up in defense.
The raven cawed, so close she could feel his wing beats as he flew past.
“Are you all right?”
She gasped and withdrew her arms. Her heart was thundering as she peered up into the boughs of a white rose tree.
It took a moment to find him in the dark. The joker was lounging on a low-hanging branch, a silver flute in his hands, though if he’d been playing it before, she’d been too distracted to notice.
Her lashes fluttered. Half of her hair had fallen from its chignon and draped over her shoulder. Her skin was burning hot. The world was spinning wildly—swirling with lemon tarts and invisible cats and curved axes and . . .
The joker tensed, his brow creasing. “My lady?”
The world tilted severely and turned black.