Our new Author Takeover comes from New York Times–bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles Marissa Meyer, with her new novel, Heartless. The Potter fandom knows all about characters with a predetermined fate, and we’re well used to the idea of the Chosen One. In Marissa’s Heartless, we have a vision of Wonderland like none you’ve seen before, telling the untold story of the girl who would become the notorious Queen of Hearts. She poses the question about whether we would rather explore a more rounded heroine than those who often grace our pages… one with flaws and humanity? Or someone picture perfect? What happens when you need to fight against what fate has in store for you?
Catherine may be 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.
Marissa is a fan of most things geeky (Sailor Moon, Firefly, any occasion that requires a costume) and has been in love with fairy tales since she was a child.
A Date with Destiny: Heartless
There are few tropes in the world of fiction that pull at my heartstrings as much as a beloved protagonist facing their destiny—and being forced to choose if they will fight against it, or embrace the inevitable.
This is of course a theme that is explored in depth throughout Harry Potter. From the very beginning, Harry is the Boy Who Lived. He is the Chosen One. And while he may not be aware from the start that his destiny will—someday, somehow—once again bring him face to face with Voldemort, the reader most certainly does know it, and we are kept in agony to see how such a meeting will play out.
This awareness of Harry’s destiny, or at least the suspicion of it, is largely what contributes to the suspense that builds so powerfully throughout the books. From the mystery of the twin cores in their wands, to the connection between Voldemort and Harry’s scar, to the ultimate reveal of Trelawney’s prophecy, we are like detectives, gradually piecing together Harry’s fate. And when we learn the full, horrific truth of it, we are desperate to know what he will do and if there is any possible way for him to fight against such an end… or if we even want him to.
And when Harry makes his choice in that fateful scene where he goes to meet Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest… well, to this day, my heart jolts every time I think of it.
As a writer, I am by no means immune to the call of the Chosen One story, and the question of fate is one that I approached both in my first series, The Lunar Chronicles, and even more strongly in my recent standalone novel, Heartless. But in Heartless, the protagonist, Catherine, is faced with a much different destiny than Harry. Whereas he is a beacon of hope to the wizarding community, Catherine is destined to become the infamous Queen of Hearts.
Cath doesn’t know of such a fate at the start of the book, but I imagine most readers will know from the start that this is an origin story for the well-known villain from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. However, even with this inevitable fate awaiting Catherine, I still wanted to play with the concepts of free will and choice and the possibility of fighting against such a destiny. Cath rebels time and again—constantly defying expectations and attempting to set her own course—and I hoped that readers would be rooting for her, would at times even harbor a slim bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, she would succeed at finding a different path, while at the same time feeling that the ultimate conclusion—in which she takes her throne and calls for the head of her first victim—was the only possible end for her.
It was a tricky balance to strike, and one that I enjoyed writing immensely.
Obviously, Heartless is a very different story from Harry Potter, and I hesitate to draw too many similarities between the books or between myself and J.K. Rowling (because, you know, J.K. Rowling). But as with any character who is faced with the question of Destiny, Cath and Harry must make some very similar decisions.
To stay or to run.
To stand up for what they believe or to allow their decisions to be dictated by those around them.
To rebel against fate or to accept who they are destined to become.
In the end, they both accept their fates—though I think it is interesting that in both cases, their fates were ultimately not a result of outside forces pushing them one way or the other, but of their own decisions. Whether it is Harry choosing to walk bravely into the forest or Cath crossing the threshold of a door that will change everything, they both make their choice.
But then… if one chooses to accept their fate, were they truly given a choice to begin with?
That, I think, is a question for the readers to decide.
Regardless, in both the cases of Harry Potter and the Queen of Hearts, I suspect Fate knew exactly what she was doing.