In Victorian England, Lewis Carrol publishes the story of little Alice and her adventures in the magical world of Wonderland. The story, so he says, is based on the tale told to him by a young girl named Alice Liddel. But this is not the true story of Wonderland - Alice’s name isn’t even spelt right.
The Looking Glass Wars is the true story of Alyss Heart, a mischievous, gifted princess and heir to the Wonderland throne. Alyss’ life is thrown into chaos when her outcast Aunt Redd storms her family’s castle and murders her parents. She’s forced to flee through the Pool of Tears with Royal Bodyguard, the strong and stoic Hatter Madigan. Suddenly separated in the void, Alyss lands alone and vulnerable in the middle of Victorian London. There she befriends a lowly author Reverend Charles Dodgson in the hope that he will tell her story to help Hatter find. Hatter on the other hand has landed miles away from Alyss but he’s willing to walk the earth to find the lost Princess and return her Wonderland to claim her rightful place at the throne from her bloodthirsty aunt.
The Looking Glass Wars aims to challenge everything we know and love about the original story of mad tea parties, talking flowers and late-running rabbits with pocket watches. Instead it’s a story of blood cold murder, political power struggles and a fantastical battle over the power of Imagination.
So what’s my verdict?
At the beginning of the book Beddor warns those of “a more sensitive disposition might prefer reading Lewis Carrol’s classic fairytale…” and this is certainly not a pretty story. Beddor creates a world completely different to the original tale, turning the innocent Alice into Alyss the lost, warrior princess; the Mad Hatter into the silent but deadly Hatter Madigan; and even the grinning Cheshire Cat into The Cat, Redd’s cruel assassin. He does, however, manage to keep some of the more warped elements of Wonderland and there’s still an element of magic in the story.
Alyss Heart’s tale is fast paced and, at times, confusing. There were many points I had to go back and try to figure out what just happened. In fact the most captivating parts of the story weren’t the action packed and trilling, but the moments in the real world as Alyss and Hatter struggle to both adjust to life without Imagination as well as desperately trying to find each other to return home.
Some may find this a sacrilege to take Carrol’s work and distort the original story, but I found the whole concept and change in characters refreshing. Alyss herself is quite a cliche character and it really the colourful cast of supporting characters make the tale come alive. It’s YA fiction at it’s simplest and some may find the plot a little juvenile but as a fan of reworked stories I personally loved Beddor’s creativity with both the plot and characters.
Alice (Underground): Avril Lavigne; Breath of Life: Florence + The Machine; People Are Strange: The Doors; Broken Crown: Mumford & Sons; Rebellion (Lies): Arcade Fire; Closer To The Edge: 30 Seconds To Mars; White Rabbit: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
For lovers of…the original Alice in Wonderland stories, Wicked, the ‘Once Upon A Time…’ series
*image (c)Ria Cagampang