Book Review: The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

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THE MYTH: Alice Liddell was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carroll in his famous storybook.

THE TRUTH: Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss's parents. To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring young author, to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

Pretty good overall, considering that there aren't many re-imaginings of  Alice in Wonderland around, really. This book really takes liberties with some of the concepts in the classics, like the Millinery (an elite force of bodyguards, of which Hatter Madigan is a member) and the ranking families (there are four suit families: the Clubs, the Diamonds, the Hearts, and the Spades).

Throughout the book, I could kind of feel the effects of its moderate pacing. There was a little too much backstory, although as I read it seemed necessary enough. Even the fight scenes felt somewhat sluggish, which takes skill. I mean, who can write sluggish fight scenes?

Still, the premise was fascinating, and well-done for its genre. The characters varied - some were amazing, some were too stereotypical. Alyss, for example. She wasn't flawed enough to be likable, to me. She was too inherently good, and her full power was a little - no, okay, a lot - unfair. She could do anything that she imagined. What kind of advantage is that? Okay, so Redd can do the same, but it's obvious that Alyss is the more powerful one.

Dodge, on the other hand, was a very interesting guy. I needed to know how such a cheerful young boy had grown up into such a reserved, hateful man. And yet he still harbored that love for Alyss... I wanted to know what made him tick.

All in all, Wonderland has been transformed, and not too badly. The Looking Glass Wars turned it into a realistic world with realistic problems, which also brings to mind the transformation of Oz in Wicked (great book; you should read it). If you're looking for a fresh series - yes, the next book is called Seeing Redd - then by all means pick it up. I'm worried that my review sounded too disparaging... it's really not that bad. Just read the first few pages, I guess :D
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