Title: The Looking Glass Wars (Looking Glass Wars #1)
Author: Frank Beddor
Audio Book Narrator: Gerard Doyle
Date Read: 25/05/2016 – 26/05/2016
Finally, an Alice in Wonderland-inspired book that I actually liked! Not that I’ve read an awful lot of them, and not that I thought this was the greatest thing ever, but when the last ones I read was Splintered, well. Oh, and there was also another one that I tried to read but I rage-quit it at 17% but I can’t remember what it was called. Anyway, my point is that it was nice to find an adaptation that had enough aspects of Carroll’s original Wonderland while still creating its own very alternative Wonderland.
The story begins on the 7th birthday of Princess Alyss of Wonderland. This day does not go as planned, and she ends up witnessing her parents’ violent murders at the hands of her Aunt Redd. She and the Queen’s bodyguard then leap into the Pool of Tears, where Alyss emerges in Victorian London. She spends time living on the streets before ending up in an orphanage and eventually being adopted by the Liddel family. By the time she is twenty, she has convinced herself that her memories of Wonderland are just a dream, but this is when she is finally tracked down by the bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, and her childhood best friend, Dodge, and returns to a very different Wonderland.
Seven-year-old Princess Alyss is just as bratty as the Alice in the original book, which I liked. She has powerful imagination-based magic (the idea that the user can imagine things into existence), but doesn’t know how to control it, and at that age, isn’t really interested in learning. When she returns to Wonderland many years later, her brattiness has turned into anger at what has happened there during her aunt’s cruel reign and seeing her develop from untrained, helpless heroine into a warrior was really enjoyable.
The side characters are also well-developed. Dodge is sweet as a boy but has grown hardened over the thirteen years he seeks revenge for losing his father and Alyss, the two people most dear to him. It’s fairly obvious that he will be Alyss’ love interest in later books, but there is basically no romance in this one apart from a little puppy love at the beginning, and that was so refreshing! I really enjoyed the character of Hatter Madigan, though he is a man of few words, so we know little about him. I think I have figured out a few things and I look forward to seeing if I’m right. Hatter is part of an elite part of the military known as the Millinery. All their weapons are hat-based. I loved this, as I thought it sounded like something Lewis Carroll might have come up with. Speaking of things he might have come up with, I also enjoyed General Doppelganger, who was able to split himself into two people, General Doppel and General Ganger. The Chessboard Desert and the Everlasting Forest were also nice touches.
Redd was a formidable villain. I am always a fan of villains who are unapologetically evil, and Redd is definitely that, but she does have her reasons.
The world-building is great. As I said above, there’s a lot of nods to the original Carroll story and while at first I thought the Power of Imagination maybe sounded a little weak as a magic system, it actually works very well. When two powerful imaginations are pitted against each other, anything can happen. There were a lot of great action scenes which were really fast-paced.
Most of my qualms were to do with the time Alice spent in our world. I felt that historical figures were maybe used too much. Perhaps it was because I looked Alice Liddel up on Wikipedia and read about her possible maybe-sort-of-brief-flirtation with Prince Leopold, and then a few chapters later, Alyss was engaged to said prince in the book and it felt jarring to have two versions of events in my head basically simultaneously. I did like the way the break between Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and the Liddel family was worked into the story (in this version, it’s because Alyss was so outraged at the version of events he put in his book that she never wanted to see him again) and there is an implication that the infamous missing pages from Dodgson’s diary were torn out by Hatter Madigan. Still, I felt these characters were overused a bit, especially when so many other liberties are taken with the facts.
Still, I had the second book reserved before I had even finished the first, and I definitely look forward to seeing how Alyss rebuilds Wonderland in the face of other adversaries.