The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.
Sometimes fate (or School Library Journal) sends you just the right book to review. I got the ARC for Seeing Redd, the second book in the Looking Glass Wars series and reluctantly picked up the first one. Why reluctant? Well, I love Alice in Wonderland, fondly remembered from having it read aloud to me as a child. I just didn’t want to see it redone and perhaps diminished.
My fears were set aside almost immediately upon opening this book. It is a triumph of retelling where the original story still stands proudly, while this novel turns so far away from the original that it can be read entirely on its own. This world is a very brutal Wonderland, still filled with large caterpillars, sentient cards, jabberwockies, and a Queen of Hearts, it really bears little resemblance to the world Lewis Carroll created.
The story is that of Alyss, future queen of Wonderland who witnesses the murder of her mother at the hands of her Aunt Redd. Redd takes over Wonderland while Alyss flees to safety through a pool that leads her to England. There she becomes Alice and meets Lewis Carroll who writes a book about her “fantasies.” Alyss is eventually rescued and returned to Wonderland to battle Redd for the throne.
There are so many wonderful characters here: the rotund and double-crossing Jack of Diamonds, Bibwit the albino tutor with large ears, and Hatter Madigan who is a member of an elite fighting force. They are the ones that carry the story and the book. It is a delight to find characters loosely based on Carroll’s who are vividly drawn and alive.
I had thought I could only recommend this to children who had read the original books (and how many children would that be?) But this book can be enjoyed by children who have no knowledge of Alice beyond the Disney film. And that is a compliment. Share with children ages 9-12 who enjoy fantasy with a little gore.