Friday, February 8, 2013

The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Beddor

The Myth
Alice Liddel 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 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 Red for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.  (Summary from book - image from

My Review:  A friend of mine, and kindred spirit when it comes to books, told me about this series with gushing praise.  I will admit that it took me a while to read through it, since every time I sat down to read I fell asleep within a chapter. This is NOT because it was boring.  It wasn't. On the contrary, it was deliciously creative and magical.  I'm just exhausted.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Taking care of four kids is kicking my butt.  

Now, before we start I have to confess something:  I've never read Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or the sequel, Through the Looking Glass.  Until now, my only experience with his story comes from a Disney cartoon that I only watched once before I decided it was too creepy.  The cartoon obliterated any desire I ever had to read the original books.  I don't think I'm alone in this either.  Show of hands?  That's what I thought.  Thus, any comparisons I draw in this review will be based on my limited experience with the movie version.

The Looking Glass Wars is a re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's famous Wonderland, full of the clever, creative, fantastic and absurd but with a more focused plot and fleshed out setting than Disney ever thought up.  In this book, Alyss/Alice actually came to our world and told Lewis Carroll her story, only to have him water it down and twist it into his own nonsensical tale -- a lovely tweak that made me feel like I was getting "the real story" I'd been missing all these years.  The characters in the story are ever so much more than their cartoon counterparts:  Alyss Heart, displaced but legitimate heir to the Wonderland throne;  Aunt Redd, a power-hungry and iniquitous imposter with a propensity for decapitation;  Hatter Madigan, loyal bodyguard to the true Queen; Dodge Anders, Alice's childhood friend turned vengeful soldier; The Cat, Redd's lethal feline assassin; Bibwit Harte, mentor to the young princess; and General Doppleganger, a rebel leader with the tendency to split in two...literally.  These characters come together in Wonderland, where Imagination is a power that can be used for good or evil.  Redd wields the Black Imagination with frightening force.  Alyss's only hope to defeat her rests in the Looking Glass maze and the power of her own White Imagination.

Readers don't have to be well-versed in Wonderland to understand and enjoy this book, but it wouldn't hurt either.  It was easy to pick up on the more obvious parallels within the two stories, but I was somewhat plagued by the niggling suspicion that I was missing some of the more subtle references to the original novel that would be caught by a true Carroll connoisseur. I was almost tempted to read the original novel, just so I could get the full experience, but opted for sloth, settled in for the story, and did just fine.  In a book with endless imagination, the plot wasn't bound by such piddly notions as "reality" or "logic," so I let go of both and enjoyed the ride. Even though it took several weeks to finish, I'm glad I read The Looking Glass Wars and I have plans to read the next book in the series, Seeing Redd.  It just might take until 2014.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Some fantasy violence.

Sum it up:  A fascinating re-imagining of a classic tale.

1 comment:

Gold Robot said...

There's also a series of graphic novels that go alone with this, focusing on Hatter Madigan.

Three of these books have been published. And a fourth one is part of a Kickstarter campaign that's going on right now:

It's pretty cool stuff.


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