I was a little wary going into this one – Alice in Wonderland is a difficult tale to reshape. You need enough crazy that it IS Alice, but not enough that it veers into “what is going on here anymore I can’t follow this.” This book did it wonderfully. It’s a dark re-telling – it begins in an asylum, that Alice and Hatcher (The stand-in for the Mad Hatter) break out of. Hatcher’s a murderer, and Alice is no wilting flower herself. Together they fight their way through a neglected, abandoned city run by gangs, to recover the one weapon that can vanquish the Jabberwocky.
It’s a dark book – rape is rampant throughout a city without law, though it’s never graphically described, at least. The weak are chattel to be used, sold, and killed by the strong. But Alice has been weak, and refuses to be weak again. She’s a bit of an avenging angel, descending on the oppressors and freeing anyone she can.
Both Alice and Hatcher have incomplete memories – their trauma both from the city and the asylum fracturing and hiding their pasts. They recover some of those memories throughout the story, and Henry has handled it perfectly, revealing to both them and us key parts of plotline when it’s needed, in a very natural way.
The romance plotline is unconventional, but also very believable, given what the two experience together. Though it’s also a love that I’m not sure can survive outside of their circumstances. After the book, when they (I assume) settle down in peace and quiet – I don’t know that their romance will persevere. They’re traumatized and broken and cling together to hide some of the sharp edges – or cling together in such a way that those sharp edges face out to protect them from the gangs in the city. When they no longer need to kill to survive, what happens?
I’m glad to find there’s a sequel, as they do still have an uncompleted task when the book ends. I’m also intrigued to read Henry’s other series, Black Wings.
Final verdict: I loved it. But it’s dark, so be prepared for that.
From the cover of Alice:
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City stands a hospital with cinder-block walls that echo the screams of the poor souls inside.
In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place – just a tea party long ago, and long ears and blood….
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape. She tumbles out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.
Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.
And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the Rabbit waits for his Alice.