Put aside any thoughts of Alice skipping happily
through Wonderland encountering charmingly benign characters,
and instead meet Alyss and the heroic, passionate, monstrous,
vengeful population of Wondernation as they battle each other
with AD-52's and orb generators, navigate the Crystal Continuum,
bet on jabberwock fights and travel across the Chessboard
Three lead characters drive the story. There is Alyss, the young princess of Wonderland, already renowned, for the power of her imagination (Wonderland being a place where to imagine is to make real), who falls through the Pool of Tears to escape her Aunt Redd when the latter's armies viciously attack the peaceful Queendom killing Alyss's parents. Alyss lands up in Victorian London where she briefly falls in with a band of street children before eventually being adopted by the Liddells. Even though everyone laughs at her and her imaginative powers all but disappear she remembers who she is.
The second is the royal bodyguard, Hatter Madigan (aka the Mad Hatter), with a weapon enhanced line of headwear that makes Odd Job's steel-rimmed bowler hat look decidedly old school. Madigan follows Alyss through the Pool of Tears, but lands at a different location (his adventures while searching for Alyss have already been spun off in comic book format - see sidebar).
The third character is Dodge Anders, Alyss's long term love interest whose father is killed by The Cat (Redd's paid assassin, with the convenient advantage of 9-lives); Dodge leads a band of rebels in Wonderland who await the day when their rightful queen is returned to the throne.
Beddor gets top marks for creativity and plotline, but, from an adult point of view, falls down with some rather clunky writing, which tends to read like a concept for a computer game rather than a finished book. The story hurtles forward from scene to complex scene with Black Imagination pitted against White, but with relatively little character development. For this reason we feel it is likely to be of greatest appeal to boys in their early teens, on the basis that the majority in that age group value action above all else.
At the end of the day, what matters is what the intended audience think of it; so let's hear from them....
Our 12-year-old male reviewer loved every bit of it - the humor, the action and the characters, whereas it had too much violence to appeal to our 11-year-old female reviewer. We have received similarly mixed reports from other young teens. One 13-year-old boy reports that friends of his, both girls and boys, enjoyed the story, but he felt that the ending was weak and that it was a little too "female".
As always, you can get a taste of the book by reading the excerpt at BookBrowse.
Seeing Redd, the second in the series, was published in August 2007. Picking up where The Looking Glass Wars ends, it is described by reviewers as more graphically violent than the first.
This review was originally published in October 2006, and has been updated for the August 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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