Tuesday, November 28, 2006
A Butt-kicking Alice
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor was published in England back in 2004, so I've been hearing about it for a while. The basic idea behind the story is that Alice, of Alice in Wonderland fame, is not a British child at all but a refugee from Wonderland who finds herself trapped in Victorian England where she is adopted by the Liddell family. She is actually Alyss Heart, a princess (from the red suit), whose mother, the Queen of Hearts, is overthrown by her evil sister Redd. Alyss is saved by Hatter Madigan, her mother's head of security, but her tall albino tutor has to stay behind.
She meets Charles Dodgson, the only person in our world who appears to believe her story, and he tells her he'll write a book about her experiences. She thinks this will prove once and for all that she's not making this stuff up. But when the book is finished, she's horrified to find that Dodgson has turned Hatter Madigan into a mad hatter and her tutor into a hare. Her entire life has become nonsense.
She tries to acclimate herself to her new world, but at the moment she's about to be married, her subjects find her and take her back to Wonderland so she can join the battle against her facist aunt Redd.
The Looking Glass Wars appears to be somewhat polarizing with a lot of readers disliking it. I'm not finding much in the way of raves for it anywhere, either.
Inspite of some technical complaints, though, I thought it was an entertaining read. A number of critics objected because many of the characters aren't exactly deep. And some felt there was too much violence. (After listening to Sabriel by Garth Nix, my tolerance for violence in YA has skyrocketed.) My own wonky fingerpointing has to do with some flipping among characters as the story is being told and the use of italics for Alyss's thoughts. Her internal life wasn't worked into the narrative at all. (I know, I know. Some people are going to say she didn't have an internal life.) The italics would just pop up, stopping the flow while the reader works out in her mind that this is Alyss thinking and what these thoughts say about her.
But, really, this is an action book. It's plot driven. You have to accept it for what it is. If you don't consider the original Alice books holy scripture and thus untouchable, you can have a good time with The Looking Glass Wars. It's the first in a trilogy, and I don't know how I'll feel about going on with the story, particularly if it no longer messes with the Alice stories. But if Beddor does go off on his own in Wonderland, it might be interesting to see if he can maintain a book without the connection to Lewis Carroll's work.
Beddor has already written a four-part graphic novel series The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M..