Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Frank Beddor - The Looking Glass Wars (Book Review)

"Looking Glass Wars" (Amazon: UK / US)
Format: Paperback, 384 / 400 pages
Publisher: Egmont Books Ltd. / Puffin (May 2005 / August 2007)
Princess Alyss Heart’s life turns upside down when her vicious Aunt Redd beheads Alyss' mother and begins to rule over Wonderland with an iron fist. Alyss escapes from Wonderland and is exiled to Victorian London, where she is adopted into a new family, renamed Alice, and befriended by Lewis Carroll. Wonderland never leaves her mind, though, and at age 20 she returns to Wonderland in wish to overthrow Redd.


Wonderland is real, folks. Carroll enthusiast, proceed to jump with glee. Someone--somewhere--has stepped forward, once again shedding the light on the classic adventure of a girl who stumbles upon a bustling rabbit and a strange little world. I, being one of the Wonderland-junkies, had to pick it up and make sure Carroll’s legacy was being kept properly.

Too bad that Looking Glass Wars was not much to my liking.

Not that it wasn’t an enjoyable read. It was. I read it in one sitting, almost entirely immersed in this vicious new Wonderland, where only the disloyal and heartless survive. I was incredibly impressed with Mr. BEDDOR’s imagination with the whole thing. He took a children’s book with roughly drawn characters and turned it into this maniacal world with armies and palaces … I could even go as far to say that he has created an entirely new world. The idea of turning the Cheshire Cat into a Cat assassin with nine lives was brilliant. The Mad Hatter has become a loyal but deadly guard for Queen Genevieve (aka the White Queen) and her daughter, Alyss Heart. The Red Queen/Queen of Hearts is, of course, the sinister Redd, and the wise scholar Bibwit Harte (an anagram for White Rabbit) is the royal tutor.

I’m not good at summaries in the least, so I’ll just get to the point: it was okay. Not marvelous, not terrible. Simple okay. The setting is fantastic, unbelievably creative, with such an amazing twist on everything. This might have, however, been the downfall of the whole thing.

It seems like the author spent SO MUCH DAMN TIME coming up with the setting, twisting these characters into generals and queens and princesses, that he forgot about the rest. It feels like he spent too much time exploring one scene, then remembered he had a plot to follow and rushed it through so he could quickly get to the next part. When I read books, the first thing I look for is a connection to the characters. Am I rooting for him/her? Am I invested in their life? Do I want them to win? I did not find any of this with Alyss Heart.
Looking Glas Wars is narrated in a cold, detached third person point of view, and the author separated the moment she fell into Victorian London and thirteen years later when she returns to Wonderland with a single paragraph. There is no time for the reader to relate to Alyss, or even to get to know her well.
First she’s seven and running around with a group of homeless orphans. The next moment she‘s ten and put in an orphanage. In a nick of time, she’s eleven and adopted and trying to push aside her Wonderland memories. Finally, she’s twenty and all of a sudden a powerful queen. I really wouldn’t mind reading an extra two hundred pages or so as long as there would be more insight, perspective and details. It would have been interesting to see how she adjusts to this new, drab world. She comes from Wonderland, a place full of color and imagination and strange creatures, to one of the bleakest places of the Victorian era, where women are meant to stay in their place and imagination is near-sin. There is a prince who proposes to her, their relationship is described in five paragraphs, tops, and when they’re about to get married, she’s suddenly back in Wonderland with little to no transitions explaining this.
She mentions that she loves the Liddels, who raised her, but she hardly even describes them or the rest of the family whatsoever. The only one she describes at length is Mrs. Liddel, and what she has to say about her is not really positive. How am I supposed to cares for these people when she left them without a thought, replacing herself with a figurative clone she created of herself (using imagination, which has obviously become a kind of superpower). There is no indication that she misses them, even though they were raising her since she was ten, or that she missed Wonderland during the time of her exile. Upon her return, everyone greets each other with quick, cold mutterings that hardly reflect the fact that none of them have seen each other for most of Alyss’ life.

Honestly, I could go on like this all day, but then my rating would make no sense. Despite the plot being rushed and detached from the characters, the setting was really imaginative and made "Looking Glass Wars" quite fun to read. "Looking Glass Wars" has brisk pace with a lot of action sequences, and some of the characters - such as Jack of Diamonds - are just hilarious to read about. While this may not be enough to overlook the sloppily written plot, it does make "Looking Glass Wars" an enjoyable light read.

~ Dannie ~



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