I love different takes on classics and fairytales. When I first heard of the Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor which reimagines Alice in Wonderland I was really excited. The premise has Alice, renamed Alyss Heart, as Queen of Wonderland and battling her evil Aunt Redd for control of the throne. The book has almost all the elements to make a great story: awesome characters: Alyss, Dodge Anders-head of her palace guard, General Doppelganger who can split himself into several people, Bibwit Harte and yes that is an anagrammed “White Rabbit”), Hatter Madigan (a legendary Milliner which is like a Wonderland Special Forces) and his daughter Homburg Molly, Alice’s bodyguard. It has action sequences, Caterpillars as Oracles, and Imagination which is the force Imaginationists use to invent and conjure things into reality.
Having read the first two books in the trilogy The Looking Glass Wars, and Seeing Redd, I wanted to see how the story ended for these characters. Who would rule Wonderland, Alyss or Redd? How would they overcome the invasion of neighboring King Arch’s armies and restore imagination which had previously been shut down by WILMA (a device made of caterpillar silk which was launched over Wondertropolis)? The third book begins shortly after WILMA’s deployment. Alyss and Co. are waiting for the effects of WILMA to wear off and imagination to return. While imagination is still absent King Arch makes his move and takes Wondertropolis. Eventually it does start to return. Hatter takes Molly to earth to stay with Reverend Dodgson (i.e. Lewis Carroll) so he can go back to Wonderland and assist Alyss in defeating King Arch. Meanwhile the Caterpillar Oracles are playing sides muttering cryptic things about Everqueen. Who or what is Everqueen? You can never tell which side the Caterpillar Oracles are on because they appear to be assisting everyone in achieving their means. Arch devises a plot to rid himself of Alice by threatening the Liddell family from her childhood, forcing her to travel to earth and help them. When she transports to earth through the Pool of Tears, he immediately drains the pool so she is trapped on earth. Redd and Alice have joined forces at this point as they have realized pooling their resources is the only way to defeat Arch. So how does it end? I will not give it away but the whole ending was anti-climatic.
It should have been great. The idea for the whole series was unique-Alice as a Warrior Queen, Wonderland as an actual place- a villain as awesome as Redd (aka her Imperial Viciousness-wish I had a plaque for my desk that said that…). The one thing missing was a great story to bring all these elements together. Instead of something well written, we get something that was just ok but with plenty of made up items and battles as a distraction in hopes that the reader won’t notice the mediocre writing/storyline. I don’t like coming to the end of the story and thinking that was IT??? But that is what happened here.
There are two books out so far focusing on the character Hatter Madigan and his search for Alyss on earth to bring her back to rule Wonderland. These take place before the Looking Glass Wars trilogy. I am tempted to read them to see if the story is any better when centering on this fascinating character but I don’t know if I’m willing to take the plunge.