Series: The Chronicles of Alice #1
Author: Christina Henry
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Genre: Adult – Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling, Horror
Format: Borrowed Paperback from Coworker
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which 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, tumbling 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.
This was a different twist on the original tale of Alice in Wonderland for sure. It was dark, twisted, a little creepy, and full of murder and blood. The book did sound interesting, though, and I liked the voice the author had throughout the story.
The book starts with Alice in an insane asylum when she is sixteen years old and quickly passes time to ten years later when she is still there. One day, her friend in the room next to hers, Hatcher, knows that the Jabberwock will be released and they have to get out.
And things are only just beginning when they do. The world of the Old City is much more twisted than that of the New City, because in the Old City there are prostitutes everywhere, as well as people who just take girls to rape them. I honestly think that this was probably the one detail of the story that kept popping up again and again that I could have done without. It made me angry and made my skin crawl just thinking of it.
When we’re first introduced to Alice, she doesn’t understand the world – at least, not as an adult. She only knows what the world was like as a teenager, and can’t remember all of the events that caused her to end up in the asylum other than her ranting about a Rabbit. I thought that she stayed pretty true to the Alice we know, albeit a confused one who doesn’t know what to think of the world and what’s going on. As time progresses, though, she does become fiercer, braver, sharper, and she knows that the only thing in this Old City is to survive and take down the Rabbit.
I thought that her develop gradually increased, but I wasn’t necessarily blown away by her. She was definitely an Alice I was expecting and I’m kind of glad for that. There were a few other things I wish had been fleshed out for her, such as her family life as a child and why she doesn’t remember what happened to her, about her feelings for Hatcher and where they stemmed from, and what about the necklace she is later gifted – what is its significance?
Hatcher, on the other hand, was very interesting to me. It wasn’t until much, much later in the story that I figured out that he’s based off of the Mad Hatter. He’s in the asylum for a much darker reason than Alice, and the reason why becomes clear as they journey through the Old City to find the Rabbit. I thought that his character stayed true throughout the entire novel, which was reassuring. He seemed like he had the mind of someone much younger, but at the same time of someone who understood the world in a much simpler way. Though he was the one who often had to kill people around them to survive, he had a bit of humanity in him that didn’t make him terrifying, but real.
There were secondary characters, like Cheshire, the Caterpillar, the Walrus, and Dor, who were easy to spot their character equivalent of, and I thought that they were pretty true to their personalities from the original tale: Cheshire was smart and witty, but quick with a temper if crossed; the Caterpillar was cunning and cocky, thinking very highly of himself; the Walrus was just kind of a coward and I didn’t care much for him; and Dor was… well, she was only there briefly, so I can’t really say much about her.
The plot continually moved forward, pushing Alice and Hatcher to find the Rabbit and put a stop to things. In fact, I think the two main plots were to take out the Jabberwock and to find the Rabbit. There were a lot of bumps and blood along the way, though, and many revelations for Alice as they continued. Many parts were dark and twisted, and though I wish there had been less of the girls and sex and rape and stuff mentioned in here, I understand that it is a part of this world (but I don’t have to like it just because of that).
Overall I thought that the story was compelling and was definitely leading to something big, but I think that the last fifty or so pages fell kind of flat. I thought that after so much mention of the Rabbit and his eyes and more would have lead to this epic battle scene or something – even with the Jabberwock – but it wasn’t and I think that’s where my disappointment crept in. The story felt like it was going in one direction and it ended in a completely different way. That’s honestly the saddest part of it all, plus I have a few unanswered questions like, Where did the love between Alice and Hatcher pop up? Was it because they had known each other from the asylum and therefore only knew what to expect from the other? What about the necklace that Alice wore, what was its significance in the end? Do we get to see what happens next?
I mean, there will be a sequel, but I don’t know if I’ll read it given the deflated ending of this one. The book was good, though darker than I anticipated, but I don’t know if these questions will be answered. Plus, there were a lot of typos that I noticed, and misused pronouns of he and she on occasion, so that was kind of annoying.
If you’re looking for a darker fairytale retelling with a creepy air about it, then check out this book.
I rated it 4/5 stars and recommend it.