Almost Alice

A few years ago, a friend from home pushed a book at me and said ‘Read this’. I took one look at the cover and mentally groaned.
I don’t like it when people play with MY books.
And Alice (of the Wonderland Alice Clan), she’s one of mine!!

The blurb on the back proudly declared that in my hands I now held the actual history of Wonderland, not the children’s fantasy weaved so eloquently by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson).
That Princess Alyss (you see, nothing as mundane as Alice) was not in fact a human girl, fallen into a strange and magical land; she was, in point of fact a native of Wonderland, exiled to England – desperate to return to the land of her birth, to avenge her parents, save her people, and regain her crown from her pernicious and evil Aunt Redd (probably best to just visualise Helena Bonham-Carter from the recent film, but imagine her a little more comic book super villain-y). She told her tale to Dodgson, and instead of representing her truth, aiding her journey home; he sanitised it, turned it into a child’s tale, betraying her utterly.

My cynicism grew.
But my mate was adamant, and got this look in her eye that I both recognise and fear, so I took it and smiled a ‘I’ll give it a go’, lying through my teeth.
And then I got stuck on the bus with nothing else on me but that book. The rest is a positive, albeit predictable fairytale.

I LOVED the series, though, without a doubt, the first book (and comic – Hatter M) were the most successful for me. First and foremost, for a reboot, there is a delicious respect towards the original. I really got the impression that Frank Beddor had tried to visualise his own version of everything, purely to en capture the rich essence of the book I grew up loving. The storyline is, perhaps not as unique as the author might imagine, but definitely a new perspective, and I particularly liked the idea of white and black imagination as the basis for our own world’s inventions, and the inventive ways that these were described.

For the most part, the key players from the original Alice are included, albeit in a slightly counter to expectation portrayal. This works best, IMHO, in the cases of the Generals DoppleGanger, the assassin Cat, and the resourceful protector, Hatter M. (In a great case of embracing the zeitgeist, he has his own parallel series as a ‘graphic novel’, with 2 collections released so far. To be honest, I think this might be better than the second book in the series!!)

The books were clearly put together with a lot of thought, and contain a few gimmicks that really work. (For example, when Alyss is in the looking glass, each page is framed several times, white text on a black page for another particularly scary challenge). It is a gimmick, but I love these sort of things – the literary equivalent of breaking the forth wall.

Okay, so, like my own blogging efforts, there are a few wobbily moments in the writing, pacing and timing, and there are repetitive fight scenes (especially when the series is looked at as a whole), but come on, it’s Wonderland! At it’s worst, this book gets a bit bogged down and silly, at it’s best, it’s yet another excuse to return to Wonderland…and as you may know, I do like me my excuses to head back there!


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