Following up on Christina Henry’s successful novel, Alice, comes the continuing adventures of Alice and her beloved Hatcher. For readers with a forgetful memory like me, Henry provides a great summary of the first book through a little man known as Cheshire. He tells an unnamed girl a synopsis of Alice and brief reintroduction to the world Henry created. This prologue is so well written that people who might have skipped Alice can follow Red Queen with ease.
The story begins where Alice left off with Alice and Hatcher in a tunnel, running away from the City in search of Hatcher’s daughter, Jenny. Alice meditates on the physical and emotional scars their last adventures gave them, but holds on to a hopeful belief that, once they find Jenny, everything will be okay. Her and Hatcher can finally settle down and not look over their shoulders all the time. Of course, this is a version of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland so nothing is ever quite what it seems. With giants, goblins, and an evil White Queen, Alice and Hatcher’s initial quest to save one child turns into a quest to save a village.
Henry takes the best elements from Carroll’s iconic world and mixes them with dark fantasy elements. While Alice took on a darker, almost horror-like tone, Red Queen adds elements of lighter fairy tales with a dark twist. As a result, Red Queen provides a setting that is both unique and familiar to Wonderland fans. The characters Alice and Hatcher meet fit this darker version of Wonderland, but are still new and exciting. Many writers tackled the Wonderland story from various directions. Some failed; others succeeded. Henry succeeded.
The choice of villains was interesting and is a stark contrast to pop culture’s current identification of the Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, Cheshire, the White Queen, and others. I liked this refreshing take. It allowed me to enjoy the story as its own unique thing rather than a spin-off of what everyone else is doing. In this store, the titular Red Queen is not the villain. Instead, it is her sister, the White Queen. Both queens are long dead, but their spirits live on in objects and people that give them a sort of half-life.
Henry’s only flaw in her writing is that she gets too involved in Alice’s thoughts. From the third-person limited perspective, Henry dives into all of Alice’s thoughts and imagination. While it does allow the reader to feel immersed in the story, some of Alice’s thoughts are distracting and sometimes took away from the plot. At one point, I feared the plot was at a standstill because I was stuck reading just about Alice. It also pulled away from the some of the other character’s developments. However, the way Henry writes about Alice is so beautiful and magical that this flaw can be forgiven. In favor of enjoying the magic Henry creates, it works.
For fans of the Lewis Carrol classic, you will have a hard time not comparing and contrasting the two worlds. However, you will be hard pressed to find things you don’t like from the story. Henry’s writing is so seamless you won’t be able to stop reading. I think Henry does a fantastic job paying homage to the original while making her own mark. I’m excited to read whatever else Henry decides to write next!
4 Cheshire Grins out of 5