{Review} THE LOOKING GLASS WARS by Frank Beddor

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
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O P E N I N G   L I N E:

The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars, #1)
  Everyone THOUGHT SHE HAD made it up, and she had tolerated more taunting and teasing from other children, more lectures and punishments from grown-ups, than any eleven-year-old should have to bear. But now, after four years, it had arrived; her last, best chance to prove to them all that she had been telling the truth. A college scholar had thought enough of her history to write it up as a book.

(Page 1, Us paperback edition)

"It's all in your head. Remember that, love. Whatever happens it's all in your head."


The fact that two out of three of my book reviews (so far!) will now be A Twist in the Tail posts tells you guys something. I am a sucker for a colorful and imaginative retelling of a classic tale. There's something nostalgic about it; your inner child's needs are sated by the memories of what you loved about the original story, and your older mind is equally pleased with the way the plot has grown, darkened, and gained more complexity. There is something universally fascinating about the way an author can build on a platform, find new ways to express the same thing.

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were two of my most beloved tales when I was younger. I had a really great hardcover book that contained both stories in one, and it's been so well loved that the binding has come undone. Now, a lot of very amazing authors have written stories inspired by this classic tale, but today I wanted to highlight one that I don't think has received nearly enough recognition.

What if it was all real? That's the question that jump starts this storyline. Author Frank Beddor puts the book we have known all our lives into our hands and asks us to imagine...what if it was true? What if Lewis Carroll took the very honest words of a little girl trapped in our world, and mismanaged them until they had grown into a different story altogether? In the prologue, we are welcomed into the tale with a very heavy moment between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell. The well-meaning author of our classic tale doesn't understand why the eleven year old girl is horrified and betrayed by the liberties he has taken with the stories she has told him. To her, it matters that he reimagined her tutor Bibwit Hart as the White Rabbit, or her mother's guard Hatter Madigan as some Mad Hatter at a tea party. Once known as Alyss of Wonderland, she has only the memories of the life she had before her Aunt Redd lead a coup against her parents. Childishly, she'd convinced herself that Carroll believed her story was true, and that he was going to shine light on them so that others believed her too. The genius move that Beddor makes here is to start with this prologue, because it locks in the fact that the reader is going to be irrevocably attached to Alyss/Alice. You can feel her sorrow, her defeated spirit. This little girl's heartbreak and the way the moment with Carroll forced her to lock away her heart and her past makes you certain that you care about this character. You care and you are already rooting for her, ready to turn the page and learn more about how all of this came about.

Step into Wonderland...which is not white roses painted red or games of croquet with flamingos. Beddor's Wonderland is darker, with heavy steampunk ties that draw your eye and make the setting come alive. Playing cards make up the army, and when they unfold they turn into tall, imposing, robotic creatures. Travel in Wonderland can be done by mirror...a clever nod to Through the Looking Glass that delighted me throughout all three books in the series. Imagination can be the difference between life and death here. Though the country has seen a peace during Queen Genevieve's reign, that is short-lived as we work our way into the story. There is just enough time to get a feel of Alyss Heart's life as a princess with an imagination so powerful it can take what's in her head and make it tangible. She is a precocious, adventurous child, who perhaps takes her skills for granted...until she loses everything. Her Aunt Redd (THE RED QUEEN, YA'ALL!!) is no comic relief. She is brutal, devious, unforgiving, and when she takes over the rule of Wonderland, Alyss is just barely rescued by Hatter Madigan, a member of the Queen's Guard. No tea parties for this Mad Hatter, no no, his hat is a weapon. When thrown it compresses and reveals deadly blades that make mince meat of his opponents. And the Cheshire Cat? He can morph from a tiny kittenish creature to a grotesque humanoid assassin. See Beddor takes all the original characters, keeps the important parts of their purpose, but gives them a deadly and darker makeover. It's delightful and engaging and if you love Madigan as much as I do, there's a really great graphic novel series you can enjoy.

Alyss and Madigan escape through the Pool of Tears, which links them to other worlds. They get separated, and as Madigan goes on a parallel journey to try and find the lost princess, poor Alyss is forced to try and survive in our world--a world that calls her Alice and thinks her biography is a fairy tale. She grows into adulthood, lost inside herself, eventually believing that everything she knew about Wonderland was all in her head...a daydream that never existed. She softens with the Victorian times, and by the time Madigan is reunited with her there is little left of the imaginative Alyss we knew as a child. In her absence, the rebels have been trying to fight against Redd, and with her return the Wonderlandians are expecting a LEADER. What they get instead is a seemingly frail and overwhelmed young woman. The storyline explodes from here on with tactics and intrigue, mysteries and plots to take Wonderland back and help Alyss find her imagination again. Her mind is the key to saving them all, and it's one of those lifeboat sort of scenarios. Alyss is no use to anybody in this fight until she reconnects with herself, lets go of the pain and sorrow she's boxed herself into, and takes her mind and her imaginative powers back.

I could easily go on for another hour about this book...about the series as a whole, because this story is definitely not finished in one book. The characters grow in each story, their development comes in chunks and haphazard moments where their choices can change everything. You the reader find yourself utterly hinged on these choices, watching each player go through moments where they doubt themselves and what their motives for fighting are. By the time you are done you can never think of Wonderland the same...Beddor has added layers and ideas to it that you just can't shake. And you wouldn't want to if you could. It's highly recommended that you find a rabbit hole to your local bookstore and pick up THE LOOKING GLASS WARS for yourself. You really won't regret it.

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG ( kissing )
Language: PG13 ( a few scattered instances of cursing.)
Violence: PG13 ( .instances of violence befitting instances of war and fighting; beheadings, bloodshed etc. Violence is over with fast and the narration doesn't go into unnecessarily graphic detail.)
Other:  --

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I can remember walking through the bookstore in 2006, and being instantly captivated by this cover. "Fantasy just declared war on reality" says the small text in between an army of intriguing robotic looking creatures. The cover has a sort of metallic theme about it, which is a sample of the steampunk atmosphere you get in the storyline, and also lends itself to depicting the cold metal clash of war. You wonder what the creatures you're seeing are, what sort of war is being fought?

Image result for the looking glass wars map

There's also a fantastic map inside, which gives you a view of how detailed the world you're about to visit is. But it doesn't stop there!!

Image result for the looking glass wars timeline

At the end of the story you get greeted with a lovely timeline. It adds further creative depth to the world by giving you a play by play of how instances and inventions in Wonderland rippled through to ours. It just shows how much detail the author put into bringing this book to life for his readers.

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Frank Beddor
Release Date: September 26th, 2006
Publisher: Dial Books
Received: Purchased

Alyss of Wonderland? When Alyss Heart, newly orphaned heir to the Wonderland throne, flees through the Pool of Tears to escape her murderous Aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly! 

Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss' story - and he's searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland, to battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts. 

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions of mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.