"The Looking Glass Wars" by Frank Beddor

I wasn’t going to post a review for The Looking Glass Wars until I’d read all three books in Frank Beddor’s trilogy (and possibly even the two available books in his Hatter M. prequel trilogy), but I’ve changed my mind since it might be a while until I get that far and I’m already starting to forget the novel’s quirks, so here it is. :)

Wanting to be “Alice-Compliant” in time for the new Tim Burton movie, I started Book One of The Looking Glass Wars after re-reading the original work (and sequel) by Lewis Carroll (which I won’t blog about because it’s been reviewed to death). I was glad to have read this before seeing the movie because a lot of people complained that the movie was much darker than the original book. This is true, but since The Looking Glass Wars is a very dark tale and was fresh in my mind, I embraced the movie and wasn’t bothered by this factor.

I would place The Looking Glass Wars in a genre I like to call “Fractured Fairytales” (which I talked about recently in my review of Heart’s Blood). Sure, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland isn’t a “fairytale.” Neither is The Wizard of Oz, but I put Gregory Maguire’s Wicked into this category as well. I generalize, so let’s move on. :)

The story opens with young Alyss Heart, Princess of Wonderland. It’s Alyss’ birthday and Aunt Redd is planning the ultimate surprise for her young niece: A bloody coup to seize the throne and gain control of Wonderland. Her mother, Queen Genevieve’s, dying wish is for her Millinery (Wonderland Military) bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, to escape and protect Alyss. Alyss and Hatter manage to escape to “our world” through The Pool of Tears, which was a really imaginative way of joining the story to reality. Upon reaching Victorian England, however, Alyss and Hatter are separated, destined to remain apart for the next thirteen years (a time which is, supposedly, chronicled in the Hatter M. prequel graphic novel series). Alyss winds up telling her tragic tale to Charles Dodgson (pseudonym Lewis Carroll), and he gets it all wrong, resulting in the less violent version of Wonderland we all know and love today. Anyway, to make a long story short without giving the best bits away, Alyss returns to her world and must join a resistance coalition in order to overthrow her aunt, restore Wonderland, and retake her throne.

Something I really liked about the novel was the fact that Beddor still kept the spirit of Wonderland despite changing so much about it. He has a very descriptive way of writing that lets the characters form in my mind. I really like the way he took things from the original work and turned them into things from his own reality while still maintaining the illusion of the reality being Wonderland.

Two early examples I loved that described the playing cards and the soldiers occurred on pages 26 and 27. He used phrases such as “Speckled across the tranquil landscape, looking harmless, and partly camouflaged by the day’s lengthening shadows, were Redd’s undealt card soldiers, lying flat one on top of another, each deck fifty-two soldiers thick, awaiting orders. ‘Redd’s decks are stacked.’...an unseen deck hidden in nearby underbrush fanned out and surrounded the king and his men...”

There was also a great line with Queen Redd that had me laughing despite the severity of the context:
“‘If there be any doubters among you, any who are unsure of their willingness to die for my cause, let them step forward now. They will be excused from this day’s battle until they are ready to fight, and they can enjoy a nice cup of tea.’”
I love this nuance of her character, because people in the book really do believe the delightful promises she makes them and never realize the sever truth hidden in her marks alluding at what is to come should she not be obeyed.

And can I just say I love The Cat? As Queen Redd’s prized assassin, he’s a far cry from the Cheshire Cat and not at all what I was expecting, but he’s an amazing character. I loved his development. He also found unique uses for the Jabberwocky that intrigued me. Ultimately, I felt that Beddor did a good job looking at characters and enhancing them. I also loved the way he incorporated artwork into the pages of the book. I read an interview (Part 1 and Part 2) where he hired an artist to create his characters for him so he could refer back to the images and flesh out his writing more. As a fellow writer, I really appreciate that and I love the fact that he chose to share such visuals with us. Considering the fact that Beddor was a movie producer before he was a writer (his most famous work was There's Something About Mary), I look forward to the movie(s) he has mentioned doing for his trilogy. If they're as vivid as his novels, then hopefully they'll do well and bring more readers to his so-far excellent work.