The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Published by Speak on August 21, 2007
Series: The Looking Glass Wars #1
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Retellings, Young Adult
Length: 358 pages Source: Borders
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When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape the 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 is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.
The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions surrounding mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.
I so very, very much wanted to love this book. I adore the Alice franchise, and I’m not a crazed fanatic of the exact words and chaos that comes from Carroll’s tale as I am the possibilities it holds. I was thrilled when I discovered The Looking Glass Wars at my local Borders, and even more so thrilled when I learned that it wasn’t a stand-alone book. I have seen more versions of Alice in Wonderland than I can count on one hand, and I even tend to enjoy the ones that impose a plot upon Alice’s adventures.
This said, I had unfairly high hopes for Beddor’s story. I will not lie and say it was an awful book, but nor will I give it more praise than it rightfully deserves. There were some moments in it that I loved. For example, the Inventor’s Parade was a splendid idea (I particularly enjoyed the timeline at the end of the book which meshed real world events with those in Wonderland). There were things about Hatter Madigan I greatly enjoyed, and Alice as a child was delightful.
Then there were the things that were simply bad writing – rushing through scenes, Alice’s transport back to Wonderland was far too quick a transition and completely unbelievable, even in a Wonderland-context. Sometimes the odds were far too impossible for Beddor’s final conclusions to even be reached. Now, I know that attempting to look at Wonderland with a logical eye may seem foolish, but it isn’t a matter of logic verses suspension of disbelief. It was simply bad writing, as though the author got bored and decided to simply skip to the point.
I give Beddor three stars, because the book was full of potential. Some of his ideas were nothing short of brilliant. On the other hand, though, I didn’t see any characters that didn’t appear in the Disney adaptation of the story save for the chessmen, which makes me wonder how much time Beddor spent with Carroll verses how much time he spent with media interpretations of Carroll. Nonetheless, The Looking Glass Wars is a worthy read for anyone interested in fairytales, in reflections of Lewis Carroll’s work, or in a quick story that doesn’t have too stringent of a plotline. Perhaps even a fan of steampunk fantasy would enjoy this, based on aspects like the Millinery and the Glass Eyes and other aspects like that. However, die-hard Carroll fans, stay away! This will only serve to enrage you.