Book Talk: Woe to Alice in Wonderland Retellings

Woe to Alice in Wonderland Retellings

Posted March 9, 2018 by Amber in Bookish Things, Memes / 31 Comments


I really, really like Wonderland.

There’s something about Alice and her mad, pointless adventures that positively charms me.  I love the various film adaptations, I love the original stories… I even love the most recent video game adaptation, Alice: Madness ReturnsI’ve talked about my love for Alice in Wonderland before*, but I’ve never discussed in detail my complete and utter disappointment in its retellings.

*This is actually my most visited blog post and I don’t know why.

YA fantasy loves a good retelling.  It’s so tempting, like a bright red apple at a carnival dipped in gooey caramel.  The favorite tales – Alice in WonderlandSnow WhiteCinderella – have retellings galore.  Some retellings are amazing.  I recently read Wintersong, a retelling of the Goblin King, and it blew me away.  So why in the bloody world can’t I get my hands on an excellent Alice in Wonderland retelling?

I”ve read The Looking Glass Wars and found it conceptually interesting, but the characters were just… disappointing.  Weak, flat, and boring.  I thought perhaps I was mistaken and my memories were wrong, so I read Seeing Redd as well… and NOPE.  Not a fan.

If y’all have been around here for a bit, you know of my immense disappointment in Splintered.  If you don’t, my review explains all.

Alice in Zombieland and its sequels aren’t bad… but they definitely aren’t Alice in Wonderland.

So.  If you’ve got a suggestion of a really amazing Alice in Wonderland retelling… I’m all in!  I haven’t found one I liked yet, and there’s a special place in my heart just waiting to be filled.

Read:  I am ready for my heart to be broken with disappointment again.

This week’s Book Blogger Hop asked:

Do you enjoy reading retellings of, or ‘sequels’ to, classic novels? Why or why not?


Short answer: I love them!  Or, rather, I want to love them.  Some are really good, but I’ve been burned before.


How do you feel about retellings?

Are you in the same boat as me, looking for a good one and yet to find it?

Have you ever wanted to write a retelling yourself?

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31 responses to “Woe to Alice in Wonderland Retellings

  1. Retellings are great! Well. In theory, at least. Like you said, a lot of them don’t hold a candle to the original, but it’s still so interesting to read popular stories told from other perspectives.

    • Amber

      I agree – I can’t *stop* myself reading them. I actually just finished a Cinderella retelling by an indie author that was pretty good! 🙂

  2. I love retellings, but I’ve never.. really… liked Alice in Wonderland…
    The only Alice in Wonderland retelling (or prequel more like) I’ve ever read was Heartless, and while I didn’t enjoy it all that much, I think I would have been a lot more interested if I cared about the original story… So it might be worth a try if you haven’t read that one yet…

    Iris @ Hoard of Books recently posted: My Favourite Book Quotes!
    • Amber

      That’s okay! You don’t have to like Alice – lots of people don’t. 🙂 I don’t generally enjoy Cinderella, and she’s *so* popular! I haven’t read Heartless (I didn’t even know it was an Alice retelling?). I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read any Marissa Meyer, but I have Renegades AND Cinder! I will definitely give it a try!

  3. I share both your love for Alice and utter disappointment in retellings. I liked Alice in Zombieland but I wish they would have changed the title because it feels unaffiliated with Alice in Wonderland for the most part and does a disservice to the series.

    I generally do like retellings though, especially Beauty and the Beast.

    • Amber

      I agree – it’s really not Alice in Wonderland related short of the name, and the cover art (which I really like). I have a couple Beauty and the Beast retellings on my shelf from subscription boxes – Bellamy and the Brute, and Hunted. Have you read either of those?

  4. OMG, same!!! Retellings always interest me but many of them, especially the YA ones just don’t meet my expectations. I was so disappointed in many of the non-manga retellings, and I’ve just about given up finding good ones…

    • Amber

      I’m hopeless, I’ll keep picking them up even though I’m fairly certain they’ll disappoint me! Have you read Wintersong? I really liked Wintersong. I hear that The Lunar Chronicles are great as well, but I haven’t read them yet.

      • I think a lot of us are the same, we keep picking up new books with new hopes even though we’re fairly certain they be disappointing…

        And, no, I’ve actually not read Wintersong. I admit I got the impression that it’ll be a romance just as bad as Twilight, but I’ve been reevaluating my hasty impression since I read your review of it.

        I’ve also heard that TLC is great but I’ve read the one-star reviews from Emily May and Khanh (both whom usually have opinions that are similar to my own) mentioning a severe lack of world-building in the first book and the Asian-representation thing just being a bunch of name-drops. So yeah, those were major put-offs for me ?

        • Amber

          Ack, I hope it isn’t Twilighty. I haven’t read Twilight and have spent a lot of time talking about how stupid I thought it sounded (sorry to all those Twilight fans out there!) so if it’s similar I am a royal hypocrite. Eek. The audiobook was really enjoyable, though.

          Auuuughhhh that’s such a bummer to hear about TLC. I follow Emily May’s reviews too and she and I are on the same page most of the time, so I trust her reviews a lot. That’s a bummer about the world-building. I guess I’ll see when I read Cinder (it’s been on my TBR for years and I finally picked it up for about $4 over the holidays) but I think I’ll be a bit warier going in, now. Thanks for the head’s up!

          • No prob! I’ll wait for your review before I decided to actually delve into TLC or not (I hope it gets better in the following books though). Also $4 is insanely cheap??? Omg, apprehension or not apprehension, I would’ve definitely bought it and eventually read it.

            I get you. I like the premise of Twilight but the execution was just poor. And honestly, even if the romance for Wintersong is Twilight-y, a good execution of the story will put that to the backburner for me 🙂

          • Amber

            Err, probably don’t wait on my review! 😛 Since it’s on my bookshelf, it’s a TBR Jar book, and those get pulled at random. I have about 500 books on my shelf (yeeeeears of collecting and secondhand stores) so it could be three years lol. Amazon was amazing with low priced books this holiday season! I snagged Cinder, Fangirl, and Life as We Knew It all for about $4 each.

  5. I’m actually writing a sci-fi retelling of Alice in Wonderland…it’s like Alice meets Star Wars! It’s been really fun thinking of ways in which I can transfer the characters and symbols from fantasy into sci-fi. I haven’t read any of the other retellings because I don’t want to be influenced by them. I heard good things about Splintered so it’s a shame you were disappointed by it. I hope you can find one you really enjoy.

    • Amber

      Oh my gosh, that sounds interesting! I wrote an Alice retelling following a girl in the Hatter line instead of Alice herself and … well, that needs revision. I think it comes down to: if you can’t find the book you’re looking for, write it!

      People ADORE Splintered! After I posted the review, I found a lot of other kindred spirits who disliked it, so that was lovely. It was such a salty review, haha.

  6. Ema

    I love retellings! But, I agree it is so hard to find good retellings. I think ACOTAR is a very good retelling for Beauty and the Beast (I read only the first book so I can still see the connection with the original fairytale, but I think it will go down a different path than the original story). And I do like loose retellings, but sometimes I just want a REAL retelling. And that is so hard to find!
    One retelling I really, really loved was The Wrath and the Dawn which is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights.
    And I’m sorry but I haven’t read any Alice in Wonderland retellings!

    Ema recently posted: My Thoughts While Reading…
    • Amber

      That’s okay! In my experience, it’s probably better to avoid them! Haha.

      I haven’t read ACOTAR yet but I’ve heard nothing but good things. I didn’t really enjoy Throne of Glass for the most part, so I’m a bit weary… is it much different?

      I DO have The Wrath and the Dawn on my TBR though! I love that it’s a retelling of a less often retold story. 🙂 So good to hear you enjoyed it!

  7. I don’t think I’ve read any Alice in Wonderland retellings? Which is weird because I love Alice in Wonderland and I do think there are quite a few out there haha. Splintered has been (or was? I might have deleted it already?) on my tbr for the longest time but I’ve just lost interest in it and I don’t think current me would like it very much haha. The only other one I can think of is Heartless by Marissa Meyer but I haven’t heard anything good about that one

    • Amber

      That’s okay, don’t read any, they’re not good lol.

      Someone else suggested Heartless, too, which wasn’t on my radar as a retelling. So, yup, I’ll have to read that one now. XD

    • Amber

      I can’t figure it out for the life of me. The best I can figure is that the original Alice doesn’t really have a plot, it’s just a series of discoveries and misadventures. Other fairytales, writers mimic the plot with a twist, but with Wonderland we keep the world and characters with a new plot… and there just doesn’t seem to be a plot that fits. I’ve seen other media do it really well (for example… given a couple costume changes, I thought the first of Disney’s most recent Alice films to be quite good). We writers just haven’t found that sweet spot yet with this one.

  8. Olivia

    You should try The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert and Alice by Christina Henry – they’re quite good although both have anticlimactic endings.
    Films seem to do a much better job at loose Alice in Wonderland retellings like Spirited Away, Pan’s Labyrinth, Labyrinth and Coraline (I know it’s originally a book but I adore the film).
    I really liked the first books of the Splintered series and The Looking Glass Wars but then both series just got silly. I’m still waiting for a really great Alice ya retelling!
    Peter Pan has some great ones like The Child Thief.

    • Amber

      I have both The Hazel Wood and Alice on my TBR! I’m in no particular rush to get to Alice (it’s just on the regular TBR) but I actually do intend to read The Hazel wood quite soon, since it’s a 2018 debut. 🙂

      I’m glad you liked Splintered and The Looking Glass Wars! They really weren’t for me, unfortunately. I liked the world building in both, but couldn’t get on with the characters at all. I’ve never heard of The Child Thief – I’ll look into it!

  9. Amanda Harris

    So I have stumbled upon some reverse harem Alice in Wonderland retellings. I don’t read romance and I have never picked up a reverse harem book either, but his one piqued my interest. Allison’s Adventures in Underland, it is a trilogy and has enough action to counter act the romance. Check it out! Oh and Christina Henry’s Alice is amazing as well.

    • Amber

      I’m not very much a romance person, BUT I do have Christina Henry’s book on my TBR! I also read Heartless by Marissa Meyer last month, and thought that was a worthy enough retelling. 🙂 I hope you enjoy Allison’s Adventures in Underland!

  10. Gwen

    I think retellings are brilliant, but not every work is a successful one. Personally, the best Alice retelling for me is the Insanity series by Cameron Jace and I think you should give it a try, the author really did his research and that book series blew me away.

    • Amber

      Thank you for the recommendation! I actually haven’t even heard of that series at all, so I just popped over to Goodreads and added the first book to my TBR. ?

  11. Melissa

    I recommend:
    Return to Wonderland by Tonya Lisle

    Head Case by Niki Cluff

    I am currently writing my own YA Sci-fi retelling of Alice in Wonderland.

    You may also Google search “other literary works of Alice in Wonderland”.

    • Amber

      Hi Melissa,

      Thank you for the recommendations! I do have a long list of Alice in Wonderland books on my TBR that I have found through copies searches and recommendations, and since this blog post dropped last year, I have found some good ones. I’m always happy to get suggestions from people who have read and loved Alice retellings! Nothing like word of mouth!

  12. Well, I hope this one does NOT break your heart: Alice’s Adventures under Water

    I have read several Alice in Wonderland sequels and was also disappointed with most. So I decided to write my own sequel that is really faithful to Lewis Carroll’s originals. I mimiced his writing style, did not ‘recycle’ Wonderland characters but made Alice visit a new (under-water) world, and added many puns, poems, parodies and hidden references in the story. And I found an illustrator who could draw in the style of John Tenniel!

    I really hope it pleases you and other true Alice in Wonderland fans, who are looking for something that is actually quite similar to the original stories instead of a dark / horror / dystopian version or yet another Alice vs. Mad Hatterlove interest story…

    • Amber

      Hi Lenny! Thank you for the recommendation and congratulations on your book. I will take it into consideration!