Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay
Alice’s stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows—it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she’s willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Red Rogue Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
By now, I think you all know that when there’s an Alice in Wonderland retelling, it’s going immediately on my TBR. I don’t discriminate – you say “Alice” and I say “Yes, please!”
Ever Alice is another Wonderland retelling, with POVs from both Alice and Rosamund, the Queen of Hearts. It tells the story of Alice as she returns to Wonderland to help depose of the mad queen, but most of the story is from Rosamund’s POV as paranoia completely consumes her. One of the first things mentioned in the summary for this book is that Alice is in an asylum and after things like Splintered, that raised a lot of red flags for me, so I want to go through it.
While I wouldn’t say that the asylum handling is shiny and sparkling and really promotes getting assistance for mental health concerns, Ramsay handles it very well. Surprisingly well. I was ready to tear this apart, and it’s a relief I don’t have to. Each chapter heading has the character, a date, and a location, so we know that this is set in the late 1800s. In her choice of doctors, Ramsay has done real historical research which SO impressed me. There’s still that edge of a stereotypical asylum, but that’s all it is… an edge. I’ve seen stories set in the present day do a less careful, calculated job with this kind of setting, so I really think H. J. Ramsay has earned some kudos here.
Wonderland certainly has the spirit of Lewis Carroll’s original, but it’s all a bit… much. A lot of the langue used is topsy turvy, with things often being turned to their opposite meanings. I think she took this from “unbirthday” because we have things like “unimportant” meaning “of utmost importance” and the such. Instead of providing an immersive experience, this fell flat and simply annoyed me. There were a lot of places in the language where I felt like she was delving a bit too deep into “stuff and nonsense” and we lost the trail of things. And while I understand that Carroll never intended a plot, children’s books are often like that. This is somewhere between YA and NA and it needs a bit more solid of a structure.
The plot? Well, the plot’s all over the place. The main plot is that there’s a conspiracy against the Queen of Hearts. As this is a fiction she’s been fed by her advisers since taking the throne, the Queen is already in a high state of paranoia. If it was just a plot to kill the Queen, I think that would be enough. However, there’s the sub-plot of the prince’s romance, and of about three different coups, and Sabrina’s condition, and Alice’s predicament back home. There are way too many things going on, and not enough attention is paid to any of them. They all feel like flights of fancy, like the author wanted to shove all her ideas into Ever Alice rather than write a series.
Because of the chaos of Ramsay’s Wonderland, and because of the scattered pieces of plots, I never really felt like I could get immersed into the book, which impacted my experience. And I think that all these things affected the way the characters developed in the story, because they’re all very shallow and there’s a lot of dialogue and not a lot of real introspection. None of the characters grow or evolve, and it’s difficult to be invested in their adventures.
Generally speaking, Ever Alice isn’t the best Alice in Wonderland retelling I’ve read… but it’s also not the worst. Despite all my grumbling about plot and characters, it’s a quick books to read, and Ramsay really does seem to capture some of the spirit of Lewis Carroll’s original stories. Surprisingly, very few retellings seem to do that, instead borrowing Wonderland for their own purposes instead of paying it back. So she gets brownie points for that. I think Alice fans should give this one a go and see what they think!
Who is your favorite Alice in Wonderland character? I think the Cheshire Cat and Alice herself are tied for my favorites, but I know a lot of people like the Mad Hatter! Tell me yours in the comments!