Bingo Square (Round 2): And So It Begins
I am not sure why I keep trying adaptations of Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t have enough of a connection to the original story or movie as a child to get all the references. It was the one Disney movie that scared the hell out of me as a child, and which I refused to re-watch (or my parents never showed again, not wanting to deal with the aftermath). I was less than enthralled with Splintered (though I still blame that on how boring and useless the Alice or Alyssa character was – the way the author described the world was actually fascinating; I simply hated the character), and though I finished The Looking Glass Wars trilogy, I enjoyed each book less.
Still, I was hoping maybe this would be the one, especially given how much I loved the Christina Henry’s take on Captain Hook and Peter Pan. I knew this was going to be a dark take on Alice in Wonderland but it was also much darker than I was expecting. Somehow, when boy centered stories go dark, it involves secrets, anarchy and some death, but for a girl centered story, it involves lots and lots of rape and sex-trafficking. So that was kind of disappointing, and considering that I read this after Rhapsodic, it was an accidental succession of rape/abuse heavy novels – would not recommend.
Alice, a girl from the good part of town – the New City, has been in a mental institution in Old City for the last ten years. Ten years ago, she went into the Old City with her friend Dor, and was found a few weeks later, running through the streets, bleeding, injured, a victim of rape. After she would not stop talking about the Rabbit with rabbit ears, her parents locked her away. Her only friend is Hatcher, the man in the cell next to hers, who was found with an axe surrounded by five dismembered bodies. He, too, has gaps in his memory though his cover much more than a few weeks. When a fire breaks out, Alice and Hatcher escape the asylum, though the fire also releases an ancient evil, the Jabberwocky.
In this world, magic once existed but at some point the government turned on magic users and killed all magicians. Alice and Hatcher realize they must stop the Jabberwocky, which leads them on a quest to find a weapon to destroy him. This leads them through the underbelly of the Old City, where they must interact with the different powers. Basically, Henry reimagines the major characters of Alice in Wonderland as crime bosses, including the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, the Walrus, and the Rabbit. While they are all treacherous, Cheshire is the least malignant or most intelligent, trading in knowledge while the others use brute force and traffic in women and girls’ bodies, drugs and violence. The Walrus is especially monstrous.
Maybe I would have liked this more if I hadn’t read another abuse heavy novel beforehand. Henry was rather sympathetic towards Hatcher and Alice, and her take on the characters was interesting but it was too much when all taken together. By the time I got to the Walrus, it was just too much misery on top of misery. I may or may not check out the sequel revolving around the Red Queen, and I am also interested to see if the sequel will include a reckoning between Alice and her parents or more on their history but I will definitely have some light novels lined up before and after it.
Bingo Square: And So It Begins (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Alice)