Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1)
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.
In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.
Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.
And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice. (Goodreads)
So I picked this book up because I had heard about Christina Henry’s book Lost Boy, a dark retelling of Peter Pan. I’m a pretty big Pan fan (lol), and the book got really good reviews, so obviously I
wanted needed it. I had a book store gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so a couple weeks ago I did some shopping… and didn’t find Lost Boy. But I did find Alice, a dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland. It was the only one of Henry’s books available, and the cover looked super cool, and the synopsis seemed right up my alley (my inner goth loves those dark stories), so I grabbed it. Even though Alice in Wonderland isn’t really one of my favorites, this book ended up being well worth the read!
Now when I say this is a dark retelling, I mean it is one dark retelling. There’s violence and rape and murder and some really disturbing images. But it actually works really well with the story. In fact, it’s part of the story. It’s not just violence for violence’s sake.
Though Alice can’t remember exactly what happened to her eight years ago when she first fell down that rabbit hole, we get bits and pieces of her experience pretty early on in the novel. We learn that she was violently raped by the Rabbit, a sort of gang leader that controls part of the Old City, where the poor and the unfortunate and the scum of the world live.
Along with the Rabbit are Cheshire, the Caterpillar, the Walrus, and the Carpenter. We only briefly hear of the Carpenter in this book, but I’m sure he makes an appearance in the sequel. The other overlords are terrible, and horrifying, and just generally made of nightmare fuel. While Cheshire is a little less horrible than the others, Rabbit, Caterpillar, and Walrus make their living by terrorizing the townsfolk, forcing the innocent and unwilling to engage in violent fights for profit, and prostituting and mutilating helpless girls for entertainment. Caterpillar even goes so far as to carve butterfly wings into the backs of girls he has enslaved in his brothel. One of his girls was unlucky enough to have her legs broken, her back slit open, and butterfly wings sewn into her muscles. So. Yeah. This book is brutal.
I didn’t really like how Henry basically spells things out sometimes. She does this a few times, and it just makes it seem like she doesn’t trust that her readers are smart enough to get what she’s saying the first time around. For instance…
Alice’s scarred cheek faced the wall, which was lucky, because anyone who glanced at her would not be able to see the distinctive mark.
I mean, obviously no one would be able to see the mark, because you already told us it faced the wall, a.k.a. away from everyone. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like it when authors basically repeat themselves like that, especially with stuff that’s pretty obvious from the get-go. This happens multiple times throughout the novel, and it’s kind of irritating. Sure, if the book is intended for younger audiences who might not catch what’s going on, that’s fine to use this technique. But this book is clearly not intended for younger audiences. Have a little more faith in your readers, Henry.
Aside from that, the writing’s not bad. There are quite a few really good lines in there, and the author does a great job of creating an eerie, haunting atmosphere with her words.
Though I really enjoyed this book, I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series with the second (and final) book, Red Queen. Alice worked really well on its own, even if there were some things that were left unresolved (hence the second book in the series). But I’m not like, dying to know what happens or anything. And I read some reviews, and it seems like the second book isn’t as good as the first, and honestly I just don’t want to ruin my good experience with a shoddy sequel. Alice is a great retelling, though! Henry does a really good job of basing her story loosely on the original Alice in Wonderland, but she strays from it enough to make it seem like an entirely new story. I definitely recommend it, even if you’re not a huge Alice in Wonderland fan.