The land outside of the Old City was supposed to be green, lush, hopeful. A place where Alice could finally rest, no longer the plaything of the Rabbit, the pawn of Cheshire, or the prey of the Jabberwocky. But the verdant fields are nothing but ash—and hope is nowhere to be found.
Still, Alice and Hatcher are on a mission to find his daughter, a quest they will not forsake even as it takes them deep into the clutches of the mad White Queen and her goblin or into the realm of the twisted and cruel Black King.
The pieces are set and the game has already begun. Each move brings Alice closer to her destiny. But, to win, she will need to harness her newfound abilities and ally herself with someone even more powerful—the mysterious and vengeful Red Queen…
**** Thank you to Ace Books and Netgalley for sending me an ARC as well as a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review****
“There were monsters in the night but there were monsters in the day too, and monsters inside people who smiled and showed you all their teeth like they were nice.”
“Alice” was a five star read for me, it was so completely engrossing and horrific that I couldn’t stop reading or thinking about it once I had finished. So of course I could not wait to get my hands on the sequel! Unfortunately I wasn’t as captivated by it as I was with the first book, however, it has the same compelling writing and a few of the characters I loved from “Alice”. So I’m more than a little conflicted about how I feel about “Red Queen”.
The story picks up exactly where it left off in “Alice”, with Alice and Hatcher leaving the Old City to venture off into the East to find Hatcher’s daughter Jenny. So while the plot starts out strongly enough my interest really began to dwindle as it proceeded, I found that the pacing was extremely uneven and was slow more often then not.
The overall atmosphere in this book also felt completely different than its predecessor, it wasn’t as horrific or suspenseful. Where did the horror go? Reading through “Alice” I constantly felt creeped out and disturbed about the things that would occur but in “Red Queen” there wasn’t really any of that it was almost too lighthearted compared to “Alice”. I wanted to be shocked and horrified while reading but it fell a bit short.
I also found there to be less Alice in Wonderland references, while “Alice” had numerous twisted versions of our favorite Wonderland characters “Red Queen” only had a few. With retellings I feel the comparisons are half the fun, right?
There seemed to be a lot more romance in this book than the first, don’t get me wrong, I love Alice and Hatcher together they make a fantastic team but I felt that Alice spent over half the book just thinking about Hatcher. Not exactly plot relevant thoughts about Hatcher either, just lovey dovey thoughts that felt a little unnecessary.
We also spend a lot more time in Alice’s headspace, in fact the entire book is comprised mostly of her thoughts. Whether it’s her daydreaming or trying to solve a problem I felt we were inside her head more than we were outside of it interacting with other characters. Because of this there was little to no action at all in “Red Queen”. There wasn’t much going on and Alice didn’t have to go through many trials this time around.
Henry’s writing is still the same though and by that I mean it’s excellent, it really grabs your attention and propels the story along. Even if the story didn’t have much going for it this time around I still loved the writing.
So overall with the story it had a strong start and a very slow, dragging middle. It picked up again towards the end of the book with a few surprising plot twists and everything was wrapped up neatly and resolved and left a satisfying ending.
We of course have the same old Alice and Hatcher we know and love as well as a bit of Cheshire (even though I wanted more! He’s my favorite!) but aside from that we don’t see too many other characters. There is the addition of the White Queen, Red Queen, Black King, a goblin, some giants, and a few villagers. Not exactly the slew of twisted Wonderland characters I was expecting, it felt almost like Henry used them all up in “Alice”.
While I would have liked just the teeniest bit more depth to all of the new characters I was still very happy with them and they were the best part about “Red Queen”. Alice is still brave and kind-hearted, Hatcher is still murderously insane, and Cheshire is still as conniving as ever. The new characters had their fair share of interesting back story as well and aren’t quite what you expected, in a good way!
While the White Queen and Black King weren’t exactly the most good-natured characters I still found the Queen’s goblin to be the most villainous and horrifying. I was happy with that inclusion of horror reminiscent of “Alice”.
This may seem like a lot of negative things but I really did like this book, I just didn’t love it as much as I thought I would.
Overall there wasn’t enough horror or action for me to have enjoyed it as much as I did “Alice”, I wanted that shock factor and I wanted that more disturbingly horrific content and I just didn’t get it. For me the characters were really the most redeeming quality of this book along with the writing.
Of course, especially if you read and liked “Alice”. However, I wouldn’t get your expectations up too high like I did or you may end up being disappointed.