Blog Tour Review: Wonderland: An Anthology by Various Authors

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description

Join Alice as she is thrown into the whirlwind of Wonderland, in an anthology that bends the traditional notions of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel. Contributors include the bestselling M.R. Carey, Genevieve Cogman, Catriona Ward, Rio Youers and L.L. McKinney.

Within these pages you’ll find myriad approaches to Alice, from horror to historical. There’s even a Wild West tale from Angela Slatter, poetry, and a story by Laura Mauro which presents us with a Japanese folklore-inspired Wonderland.

Alison Littlewood, Cavan Scott and Catriona Ward make the more outlandish elements their own, while James Lovegrove instead draws on the supernatural. Cat Rambo takes us to a part of Wonderland we haven’t seen before and Lilith Saintcrow gives the legend a science-fiction spin. The nightmarish reaches of the imagination are the breeding ground for M.R. Carey’s visions, while Robert Shearman, George Mann, Rio Youers and Mark Chadbourn’s tales have a deep-seated emotional core which will shock, surprise and tug on the heart-strings.

So, it’s time now to go down the rabbit hole, or through the looking-glass or… But no, wait. By picking up this book and starting to read it you’re already there, can’t you see?

review

**** Huge thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review as well as allowing me to participate in the blog tour! ****

As soon as I read the description for this one I was pretty excited! I’m a big fan of retellings, especially Alice in Wonderland retellings, and horror. So an anthology of horror based Alice re-imaginings sounded fantastic! I was pleased with a good majority of the stories and I had a blast reading this, horror and ‘Alice’ were definitely a great combination.

I would definitely recommend this if you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland and horror! 

I will be reviewing and rating each story individually and any trigger warnings I have for this book will be placed with the story that the trigger is in, so you may skip those if you need to!


Alice in Armor by Jane Yolen (Poem) – ★★★★

I’m not quite sure how to review a single poem but I enjoyed it. Yolen is a talented writer and of course I liked it because it’s ‘Alice’ themed.


Wonders Never Cease by Robert Shearman –

Trigger Warnings: Character Passes from Cancer (Some bizarre happenings with babies but not graphic or violent in nature)

Honestly, I don’t know why this story was put into the book first because it was my least favorite, it was just plain bad. For me, there wasn’t anything salvageable here and I spent the entire time reading it wondering “What the hell is this?”. There is no plot to speak of and the characters were like the author was slapping a name down on paper and just adding it here and there instead of having actual characters.

It was bizarre and confusing. We were being told about a “character” called Alice and something about her just randomly having 20+ babies and her shoving them into a (rabbit?) hole in her garden and then keeping one eventually. Then we were told about her getting a typing job and marrying a man and right after divorcing him etc etc. Like, what the hell is going on here? It was all a random mess and I usually don’t like to toss the word “hate” around because usually there’s always SOMETHING good to say but this story was bad and I hated it.


There Were No Birds To Fly by M.R. Carey – ★★★

Trigger Warnings: Gore & Violence

This story has a dystopian/post-apocalyptic setting in which people’s worst nightmares come to life, stalk, and kill them. I thought this was an interesting concept especially with how it was executed. I also really liked how horrific and eerie the atmosphere was and the monsters themselves were terrifying and gruesome. However, I didn’t quite care enough about the characters because there was next to zero development at all. And when the plot is all about characters getting picked off it’s hard to get really invested when I feel I don’t know them. Also for some reason the main character whose POV the story is told from didn’t speak with quotations which made it hard to discern what they were saying or thinking.

I did like the twist at the end even if it was a bit strange and a little confusing. I didn’t quite get what the ‘Alice’ twist was with this story either.


The White Queen’s Pawn by Genevieve Cogman – ★★★

Trigger Warnings: Gore & Violence

This story has a bit more of a vague plot, they bring in our “Alice” who used to do some assassination work and they wish her to teach new students. It is set in Britain and overall had a very sinister “Bond” feel to it. It also had some character development, finally! I loved the Alice character in this one too, what a badass. Also liked how the connection to “Alice in Wonderland” was a bit more clear here too, made it more fun. I’m always up for a Cheshire Cat appearance! And the horror element of the story was very present at the end and it was deliciously creepy.


Dream Girl by Cavan Scott – ★★★★

Trigger Warnings: Gore & Violence

I enjoyed that this story actually took place in a Wonderland setting and it was a darker version. Wonderland is falling apart and the ‘Dream Girl’ is responsible, a group of Wonderland characters are tasked with capturing her. I liked that there were some horror moments squeezed in and those bits were wonderfully creepy. Also the Alice character in this story is dark-skinned, fun tidbit! I especially enjoyed the sci-fi twist at the end, very unexpected and honestly makes me want a continuation of this story!


Good Dog, Alice! by Juliet Marillier – ★★★★★

Trigger Warnings: Implied Child Molestation, Bit of Gore

I hadn’t read anything by Marillier yet though I have heard tons of good things about her, so I was pretty excited for her story in this anthology. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed and this was actually one of my favorite stories. It’s about a young girl who lives with her Uncle in a large manor and receives a new puppy as a birthday gift. She discovers a small blue door that leads to another world and she must enter it in order to save her dog.

I LOVED how this had a very “Narnia” feel to it though it was also very different. I felt very attached to the protagonist and her dog, Alice, by the end of the story and the world building was fantastic for such a short story. The “Alice” connections were subtle but very present. As mentioned in the trigger warning there is implied child molestation but I will say that justice is most definitely served and the ending was fantastic and satisfying, it’s also where the horror bits came in!


The Hunting of the Jabberwock by Jonathan Green – ★★★★

Trigger Warnings: Gore & Violence

This story tells the tale of a character named Nobody who is seeking out the Jabberwock to become a monster slayer and claim a reward. The “Alice” references here are very clear and I have to say I really enjoyed this one for the characters, plot, and writing. It’s got action and even a few twists, which for such a short story was definitely a nice surprise! The ending was one of those twists and while one was pretty satisfying the other was a little bleak but this is horror after all. Overall a creative and entertaining story!


About Time by George Mann – ★★★★

Another fantastic story, I liked how this one was a little softer and the horror was toned down. It was a nice break! This is contemporary and is about a girl becoming a teenager and neglecting Wonderland and its inhabitants. However, she returns to find that Wonderland has been taken over by a monster and she must save it.

I liked the more traditional Wonderland setting and characters and I would love to discuss the plot more but I don’t want to spoil it! I would have to say the ending was my absolute favorite part of the story and it was a very pleasant surprise, it was also a happy one!


Smoke ’em if You Got ’em by Angela Slatter – ★★★★

Trigger Warnings: Gore, Violence, Mention of Suicide, Showing of Stillborns & Fetuses, Kidnapping, & Implied Rape and Child Rape (I felt that it was implied, personally)

This was one of the heavier and darker stories that’s a Western about Alice hunting the Rabbit across America. I did like how intriguing the plot and characters were and the protagonist was definitely one to root for. I wish the world building was explained a little more because it was intriguing but left me wanting to know more. The ending left something to be desired because one chapter closed, so to speak, but the overall goal was not achieved. Overall though it was a creative tell and written well.


Vanished Summer Glory by Rio Youers – ★★★

Trigger Warnings: Cancer Related Death

This story was a bit strange and is about a man whose sister gets cancer and passes away, he then starts speaking with a “Mr. Rabbit” and then disappears. Like I said it was a bit strange and I’m not sure what was going on really and it was a little on the slow side. Not a whole lot happening. I will say that it was written beautifully though because it was very touching and emotional.


Black Kitty by Catriona Ward – ★★★

Trigger Warnings: Death & Violence

This was another story that was a bit odd but it’s about a pair of twins that live in a fantasy world and try and escape. The world building had some interesting aspects but overall I was a little disappointed with it because it isn’t expanded on much. There also didn’t seem to be a lot going on plot wise either, we were being TOLD what was happening but not much beyond that and it was hard to follow. I would say the best part of this one was the ending because that’s where the “Alice” related bits came into play and it was subtle but clever. Also cats!


The Night Parade by Laura Mauro – ★★★★★

I loved this one, another favorite story in the collection! This is set in Japan and tells of a young woman who sees a small child alone and goes to help only to find herself entering another world via a hole in some bushes. The Wonderland connection with this story is very strong and I loved how creative it was. The supernatural Japanese creatures, yokai, are added into the mix and they were horrifying but added a lot of suspense to the story as our protagonist could not be caught by them.

I think my favorite part was that the Cheshire Cat is added in as a shapeshifting yokai called a bakenenko (essentially a cat) and he was done very well from his mannerisms to his dialogue it was very Cheshire-esque but also unique on its own. I was a little confused by the ending because I didn’t “get” it but overall this was a fantastic story and I honestly wish I could read it as an entire novel!


What Makes a Monster by L.L. McKinney – ★★★★

Trigger Warnings: Gore & Violence 

This story proves that you can do masterful world building in a short story! It’s about monsters called Nightmares that escape from Wonderland into the human world and only people from Wonderland and special humans can hunt them. This was written well and had great action scenes, I also came to love the characters as well. Also the main protagonist is black! The Nightmares themselves were also pretty terrifying which is always what I’m looking for in a horror story. I liked the very Victorian era London setting too and overall this was just a great addition to the collection and is another story I wouldn’t mind reading as a book!


The White Queen’s Dictum by James Lovegrove – ★★★★

Trigger Warnings: Death & Mention of Suicide

This was a very unique story about an internet paranormal investigator having a conversation with our POV character at a diner. I don’t want to spoil it so I won’t say much more than that! I loved how there were a bunch of “mini” ghost stories told in this one and the “Alice” link with the “six impossible things” that the investigator believes in. I did predict the ending after a bit but it was still a good twist.


Temp Work by Lilith Saintcrow – ★★

Trigger Warnings: Violence

This one was not really interesting to me, it was still told well though. It’s about a futuristic post apocalyptic world where Alice is…..sort of a spy I would say. She’s sneaky! It’s a plague apocalypse so that’s mentioned but overall not really discussed and I would have liked to have known a bit more about that. However, I can always get behind a plot where people take down people who abuse their power so there’s that!


Eat Me, Drink Me by Alison Littlewood – ★★

Another story that wasn’t great for me, this one is about an Alice who is being forced to marry someone and runs off into a sort of “fever dream” almost. She believes she is hallucinating but goes down the rabbit hole and to tell you the truth I’m still not quite sure myself what was going on. It’s a very confusing story and not really that interesting either.


How I Comes to be the Treacle Queen by Cat Rambo – ★★★

This is about a group of children that are sisters who run into Alice as she comes down into their Treacle mine. They follow her out on a journey and one of them becomes the “Treacle Queen”. This one was enjoyable enough to read but didn’t have a lot of depth, it was “meh”. Also as you can probably tell from the title the POV character doesn’t speak with perfect English and that became a little tiresome for me to read by the end.


Six Impossible Things by Mark Chadbourn – ★★★

I’m not quite sure how to describe this story but it’s about an Alice who uses doors in another world to watch the happenings of another Alice in another world. I always love the inclusion of the Cheshire Cat so that’s a plus and I thought he was done well in this story. I also loved the mention and use of Peter Pan and Neverland with Wonderland. The ending was very emotional and touching and I have to admit I teared up a bit! Overall this story was the PERFECT ending to the collection.


Revolution in Wonder by Jane Yolen (Poem) – ★★★★

Another poem I’m still not sure how to review but it’s well written and the Wonderland connection is there as well as the horror elements!


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The Sassy

5 thoughts on “Blog Tour Review: Wonderland: An Anthology by Various Authors

  1. Alex September 24, 2019 / 1:28 pm

    Great review! I’m currently reading this one and really enjoying it. Also, I believe L.L. McKinney has written some full-length Alice novels! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall September 27, 2019 / 10:07 pm

    Lovely review, Heather!! Okay, Wonders Never Cease sounds like the most bizarre thing in the world! I love surreal Alice in Wonderland retellings as much as the next gal, but … that just sounds awful. Lol! Good dog, Alice sounds amazing though! I’m so happy that you greatly enjoyed most of this anthology!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heather @ The Sassy Book Geek November 13, 2019 / 1:46 pm

      Thanks Kelly! Same, I am for ALL kinds of Alice retellings but that one WAS super weird. I could not follow it at all! 🙂

      Like

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