Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.
The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…
Why did I pick this up?: I’d heard so much about this book, and it sounded perfect for me. Diversity, check. Brujas? Check.
Good points: This story was beautifully told. Rishi was adorable, and we had a BISEXUAL PROTAGONIST yay. Los Lagos was beautiful, dark, rich and morbid all in alternate places – it was perfect. I’ve heard constant comparisons to Alice in Wonderland, which I adore, so it’s only natural some of the love I have for one book would have passed on to the other. The bird people were awesome, as was the intricate description of the rest of the world. Latin mythology, too? YES PLEASE.
Bad points: I have to say, it didn’t wow me as much as I’d hoped from hearing about it. I was honestly hoping for an f/f pairing that was more than just a little at the end of the book and a few moments throughout to give it confirmation. I could have also dealt with a little more characterisation of most if not all of the characters. It started off amazingly with that, but trailed off for me towards the end.
Overview (TL;DR): A beautiful book with some amazing mythology incorporated, but at times loses it on the characterisation front. F/F relationship not as explored as I might have liked.
Progress on Alternate: 42,053 words
This is the last book of this series that I own and have access to, though I seem to recall that there are others. I won’t be buying any of them, however. I loved the concept brought forward in The Looking Glass Wars. I loved that Charles Dodgeson is a character. I loved the brief trips into our world, and the imaginative way the story had been reconstructed…
But after that, it starts to get… old. I’m really sorry to say it, but it does. If I’d been writing it, I would have quit while I was ahead, because some of the beauty of the very first book just gets lost entirely. I don’t feel like it’s fun anymore, and I had to resist the temptation to skip paragraphs just to fast-forward through some of it.
I guess there are still new ideas. Particularly at the beginning I began to get my hopes up, but it quickly just lost momentum. I still like Hatter M and Molly though!
Progress on Alternate: 39,021
Seeing Redd loses some of what The Looking Glass Wars had. The world is no longer new. We’re not presented with many of the ideas that we were, and the worldbuilding seems to lose a lot of momentum. There could have been so much more done with the world that Beddor created, and it feels like he’s just hung up his towel and gone ‘nope, done’.
However I’m very aware that I am a jaded, cynical adult talking about what is in effect a children’s book, and for imagination and adventure I can’t fault him. There were twists and turns that, while very obvious to an adult eye, would have delighted a younger me. And I still think that hat weapons are cool.
As I say, I would REALLY like to have seen more descriptions of how imagination links our worlds. Perhaps even the author doesn’t realise how beautiful an idea that is. How inspiration could be all related to the very world we think we’re creating.
I must admit though, I did get a small smile out of the idea that the wonderful Charles Dodgeson may someday find that his creations are… ahem… not at all creations anymore.
Progress on Alternate: 35,154
Anyone who knows me knows that if there’s a surefire way to get me to pick up a book, it’s to tell me it’s related to Alice in Wonderland. I have a special place in my heart for that old children’s story, and I feel no shame for it. I’ve even read vaguely romantic works simply because they were a retelling of this story.
Frank Beddor’s is interesting. It is Alice in Wonderland, but not as we know it. A Wonderland that is far darker, filled with war and struggles that never even played a part in Carroll’s nonsense world. It’s for a younger audience than I often read, but still, it has its advantages. It’s a world of imagination, not of literature.
Having said that, if you’re looking for beautiful prose, Beddor’s book is not really the way to go. It feels young. It feels simple. But it cannot be faulted at all for imagination. As someone who always loved the Hatter from the original story, Hatter Madigan is fun. A hero. A guy who can flatten his hat and make it into a weapon? COOL. I’ve heard that there’s a Hatter M graphic novel, but sadly have never had access to it. I would like to see that!
The idea of Millinery as a military profession… I love it. Hats are great. And Dodge Anders, with his darker side and his thirst for vengeance, is a welcome addition to the Wonderland world. As is the Cat. What a cute little adorable kitten… except, you know, it might kill me.
I think my liking for this book can be summed up with a phrase from it that I tweeted just yesterday: “That is not an evil guinea pig!”. I like my out-of-context, absurd phrases. I think they’re wonderful.