Published by Ace on August 4, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Retelling
A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...
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.
I’ll admit that I’ve never read ALICE IN WONDERLAND, but I know the basic story. And I’m always up for a retelling of a classic, especially a dark, inventive retelling. ALICE is definitely dark and inventive, full of horror with a shot of weird and “WTF did I just read?”
I had to read this book in bits, because at times the world was just so overwhelmingly bleak for women. In the Old City, girls are often commodities, taken or sold, raped or killed. The many mentions of rape and abuse got to me, and I do wish there had been a bit less of women being victimized in the book.
Otherwise… I think the best way to describe ALICE is to say it’s a mindfuck. A mindfuck in the very best way possible, mind you. I was never sure what would happen next, and often felt like I was tumbling down the rabbit hole. ALICE picks up ten years after the tea party (and other events). Alice has spent those ten years in an asylum, because when she came back from the Old City, she was ruined and babbled about the Rabbit. But she couldn’t remember what happened to her, so eventually her parents locked her away. For years, her only contact has been Hatcher, an axe murder in the cell next to hers; they talk through a mouse hole. When the two escape from the asylum, the story really begins, because the fire that sets them free also frees the Jabberwock.
There’s just enough of the familiar (Cheshire, the Rabbit, Caterpillar, etc.) but the author puts her own inventive spin on everything. I think Christina Henry did a fantastic job in establishing the gritty, yet fantastical world and the characters within. Because Alice and Hatcher can’t remember most of their lives before the asylum, they discover important things along with the reader, which I enjoyed. The writing also fits the book perfectly: it’s sparse yet descriptive, and there are some great lines on power and death. I also liked Alice’s growth throughout the book; she grows from a girl who wants the safety of the hospital to a quietly confident woman.
At first I rated ALICE three stars, but as I worked on my review and thought more about the book, I upped my rating to four stars. ALICE is a book that crept into my mind, much like the Jabberwock crept into Hatcher’s, and made me really think about it.
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