Alice (The Chronicles of Alice 1).
4 stars out of 5.
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 received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
There’s alot to like in the book, foremost it’s a creative revist that takes the original source material and gives you a unique sinister reimagining, changing what is a classic colourful children’s fairytale and transforming it into a bleak and dark horror story.
After the events of the infamous tea party, Alice has spent the last ten years in a mental asylum, her only friend being Hatcher who she talks to through a mouse-hole until one night when a fire breaks out and they both escape unfortunately the malevolent evil presence of the Jabberwock is also freed and let loose on Old City. Thus what follows is Alice and Hatcher attempting to stop the Jabberwock while confronting traumatic memories and monsters from their own past.
The setting has changed from the fantasy style trappings of the original Wonderland into a City that’s split into two halves. Firstly you have the New City where the rich and affluent live, this is where Alice is originally from but it’s only mentioned in passing and in flashes and memories of her childhood. The book predominantly takes place in Old City, a crumbling metropolis where the poor, the violent, the mad, mental, criminal and deranged dwell. Old City is split into territories which are run by criminal bosses and these are the reimagined characters from the original, Mr Carpenter, Cheshire, The Walrus, The Caterpillar and The Rabbit alongside Dor. All the original characters are found in the book with their original names apart from in one case, the Mad Hatter, who is now Nicholas The Hatcher of Heathtown and is Alice’s companion throughout the story. Alice having spent years in the asylum, being locked away when she was still only a child starts out as somewhat sheltered and naive having never experienced being an adult in the outside world, but following her as she regains the memories of her harrowing past alongside growing in maturity, losing her innocence throughout as she and Hatcher take you on a foreboding journey.
This isn’t a book for the faint hearted and some readers willbe put of by the portrayal of women in the book. They are merely victims and objects that the crime bosses deal in and are used by men for pleasure and sex. While it’s not written about in vast detail, rape and abuse is often implied and the Caterpillar’s club Butterflies scene is very graphic and disturbing. But it’s never glorified like in some books and your left with the sense that it is wrong.
The conclusion couldbe classed by some to be slightly anticlimactic, especially if you’re expecting a huge showdown between good and evil, it’s not and is perhaps rather tame considering the bloodshed throughout, but personally I liked it and found it to be poetic, fitting with the tone of the book. The ending competently finishes of the story in the book but being part one in a duology also sets things up nicely for the sequel. Follow the white rabbit anyone?
The book is well written with both decent characterisation and world building allowing Henry to pull you into her story giving you the right mix of magic, violence both psychological and physical and revenge in a captivating tale.
This is a decidedly dark, twisted and vividly creepy retelling of the Alice tale. And, while it’s still Alice, it’s definitely not Wonderland.
On a side note, after finishing Alice I gave my Mother the book to read, she’s mainly a crime/thriller fan but had read the original Alice stories many moons ago back when she was a young girl and her view on this book was: ‘my endearing childhood memories of reading Alice intricately transported into the world of horror and it works!’