The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape the murderous aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!
Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss’ story and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.
This might be the stupidest book I have ever read. Literally. And I read Vampire Academy, so that’s really saying something. It was so horrible that I’m not sure if I can really even keep straight what was so bad about it!
I mean, the writing was just … It was like Beddor had never read a YA book before so he didn’t know how to do it, and instead he just split it in half. Half written in a style for adults, half written in a style for 5-year-olds. There were no descriptions, and the few that made it in were completely lacking in any detail. The world-building was barely there, and what little there was was so lame. Imagination magic? Really? And while the concept of re-imagining Alice in Wonderland in a “serious” light was kind of cool, what Beddor wrote had so little to do with Lewis Carrol’s work that he may as well have just written something new.
Beddor clearly didn’t think the novel all the way through before he wrote it. Details about characters would be suddenly revealed the second they became important. “I want the hatter to act all moody. Why would he be moody? Maybe he was in love and she died. Okay. In the sentence right before he starts acting moody we’ll tell them his girlfriend died! But I’ll make sure to be vague about it so it seems like I know what I’m doing!” And he had the classic problem of killing everyone off without killing anyone off. This is war, so LOTS of people are going to die. SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIED. Our army has been reduced to nothing but one camp, and now the whole camp has been wiped out! Except … every named character is still here, somehow… Hmm…
The characters were insipid at best, but more often impetuous and annoying. They lacked any, well, character. The story is told from almost everyone’s point-of-view, and none one of them had a unique voice or even a defining characteristic. They all just acted more or less the same. Aside from the Queen of Hearts and the Dodge character, nobody had any apparent motivation for anything they did.
And Alyss was horrible. She was whiny, obnoxious, self-important, and boring. She doesn’t care a lick about anyone other than herself and in fact rather hates everyone she knows. Then, suddenly, halfway through the novel, she starts caring about other people, especially poor people, for absolutely no reason. Then she goes back to Wonderland and all of the sudden she’s a WARRIOR. How? Why? No character development, just BOOM, new Alyss.
Redd, the Queen of Hearts, was even worse. I think it’s safe to say she was the most one-dimensional villain in the history of the universe, and not even evil. She behaved like a child. Yet she’s this military genius? Boring.
The potentially best characters were just lacking. The Jack of Diamonds, Alyss’s childhood rival, was the world’s biggest jerk and was playing both sides, but Beddor reduced him to a foolish character with a huge ass. Any potential for saying something meaningful about privilege was thrown by the wayside in favor of his giant butt getting stuck in a chair. Lame. And Dodge, Alyss’s best friend, was completely consumed by revenge, but even that got played off. Beddor barely grazed the surface on the completely fascinating potential of good people to turn into bad people and ruin everything when their whole lives become about revenge. But no.
And in general I just found the whole plot to be idiotic. It seemed like it was supposed to be about the time-honored battle between good and evil (white and black imagination), but it was really badly done. Like, it was never mentioned unless it was a critical plot moment, then all of the sudden it was like SUPER IMPORTANT. And Alyss is the best imaginer in the history of ever, but she leaves and can’t imagine anything, then she comes back and in one second goes from being able to imagine only the most basic of things to becoming the GREATEST IMAGINATION WARRIOR QUEEN EVER. I’m over that trope anyway, and it was too hurried to be believable. Yawn.
Plus, it totally freaked me out that a 10-year-old would be entertaining romantic ideas about a 7-year-old. Like, ew.
I do not recommend this book to anyone. Do yourself a favor and just forget you ever heard about it. I wish I had put it down when my instincts told me to and saved myself the unpleasantness of reading this book.