Deluded Review – Red Queen
About the Book Red Queen
- Written by Christina Henry
- 304 pages
- Published July 12th 2016
From Goodreads: The land outside of the Old City was supposed to be green, lush, hopeful. A place where Alice could finally rest, no longer the plaything of the Rabbit, the pawn of Cheshire, or the prey of the Jabberwocky. But the verdant fields are nothing but ash—and hope is nowhere to be found.
Still, Alice and Hatcher are on a mission to find his daughter, a quest they will not forsake even as it takes them deep into the clutches of the mad White Queen and her goblin or into the realm of the twisted and cruel Black King. To win, she will need to harness her newfound abilities and ally herself with someone even more powerful—the mysterious and vengeful Red Queen…
First of all – STOP. This is a sequel to the book Alice, a horror-filled tale loosely based on the original Alice in Wonderland story. You should probably read that book first before you start spoiling yourself, just saying. Especially if you love murder, rape, and magic.
Ok, now that the spoiler disclaimer is over… I was quite excited to receive this book early through NetGalley. The first book in this series, while having a definitive ending, was quite captivating and left me craving more from this melancholy world. It was Red Queen’s job to fulfill that craving for more maleficence… and it succeeded.
The book picked up right where we left on in the last book. Alice and Hatcher are still trekking through the underground tunnel out of the City. As expected, the dynamic duo still can’t catch a break, for when they emerge they are faced with a barren wasteland instead of the green and luscious fields they fantasized about.
After escaping an enchanted village unscathed, they head into the woods, where Hatcher promptly loses his mind and runs off into the woods, abandoning Alice completely. Alice is understandably peeved and has to battle giants and goblins on her own.
Opinionated interjection – for me, these forest scenes were the slowest point of the novel. They didn’t really offer much in the way of tension, and kind of bogged down the plot. I think they gave too much time to Alice’s poignant reflections and memories and insipid sadness about being away from Hatcher and not believing in herself, etc. To be honest, I thought a lot of this section could have been cut out. I really appreciate the third, story-tale vibe in this book that allows us to hear Alice’s thoughts and feelings in a simple and straightforward way.
However, there is a point where you have to remember the old adage “show, don’t tell.” Plus, I was just getting tired of how Alice still wasn’t confident in her abilities. Some self-doubt is to be expected, but for goodness sake, man up and get some confidence! You defeated the Jabberwocky – you could certain take down all these other foes by wishing like you did with your magic before.
Anyway, back to the story. After some more filler, turns out the White Queen killed the giant’s brothers, so now he is all in to help Alice stop the White Queen. Oh, by the way, she also is the one who lead Hatcher away, so Alice really wants to kill her. If that wasn’t enough motivation, it turns out that the White Queen also steals children from a nearby village. Really, there are no shades of gray here – the White Queen is just really bad news.
By taking the place of the next child offering, Alice is able to break into the castle and systematically take down all of the White Queen’s defenses. On her way, she borrows the power of the Red Queen and she is gifted with her crown to help her defeat the White Queen.
I won’t say who the White Queen is. However… the one thing I was really curious about was HOW this person became the White Queen. What pushed her to take up a power so evil and malignant? We are never given this answer, and it almost feels like a cop out. Also, from the sound of it (though the timeline is a bit muddled and never firmly established), she has only been the White Queen for maybe a few years, tops. What has she been doing the rest of her life? I guess we’ll never get answers to these questions.
Unfortunately, regardless of who the White Queen really is, she still must die, and in a nice throwback to the old fairy tale story, Alice/the Red Queen uses magic to chop off her head. And just like that, Alice has once again bested her enemies against the most impossible odds and with seemingly minimal effort. In fact, as she tells Hatcher numerous times, she wasn’t really the one to kill the White Queen – it was the Red Queen who was channeling through her.
We also get to see Alice fully develop and take command of her life. She has so many doubts about herself the whole novel, but by the end, she is a certified heroine who is virtually unstoppable. She does not need Hatcher or Chesire to rely on; she relies only needs herself – a far cry from the weak and scared girl we first met in Alice. Her character is really the only one in both of these books that changes and develops, getting stronger the more she experiences. Everyone else is a constant in her life and still the same character as when we first met them, including Hatcher.
Overall, though this lacked some of the surprise and downright excrescence of the original, it still had enough unique flair to be just as entertaining. Instead of focusing on the Old City villains and their crimes against women, it instead took a refreshing spin into fairy tale folklore and myth. The plot of Red Queen breathed new life into these stale and watered down legends, reinventing them in a way that was both horrifying and intriguing. The perverse darkness is perfect for anyone who appreciates the melancholy side of life, while the empowering theme of a strong female lead is satisfying for readers of all ages.
I am a bit sad that this is the end of this series – this is a world I would love to know more about! Even if it didn’t involve Alice, I would be interested in seeing the downfall of the City as well as the mysterious East that was mentioned several times. Regardless, I look forward to reading any future novels by Christina Henry.
Since this is an advanced copy, I did notice a few small grammatical errors which I thought I would point out so they can be corrected in the next version:
Page 12 – “Once, she had she almost wished she hadn’t…” – Probably there shouldn’t be a comma after “Once” – it would make more sense after “had”.
Page 52 – “There were a few people like Alice’s father, dressed in suits, speaking intently to captains. There were men who invested in ship’s concerns and kept scrupulous track of those investments.” – I’m not sure, but I think “There” should be “These”? It seems to be referring to the men from the first sentence.
Page 58 – “The avenues in the City where lined with carefully trimmed branches and rigidly spaced trunks…” – Should be “were”.
Page 93 – “For once, she did not dream, so when he awoke she was quite startled to discover it was dark…” – Should be “she”.