I love retellings so much, especially when the author manages to keep the integrity of the original story but also really add a spin to the story and that’s exactly what Christina Henry does with this reimagining of Alice in Wonderland.
This book starts off introducing us to Alice, a young woman who’s in a mental hospital but can’t remember what led her to being there. In fact, all she can really remember is a tea party, abnormally long ears, and a man named the Rabbit. We’re also introduced to Hatcher, a man who can’t remember who he is but who also committed many murders, and who claims there’s a creature named the Jabberwock, a horrible, evil creature capable of mass destruction. Alice and Hatcher’s rooms are next to one another and although a wall separates the two, there’s a small mouse hole that the two have talked through to become friends and they’ve begun to rely on one another. Which comes in handy when the building somehow catches on fire and is burning down quickly. Hatcher manages to escape his room and saves Alice from hers and the two run off into the Old City. A city full of twists and turns, evil, pain, and many dangers for the two. Although Hatcher can’t remember his past, his memory somehow leads them to his grandmother’s house, who tells them that they need to face the Jabberwock and destroy it and so the two set off on a journey to do just that. A journey that leads them to a man named Cheshire, a man named the Caterpillar, a man named the Walrus, a man named the Rabbit, and finally the Jabberwock.
This is such a cool retelling. So first of all we’ll start with the setting. The story is told from the Old City, but the world, as far as we see at least, is divided between the Old City and the New City. The New City is where Alice grew up. It’s an area of luxury, especially in comparison to the Old City, which is full of gangs, blood, death, and devastation. The Old City is poor and run down and largely run by gangs, the biggest of which are led by Cheshire, Caterpillar, Walrus, and the Rabbit. The Cheshire deals in secrets, he earns his power by knowing everything about everyone. The other three deal in women. The Caterpillar is particularly cruel, not only does he deal in women, owning a sex club, but he also keeps special “exotic women”, who fetch a much higher price to use. One of these women is a mermaid, the other is a woman who Caterpillar had cosmetically changed to have butterfly wings. The Walrus is also particularly evil, in that he eats his women as he is using their bodies. While the Rabbit just takes what he wants. This particular aspect of the story is truly deranged. There are a lot of adult themes in this book, but the sexual assault and rape in this story is certainly the most severe and hard to read. In this story all of these characters are men, however, instead of creatures, but they are truly evil monsters, with the exception of maybe Cheshire, who is not all that innocent, but certainly better then the others.
But the magic isn’t fully gone from the story as there are still characters who are known as Magicians, which just basically means that they have some sort of magic residing in them that they can use to do as they please. The system of magic is actually pretty neat throughout this story. I don’t want to say too much regarding it because I don’t want to spoil things, but it’s actually really interesting.
Alice is actually a surprisingly weak character for much of the story. But as the story continues on and on, she grows stronger and comes into her own and she begins to remember and reveal her past, which is actually quite sad. You find out how she actually was found by the Rabbit, what his intentions were with her, what he did to her, and what almost became of her. This is not the happy yet crazy tale that we’ve come to think of Alice in Wonderland as but a completely different and unique take on the story that is full of very adult level themes, of which include murder, rape, kidnapping, sex trafficking, and more.