Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Alyss in Wonderland

I finished reading The Looking Glass Wars the other day. I must say I quite enjoyed it. The book is no earth-shattering classic to sit alongside Lewis Carroll's books, but it is entertaining and sometimes that's all one wants. The story is not a complete reworking of Alice in Wonderland. Beddor takes pieces of the Alice books and turns them into a different story, familiar but not a retelling. Looking Glass Wars opens with Princess Alyss Heart's seventh birthday. Everything is going as one would expect a royal birthday party to go until Redd, the Queen's sister makes a surprise attack on Wonderland. Redd believes the throne should rightfully be hers and it's "Off with their heads!" to anyone who opposes her. Hatter Madigan, head of the Millinery, sort of like the Secret Service of Wonderland, whisks Alyss away. They are chased by Redd's assassin to the Pool of Tears. Plenty of people have jumped in but no one has ever returned. Hatter jumps with Alyss, they get separated and Alyss ends up in Oxford and Hatter in France. Alyss is taken in as an orphan, become Alice Liddell, while Hatter searches everywhere for her. Does he find her? Do they make it back to Wonderland? I'm not telling. I did find the book to be a page-turner though. But the book is not all plot. Imagination is the unavoidable theme. There is white imagination, practiced for the good of everyone, and black imagination, practiced for ill ends. You can guess who is on what side. Alyss is the hope of Wonderland since already as a seven-year-old she is exhibiting a prodigious imagination. But when she ends up in Oxford, her imagination is slowly and inexorably crushed. It is a sad thing to see as both children and well-meaning adults dampen her spirit. My only complaint is that some key elements towards the end of the book happen too fast and too neatly. It is a slight annoyance that doesn't ruin the book, only makes me wish for a bit more complexity. Lots of favorite characters from the Alice books appear and some newly created ones as well. Fun, easy reading. And it looks like this is just the first of three books.