Daoshi, February 21, 2007 (view all comments by Daoshi)
Before I begin, I have to say that my first experience with Lewis Carroll’s influence wasn’t the best when I had nightmares over evil-grinning cats ripping my skin off and hatters that would boil me in their tea. (I suppose that means I had macabre imagination for a child.) That being said, I already had a bias about The Looking Glass War’s “Hatter Madigan” and “The Cat” characters before even reading about them.
Frank Beddor, however, shall cause no such nightmares to anyone. To assemble an appropriate book to suit all ages and tastes is nearly impossible. Yet, The Looking Glass Wars pulls it off well; it returns adolescent imagining powers as a literal form of energy while including the ever popular demand for “action fight scenes” and “childhood adoration.” Because of this, the book has reached popularity; like all popular books, there are always people that want everything to be all original and I, myself, prefer original things over trite, over-used themes. However, The Looking Glass Wars has a careful blend of both.
Nevertheless, this book might not be the best for all in which it requires an open mind and personal opinions.
The American McGee travesty of the Mad Hatter was rather repulsive. Upon hearing of Hatter Madigan, I expected another American grotesque, tragic remix of the classic at-maker. I was gladly proved wrong. Hatter Madigan has a wonderful character and he is very focused on his ambitions. We see Hatter’s personal goals rather easily but is haunted by his own daemons bestowed upon him as a command from Queen Genevieve Heart.
Now, Princess Alyss goes through scenarios that we all must go through such as when one speaks the truth yet all revile. Alyss’ powers elude her on Earth and thus, she shows courage in trying to reclaim it in Wonderland thirteen years later of everyone attempting to convince her that Wonderland does not exist and that her true name is Alice. Why doesn’t this girl go through an identity crisis or develop schizophrenia as a form of being haunted by her family’s death? It’s amazing how she pulls through! In addition, she is also courageous in a sense that she does not lash out on Queen Redd for her the dictator’s massacring of many people and Alyss certainly is not contained in a mental ward because of her beliefs of Wonderland. Alyss is also unselfish for the fact that she chooses to do what is best for all in both places, Wonderland and Earth.
Instead of giving us a “rip-off” cliff-hanger ending, we have a decent resolution to all the elements to encourage the readers to read the next two books of the fantasy trilogy.
I encourage all to read The Looking Glass Wars. Cheers!
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gareth.barsby, September 15, 2006 (view all comments by gareth.barsby)
First of all, let me tell you that I am a major fan of Alice in Wonderland, and of American McGee's video game Alice, and of other great Alice adaptations such as Jonathan Miller's and Jan Svankmajer's. I am also British, so you know that I do tend not to like it when Americans get their grubby little paws over our great literature.
Secondly, let it be known that I am writing this review because there are far too many positive reviews. Or perhaps a more accurate description would be that there are far too many GLOWING reviews for it. I am sick of hearing this mediocre book being praised as the next big stepping stone of literature, that it's the next Harry Potter, that it's BETTER than Harry Potter, it's groundbreaking, imaginative, blah blah etcetera.
Why do so many people like this book? Maybe it's because they like the idea behind the book: that Wonderland is real and Lewis Carroll got the whole thing wrong. The premise of the book is its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The premise itself gives the book so much chances, but they are all blown. Or maybe people like the book just because it's entertaining.
Well, I found it mildly entertaining, and had it been merely an 'average' fantasy novel, I wouldn't feel the way I do about it. However, everyone's claiming it's the best thing ever, and the author, Frank Beddor, wants the book to have a million tie-ins, the truth must be told: this book SUCKS.
Don't get me wrong, I given this book a chance. I read it once and found it okay. I read it twice and found it okay. I re-read and re-read and then I found the whole thing stinkin'.
So, anyway, people think the premise is original and has potential. And they're right. With a premise like that, the book could have been a brilliant satire or parody. But NO. The book takes itself way too seriously, smugly belieiving itself to be a great epic for the ages. How can anyone think the Mad Hatter as a superhero ISN'T hilarious?
Not to mention, with the material we've got here, basing itself on Alice in Wonderland is somewhat of a crime. It would be bad enough as an original story, but it's crossing way over the line by messing with a great classic. It takes everything that made Alice in Wonderland so great, crumbles it up and throws it in the wastebasket. Whle in the original, all the Wonderland characters were rarely ever nice to Alice, everybody loves the pretty princess Alyss except the bad guys and the meanies in the real world. And while the Alice books differientiated themselves from the rest of the oeuvre at the time with the lack of a moral (see the Duchess' obsession with finding them in everything), Looking Glass Wars has a tacky moral about 'the power of imagination', the same things Barney tells the pre-school kids.
Rarely, if ever, does Looking Glass Wars take advantage of its source material. Remember the aforementioned American McGee's Alice? That took the traits of the characters and twisted them in morbid ways. The Duchess' exploding pig babies! The Mad Hatter's clockwork robots and toxic tea! The characters in Looking Glass Wars couldn't be any more distanced from their 'originals', this distance due to the fact the author wants to say to his audience: 'I AM ULTRA MATURE AND OH SO DIFFERENT FROM KIDDY BOOKS LIKE ALICE IN WONDERLAND!!!'
The Looking Glass Wars is like a ten year old child trying to look adult by saying swear words and telling dirty jokes. When fight scenes appear in a novel, they should be eliticing indescribable emotion in the reader, while here, they're just here as a lame attempt to shock the readers and give the children who read this a sense of self-superiority.
Perhaps the violence in this story would mean something if the story had living, breathing three-dimensional characters. It has none. Pretty Princess Alyss Heart feels more like a little girl's self-fulfillment fantasy than an actual character. When she loses her imagination, one would expect her to face the baddies without magic powers, but she regains them and becomes like a goddess, thus ruining everything that made her sympathetic and relatable. Hatter Madigan is little more but another of the author's failed attempts to look cool, but his spin-off comic book is marginally entertaining. And Queen Redd is the lamest, most cliched villain ever, no different from any Saturday Morning cartoon baddie. She laughs maniacally, makes 'witty' one-liners and bosses around her henchman. And she has black pointy teeth as well (ooh, scary!) And don't even get me started on Jack of Diamonds and the Cheshire Cat. None of the characters in this book, or most of the events, are realistic enough to be part of a 'true story'. If you had lived a happy life for seven years in a magical fantasy world, only to be exiled, live on the poor, wet, cold streets of London with orphans for a while, get constantly mocked and teased at for your heritage and then have your entire life story changed entirely, would you:
a) Try your best to fit into society?
b) End up in an insane asylum screaming and raging?
The style of this book is poor and underwritten. Onomatopeia is used constantly until it completely grates the readers' nerves, important events are glossed over, Beddor keeps breaking the 'show, don't tell' rule and there are also some unnecessary 'thought balloons' for Alyss, even though in this situation it would be obvious to a moron what she would be thinking. The emotion in this book feels contrived and syrupy, making it feel more like a Disney movie than...well, the Disney adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.
Are there any good points about the book? Well, the scene where Hatter Madigan meets Lewis Carroll and scares the crap out of him was funny, as was one scene with the Caterpillars concerning deja vu. And it inspired me to write a fanfic. Anyway, in spite of this book's flaws, I intend to get the next volume, because I do forsee great improvement in this series (but maybe I'm being optimistic) and I will buy the tie-in soundtrack, because I like music.
So, in conclusion, give this book a miss. No-one's stopping you, no-one's forcing you to like it. This book is basically everything the publicity said it isn't: unoriginal, badly written, immature and pedestrian.
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by Children's Buyer's Guide,
"A highly original and engrossing read that takes the story of Carroll's Alice and turns it on its head in a totally believable way. I couldn't put it down and I can't wait for the next volume."
Alyss, born in Wonderland, is destined to be a warrior queen. After a bloody coup topples the Heart regime, Alyss is exiled to another world entirely, where she is adopted into the Liddell family, renamed Alice and befriended by Lewis Carroll. At age 20 she returns to Wonderland to regain her sceptre, battle Redd and lead Wonderland into its next golden age of imagination. This is Wonderland as you have never seen it before!
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