Author: Christina Henry
Genre: Fantasy | Horror | Retelling | Adult
Series / Standalone: The Chronicles of Alice #1
Publication Date: 4 August 2015
Paperback: 304 pages
Synopsis: A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll…
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.
In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.
Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.
And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
ALICE is definitely one of the darkest retellings I’ve read. All the characters you know from the original Alice In Wonderland have turned horrific and frightening in this book.
There is no Wonderland in ALICE. Instead, the story took place in Old City, a gothic-like town. Magicians used to live here, but now, street bosses and their own gangs run the place (or at least, their own territories).
The protagonist, Alice, went missing when she was a child. Two weeks later, she returned to her family- with blood dripping down her thighs and her face flayed open. She also started blabbering about Rabbit and tea, and she has been considered mad.
A few years later, Alice locked up in a mental hospital, was talking to her cellmate next door, Hatcher, when a fire broke out. This allowed Alice and Hatcher to escape. But, a monster, known as Jabberwock, escaped as well. They know the Jabberwock escaped because Hatcher had some sort of connection to it. So, Alice and Hatcher embarked on a journey to stop the monster from wrecking havoc.
I’ve mixed feelings towards this book.
First of all, the characters lack character development, except for maybe Alice.
Alice was a sort of dark character. At the beginning, I felt she was weak, and needed Hatcher to save her almost every time. As the story progresses, Alice began to stand up for herself. Her fears and personalities were revealed one by one throughout the story.
Hatcher, Alice’s love interest, was quite shallow. He didn’t remember much of who he was or what he did before he ended up in the hospital. All he remembered was that he had a bloody history. Hatcher is violent- like really violent. He didn’t blink or feel remorseful when he killed someone.
While I think he makes the story more interesting, I couldn’t exactly relate to him. To me, Hatcher is just a troubled and half-mad character. He never develops beyond that.
The romance between Hatcher and Alice felt too sudden. It’s like, they have only just met, and almost immediately Hatcher was professing his love to Alice. That’s not realistic.
Second, there is a lot of sexual violence in ALICE. I didn’t like the intensity of rape in this book, but I could stomach it. If you can’t take sexual violence, then stay far away from ALICE.
The portrayal of women and men disturbed me a lot. In this book, women are portrayed as either powerless or sex slaves or both. Men are generally bad/ evil and abused women, physically and mentally. How men treated the women in ALICE was disturbing (as mentioned).
Though I have mixed feelings about the themes and characters, I enjoyed the book. However, I felt the book didn’t grip me like others. Maybe it was because I was disturbed by the dark themes. I just couldn’t finish the book as fast I had with other books, despite its short length.
The world building was okay though I felt there was something missing. The history of Old City was rich and interesting, but there wasn’t much for New City. All I knew about New City is that is a cleaner, nicer city where wealthy people live and work in. I would like to know more about the history of New City and hopefully more would be revealed in the next book.
The writing was not the best; there were many errors which pulled me out of the story.
For example, at the beginning, the monster was Jabberwock. Somewhere in the middle, its name became Jabberwocky. Then it switched back to the former. I don’t know if it’s just my copy which has the error or if I just saw it wrong.
Other than the errors, the writing was decent and the pacing was quite fast.
Plot-wise, it’s very different from the original. It’s the author used the original story line as a base, and then built a different story from it. If you like retellings to stick close to the original, then I don’t recommend ALICE.
ALICE is a disturbing, very dark and entertaining read. If you can take sexual violence and don’t mind if the retelling is very different from the original, read ALICE.