Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
Published: August 4 2015
Read as: UK paperback
Average Goodreads rating: 3.88
My rating: 2.5
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo with the screams of the poor souls inside. In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blonde, 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.
“If you go chasing your freedom your fate will only follow you there and force you back.”
While this book was originally published back in 2015 it has been only recently that I discovered it and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it. I love Alice in Wonderland retellings because they promise to be fantastical and on the odd side. While reading reviews and finding out this one was also horror? I probably had hearts for eyes. It seemed my every bookish dream had come true in the form of a horror Alice in Wonderland. My excitement was through the roof as I clicked “order” for this book and impatiently waited for the paperback to find its way to my doorstep.
When this book finally arrived I tore into it with a gusto, anxious to get lost in this world. Unfortunately, at even 20% through, I felt like I wasn’t even reading the same book the other reviews were talking about. Even glancing at the other Goodreads reviews now the words “creepy” and “blood soaked” and “nightmare” are very common. I didn’t get any of that. What this felt like instead was listening to someone talk about thrills, chills, and horror through the door into another room.
I am truly not exaggerating in that comment. Every single time one of those “blood soaked” moments happened our narrator Alice was in another room or literally had her back to it. This took away from the story in my opinion. The world this is story takes place in is supposed to be terrible and brutal with horrible things happening to people at every turn but it never got the opportunity to feel that way because we only got a second or third hand account of what was going on from someone who wasn’t there or didn’t see what happened. This way of story telling turned the story into a borderline YA fantasy romp.
Of course, being an Alice in Wonderland themed story, you have your expected cast of characters. Hatter, Rabbit, Cheshire, Caterpillar, and the Jabberwocky. It took nearly 3/4 of the book for it to finally dawn on me on the Hatter character was supposed to be and when it finally did, I was disappointed. Hatter, in this case, is Hatcher. A man who has lost his sanity and resorts to chopping things with an ax and protecting Alice. Rabbit is supposed to be the Big Bad and he barely gets a two page scene when you finally do get to meet him and is a giant let down. Caterpillar and the Jabberwocky are much the same. Two or so pages with them and then moving on. Cheshire was the only one who wasn’t a massive disappointment.
On top of all of the character let downs in the story, the writing itself felt underdeveloped. There were plot points that lead nowhere, other ones that felt important then were promptly forgotten about, and characters that seemed to drop off into the abyss. None of the characters felt like they were developed outside of a couple of quick bullet point notes on a misplaced spreadsheet. I was well and thoroughly disappointed in this book and will not be picking up its sequel.
Previously featured on First Impression Friday – Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1) by Christina Henry