Books, Reviews

Book Review: Red Queen (The Chronicles of Alice #2)

red_queen_front mech.inddTitle: Red Queen (The Chronicles of Alice #2)

Genre: Fantasy, Adult, Horror, Retellings, Fiction

Author: Christina Henry

Published by: Ace

Goodreads rating: 3.84 (as of writing)

This is the sequel to Alice which I reviewed here

I was actually expecting something more darker than the first one but this was surprisingly mild. Still had some creepy and disturbing parts but the dark violence in the first book  is gone. Spoilers ahead.


Taken from Goodreads:

The author of Alice takes readers back down the rabbit hole to a dark, twisted, and fascinating world based on the works of Lewis Carroll…
 
The land outside of the Old City was supposed to be green, lush, hopeful. A place where Alice could finally rest, no longer the plaything of the Rabbit, the pawn of Cheshire, or the prey of the Jabberwocky. But the verdant fields are nothing but ash—and hope is nowhere to be found.

Still, Alice and Hatcher are on a mission to find his daughter, a quest they will not forsake even as it takes them deep into the clutches of the mad White Queen and her goblin or into the realm of the twisted and cruel Black King.

The pieces are set and the game has already begun. Each move brings Alice closer to her destiny. But, to win, she will need to harness her newfound abilities and ally herself with someone even more powerful—the mysterious and vengeful Red Queen…


The plot summary seems a bit misleading, just a little bit. I was expecting to be taken to different kingdoms of the White Queen, the Black King and the Red Queen but nope. Didn’t happen. Won’t take my word for it? Take it from the source:

I have become a rabbit, Alice thought. I spend all my life tunneling through warrens.

Lol. Joking aside, I loved that this book seemed to focus more on psychological stuff rather than the gory stuff. A lot of times I had to think whether the scene that transpired was Alice’s dream or an illusion by the White Queen or reality. Sometimes I also had to wonder if the voices speaking in Alice’s head belonged to herself, Cheshire’s or the Jabberwocky’s.

I liked that it kept me on my toes but unlike the first book, this one just doesn’t seem as intense. Rather, it felt purposefully mellow and depressing, reflecting Alice’s feelings after her ordeals in the Old City. The tiredness, the longing for rest and peace (without having to die first of course).

It picks up right after the (happy) ending of the first book where Alice and Hatcher escaped into a secret tunnel leading out of the Old City in order to find his daughter, Jenny. Only to find nothing but burnt land. From there, the hope they gained in the ending of the first book was dashed.

“The world gobbles us and chews us and swallows us,” Hatcher said, in that uncanny way he had of reading her thoughts. “I think happy endings must be accidents.”

Alice and Hatcher where mostly the same from the first book though Hatcher was gone for the majority of the book, leaving us with only Alice. I liked that though, it presented an opportunity for Alice to grow into maturity on her own without relying on Hatcher all the time.

She didn’t have to be Cheshire’s ideal of a Magician or Hatcher’s ideal of a lover or her parents’ ideal of a daughter. She could be Alice.

Unlike the first book which was more dark and violent to the point of being disgusting, this book was more psychological (and emotional). The White Queen, who is the main villain liked to play mind games and illusions. The Black King, while violent, was like the Jabberwocky in the first book and was usually removed, far away from Alice to be an immediate threat. Then there’s the Goblin who serves the White Queen.

I think the Goblin is the only noteworthy villain here since he was what Alice feared the most throughout the book, being reminiscent of the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar, or the Walrus, wanting to get her to add to his morbid collection. He was also the only one who came close to actually trapping Alice. Fortunately, Alice had already learned her lessons from her past experiences and was smarter now.

Alice knew well, better than anyone, the dangers of curiosity.

The White Queen (who turned out to be Jenny which I predicted early into the book) and the Black King ended up both being a dud, like the White Rabbit in the first book. After building them up to be some sort of super-powerful villains, it turned out they are already dying by the time Alice got to them and there isn’t much of a fight left in them.

Fortunately, I have already become desensitized from the disappointment in the first book and to be fair, it was appropriate for the theme of the book anyway. This book was more mournful rather than shocking. There was a sense of bitter-sweetness all throughout– Alice and her journey to self-discovery after her horrific experiences in the Old City, reminiscing about her happier childhood days and how different she was then compared to the present. There was also the kind giant (Pen)’s backstory, the villagers who had their children cruelly taken away by the White Queen and hopelessly awaiting their return, and even the history of the White Queen, the Black King and the Red Queen.

Then there is also the bit with Hatcher having to watch his daughter die and getting angry at Alice about it, only to end up with nothing else to do but accept the truth, that his daughter was already gone and the one that died was nothing but the twisted shadow of what his daughter used to be. Then finally, knowing that he had a granddaughter, a final memento of Jenny, but being unable to keep her.

I’ll have to admit I teared up a few times especially around the end of the book 😦

Conclusion

This book is solid enough for me. The author’s writing is very readable and easy to digest despite the story it was telling. But if you liked the violent and dark mood from the first book more than Alice’s actual journey, then you would be disappointed.

I would have to admit that this just wasn’t as gripping as the first book, it took me a while to finish reading this one compared to Alice because the beginning was a bit slow. But I liked it better overall because of the feelings it evoked in me. I just can’t help but feel for the characters who lost everything, even when they already had barely enough to begin with, because of the selfish actions of others.

However, this book left me with a lot of question than answers.

How did Cheshire reconnect with Alice when she had supposedly cut their connection in the first book? What was that about “things afoot in the City” that Cheshire just had to mention near the end? Did Alice’s family really no longer care about her? What became of the Jabberwocky since Alice had never fulfilled her promise (wish) from the first book? He had been mocking Alice during the early parts of the book…but then again, that may have just been Alice’s overactive imagination. But still it left me wondering.

And most importantly:

What about Alice? Did she have a happy ending?

I would like to think so but from what this entire book taught me so far, there’s a high chance that she’d have to jump through a few more hurdles in order to get to that “little white cottage by a blue lake”.

This was supposed to be the last book of this series (as claimed by the author) but the way it was ended makes me feel like there would be more to come.


My ratingtwk-fullstartwk-fullstartwk-fullstartwk-fullstartwk-nostar (The feels! Those poor children! Pen!)

Recommended to: People who read the first book and don’t mind a sudden change of tone from the dark and violent one to a more sad and bitter-sweet one

Favorite character: Pen the Giant 😦

Favorite quote“She should not wish to undo the past but learn to accept its consequences, and remember that not all consequences were evil.”

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