The Looking Glass Wars
Always eager for anything Alice (‘s Adventures in Wonderland)-related, I just finished the first book in Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars trilogy. Alice Liddell, known to the world as the young Victorian girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s famous book, is really Alyss Heart, heir to the queendom of Wonderland. Wonderland is truly a place of wonder, where imagination is a powerful skill Wonderlandians must cultivate and train. Princess Alyss is just a rambunctious seven-year-old with a powerful imagination and a young love for Dodge, the son of the military commander, when her wicked Aunt Redd takes control of the palace and utters her famous verdict: Off with their heads! Alyss’ mother and Dodge’s father are murdered before their eyes. Hatter Madigan, the fierce and silent head of the Millinary, saves Alice by jumping with her into the Pool of Tears, a river from which no Wonderlandian has returned.
Separated in the current from Hatter Madigan, Alyss is transported to Victorian England, where she finds herself among a group of beggar children, then an orphanage, then adopted by the Liddells. Ridiculed and chastised for her stories of Wonderland, Alyss dares to tell her heartbreaking history to newfound friend Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson, who betrays her by turning her stories into a nonsensical children’s book. Alyss’ imaginative power begins to fade, and she slowly adapts to her new life and begins to question if Wonderland ever really existed. As the years pass, Hatter Madigan relentlessly searches the globe, determined to find the princess.
Just as Alyss is about to become part of Earth forever, fantasy declares war on reality. Attacked by Redd’s card soldiers who have invaded Earth, Alyss must return to Wonderland to find and complete the Looking Glass Maze, which will restore her to her full imaginative powers and allow her a chance at reclaiming her throne from Redd. Will Dodge and Alyss rekindle their old friendship, or will Dodge’s determination for revenge put Alyss and the rebel Alyssian army in danger? Will Alyss, a far cry from the warrior queen she was born to become, be able to harness the power of her imagination and defeat Redd – or will Black Imagination rule forever?
The Looking Glass Wars loosely uses Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Underground and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a framework for an inventive story about Princess Alyss, Wonderland, and the war between good and evil. Two of the most interesting things about the story is the concept of looking glass travel, a network of mirrors and reflections that take Wonderlandians throughout the city, and imaginative power. In Wonderland, anything can happen or come into being simply through imagination. At first, this seemed like an easy cop-out or major flaw – why couldn’t Alyss just imagine a perfect queendom and everything she wanted, after all? – but the book develops it into a skill which Wonderlandians have to develop, train, and exercise, and which can be used for good or evil.
Alyss is an interesting character – a rather annoying, but spirited, little princess who grows into an intelligent, brave, charming, beautiful young woman determined to fight the great odds against her and restore peace to her queendom. Hatter Madigan, a silent, steadfast, deadly militant, is one of my favorite characters. Redd is a great villain, but isn’t very developed – we know she was disowned and banished, but don’t get much insight into who she was before the civil war.
The Looking Glass Wars is followed by Seeing Redd and Arch Enemy. I liked The Looking Glass Wars, and I would recommend it, though I don’t know if I liked it enough to read the whole series.