Friday 3 December 2010

The Looking Glass Wars BK 1

The Looking Glass Wars BK 1 by Frank Beddor (Egmont Press)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781405219761
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The Looking Glass Wars begins an outstanding fantasy trilogy. It creates new lands and uses the characters of Alice in Wonderland in an exciting and different way. Wonderland is the place where the imagination is the most powerful tool powered by the Heart Crystal which is the power source of all the cosmos; where the deck of cards become transformed into soldiers as are the chessboard characters.

The story begins in Wonderland on Princess Alyss’ seventh birthday. Celebrations are underway at Heart Palace. Twelve years have passed since civil war raged between good and evil; between the White and Dark Imagination. Princess Redd was banished because of her evil practices and denied her lawful succession to the throne, leaving her sister Genevieve to be crowned Queen of Wonderland.
Alyss’ future intended is the ambitious and obnoxious Jack of Diamonds but it is her lifelong playmate, the commoner Dodge that is her soul-mate.  Bibwit Harte, the royal tutor, is grooming Alyss to be future queen. Hatter Madigan is the leader of the queen’s security force and Alyss’ protector. These wonderful characters are alive on the page, as you love and detest, empathise with or dismiss them through every new adventure fraught with tension as the story is propelled forward.

Alyss’ father is absent on a visit to King Arch of Borderland trying to establish an alliance between the two nations against Redd, who is rumoured to have planned an attack on Wonderland. Alyss’ life is shattered when her parents are murdered by Redd in a perfectly planned attack. She escapes with Hatter through the Pool of Tears, but they are separated and Alyss comes out alone on Earth, into an England of the late 1800s. Taken in by a group of homeless orphans, she uses her unrefined powers of imagination to survive, until they unexpectedly dwindle, then disappear. 

Adopted by the Liddell family from an orphanage where she is cast after being arrested for stealing, Alyss finds it difficult to adapt to normal life and lives in the past with her memories, which she relives by relating them to the Reverend Dodgson. He has befriended Alyss and is using her fantastic stories of Wonderland as material for a book which becomes a best seller.

Meanwhile, Hatter spends every waking moment searching for his princess. He travels the world, in and out of puddle portals, experiencing amazing adventures. We view what is happening to all the characters elsewhere: the cruelty, destruction and decay of the leaders, the populace and the Queendom. The story covers a thirteen year time span. Hatter finally finds Alyss and they jump into a puddle and exit through the Pool of Tears to Wonderland. But she is faced with the vicious, vengeful Redd on her return.

The tale is told in perfect, flowing chapters which move back and forth from the point of view of the characters in Alyss’ current life to the characters in Wonderland. It incorporates a lot of brilliantly set up backstory.

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