[I received a copy of this novel from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.]
Both funny and leading one to think about darker themes, though a bit confusing at times.
I pretty much enjoyed this this novel. Its cover, for starters. Its grim version of a Wonderland not turned into gothic-like darkness or anything, but into an even more dreadful thing: grey, boring normalcy. Its mash-up of fairy tales, different from the ones known in our world, their echoes reaching us and being turned into stories, while our world has in turn their own echoes in those places—transcending time and space, too: Alice is actually from our contemporary United States, but Peter Pan knows her through her story as a girl from 19th century Britain, a story he himself was told before going to Neverland. Good ideas aplenty, in how the “true” characters were different: Pinocchio as a boy who doesn’t know whether he’s real or not (and with a darker backstory to his being a “puppet”), what’s truly going on with Captain Hook, Robin Hood’s real identity, Queen Charming who lost everything and has turned into a tyrant of her own kind because she couldn’t cope with all the sadness… There’s even a bit of a wink to Lovecraft, one that seemed odd at first yet ended up being not so odd, all things considered, with everything going on around it.
It may have been a bit too much at some point, making it difficult sometimes to remain focused on the story—possibly because of the large cast of characters and their nonsensical dialogue and ways of thinking: totally fitting the Wonderland setting (and thus good, too), but depending on your frame of mind and/or degree of tiredness, not necessarily the easiest to go through. I would advise not treating this novel as a “light read for when you don’t need to focus”, because you do, and you should, else some of its (interesting) elements may get lost along the way. (I’d dare say it’s the same with Carroll’s Wonderland, after all: to fully enjoy it, you definitely need to pay attention.)
I admit I would have liked to see just a bit more of Alice’s “madness” in the normal world, to better grasp how exactly she gave up on Wonderland at first: to me, it seemed she never gave up, picked up fairly quickly, and seeing her struggle more (or differently?) would have been nice. Not that I didn’t want her to accept Wonderland again—just differently, since Ace’s dominion there, his desire to turn it into a normal (boring) place, prompts her to take action and “retake” Wonderland. In the beginning, she didn’t *want* to believe, then the switch happened a bit too fast. Same with Alice’s parents: will they force her back into normalcy, or not? Can she stand up to them in that regard? Such answers aren’t given.
Otherwise it was a funny adventure, with good twists and turns and renewed takes on well-known fairy tales characters (the mysterious Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the dwarves dealing in moonshine…). 3.5 stars.