I had heard such good things about this book, and I’m sad to say I was disappointed. A novel aiming to begin telling the story of Dinah, the eventual Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, it just didn’t hit home for me, and there were a few reasons.
First, I didn’t feel the magic and awe of Wonderland in the novel. The world building wasn’t there. True, Dinah doesn’t have the opportunity to leave the palace at all, but any mentions of the magic of the land were extremely fleeting. A reference to a striped moon here, a reference to magical creatures there. I would have liked to enjoy the world a little more, and hear more about it. Instead, it just seemed very much like background for the story, instead of a living, breathing part of the story that I feel Wonderland should be.
I also couldn’t seem to get interested in the characters. I felt bad for Dinah on many levels, but none of her relationships were fully fleshed out enough for me to feel truly invested. Also, some of her relationships are clearly determined to fail, so instead of empathizing, I just kept shaking my head at her and getting frustrated that she clearly wasn’t getting it on many levels. The story about her long-lost sister is also weak, somewhat uninteresting, and easy to figure out the twist that Dinah herself still hasn’t. (I’m assuming the a-ha moment comes in a later book when someone tells her directly). I did enjoy her brother Charles in the short snippets we got to see of him. Though I’m a little confused about his identity and the ending of the book, and how the author will tie that end into the continuation of the story when Alice arrives.
The story was a little lackluster as well, not quite as suspenseful as I would like, and just generally kind of meh. I did finish the book, and I was kind of interested to see how it ended, but it was one where I paged forward to read the end, then decided to keep reading because it seemed worth my while. I really tend to do that when I’m bored.
I hate to be so negative about a book, but I at least have reasons why I did not really love it. I’m mildly interested in seeing if the next books in the series get better, but I’m not super invested.
Recommend: Give it a try if you like retellings, some others have really liked it, but not for me.
Rating: 2 out of 5 (I did indeed finish it)