Note: this is one of the first reviews I ever wrote on goodreads, and it is in its original, unedited form. So it may sound a little "bizarre" but that's only because it's so unpolished. So anyway - enjoy!
The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Beddor
Genre: YA Speculative/Fairytale Retelling (with a major freaking twist)
# of pages: 358 (pb)
Publisher: Dial, Penguin
The Looking Glass Wars is the first in a revisionist fantasy series that reimagines Lewis Carroll's classic, beloved (albeit weird and completely pointless) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
The basic premise: Wonderland is a real fantasy realm, "Alice" is really Alyss of Hearts, heir to the throne of said Wonderland, and remember that obnoxious loud-mouthed harpy Queen of Hearts? Yeah, she's Alyss's evil Aunt Redd who wants to usurp the throne. And when poor Alyss tries to relate this frightening premise to Mr. Carroll, the moron goes and spouts off frivolities like chasing a rabbit down a rabbit hole! That's the general premise in a nutshell.
- Beddor's series is REAL revisionist fun--original, quirky, and yet still reverent of the classic work. It's a tight rope to walk: you must be creative and original, and yet you can't stray too far away from the familiar story. Now granted, Frank's more of a visual guy. He's a producer, a movie man, so he's not exactly the most eloquent author out there. You just have to imagine everything you read as though you were watching it on a screen: instead of having him describe to you how characters act/look/feel, you have to imagine looking at the characters as if flesh-and-blood actors were giving a performance and you were likewise watching their gestures and listening to the tones in their voices. It's hard to explain, and this review may not make much sense, but that's my advice.
- I like his characters, too. I've read a few reviews in which people assert that his characters are a bit one-dimensional and even cliched, and that's true to a certain extent. Beddor's attention to detail lies not in character profiles, or even in the written dialogue, but in the invention of the world he's created: in the images of Wonderland, in the technology and weapons found there. I would have liked a little more characterization and a little more explanation, like "why is this person doing this? Why does he/she behave this way?" but that's not his style, and he makes up for it in other areas.
And the chief antagonist, Redd? she's just deliciously nasty! The first time I read the book, I thought she was way too over-the-top. And she is most definitely over-the-top, but now I realize it's one of the things I love about her! She's just so outrageous, it's FUN to read! And The Cat is brilliant, too. I always thought a cat whose face was contorted into a grin (Cheshire Cat, in other words) was just a freaky concept. And now that he's morphed into a top-notch assassin who smiles all the time? He's like a feline Joker. So to those who complain about the "butchering" of Lewis Carroll's classic children's story, I have to ask:
In a sentence: If you don't mind lots of action and somewhat simplistic characterization (think Incarceron, only without the confusion and nuance), this quick, exciting read will leave you breathless!