My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The blurb for this book tells the reader that the story is inspired by “Alice in Wonderland”. All this really serves to do, is lull you into a false sense of security.
The fact that some of the characters in this book are inspired by and named after Lewis Carroll’s characters is pretty much where the similarity ends. This novel is much darker and more visceral than its leaping off point. Alice starts in a mental asylum, having been recovered from an encounter with the white rabbit ten years earlier. You get the sense very early on, that that encounter was not a good one.
Alice escapes with her friend, Hacker, when the asylum burns down, and they embark on an adventure involving monsters, exploration, underground tunnels, gang lords and the mysterious Jabberwocky. The journey is as much one of self-discovery as it is one of Alice learning about her new surroundings – she was raised in the affluent, safe “new city” but now finds herself in the old city – a dark and dangerous place, and no place for any girl to be alone, let alone a girl from the right side of the tracks. It’s also a journey of Alice and Hacker getting to know each other – in the asylum they communicated through a hole in the wall between them. With the wall removed, Alice learns who her friend really is, was, and who he becomes with each new danger they encounter.
This is not a book for the squeamish – the main characters are attacked in a variety of inventive and messy ways – very definitely not one for the kids. However, the same powerful language that brings those vivid scenes to life also paints rich and colourful scenes in the less intense moments of Alice’s journey. Although under the protection of her companion, the author still maintains the character’s strength and independence. The story definitely ends on a feminist note, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel.