I love a good retelling of a classic novel, especially when it’s part of a story that I really enjoyed. I had to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll for a children’s literature class I did in university, and though it dragged on a bit for me, I really liked the characters, the environment and the story. When I came across Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay on Netgalley, a story about Alice’s return to Wonderland at the age of 15 (available now!), I knew I had to request it.
Alice’s stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows—it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she’s willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block.
I generally enjoyed my return to Wonderland. The world-building had a lot of same whimsy and backwardness that was set up in Carroll’s original, mixed with the character building that is common in more modern novels. The plot was twisty and a bit dark, and I liked that you never could really figure out what was going to happen next.
The addition of Rosamund’s (the Queen of Hearts’s) point of view was refreshing, and was probably my favourite part of the novel. We got to see what made her tick and why she constantly wanted to behead people—and whether there were consequences to her actions. It rounded out the story nicely and gave a little more depth that I feel Alice, as a character, was missing.
The “real world” plot around Alice and the asylum made the story (strangely) more believable, and the conclusion went somewhere that I never expected. I was thoroughly impressed.
My one big criticism is that the author couldn’t quite mirror the similes and the language that Carroll perfected, and sometimes I had to think about it so hard that it brought me out of the story. For that reason, it took me much longer to read this book than it should have, because I kept getting pushed out and didn’t feel compelled to go back into the story.
If you’re a fan of Alice, however, even just the movies, I think you would appreciate where Ramsay takes the story. That’s worth it in itself.
“Alice caught her breath as panic took hold of her. Her time away hadn’t softened the memory of the Queen of Hearts. Here she was, at the palace, under orders from the Aboveground Organization, about to go into the Queen’s service—the very queen who had ordered her execution. Of all the things that were truly mad, that was it.” —H.J. Ramsay, Ever Alice
Thank you to NetGalley and Red Rogue Press for the advanced copy, and to Toa Heftiba on Unsplash for the featured photo of the rose bushes.