Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes is a fantastic twist on Alice in Wonderland, and it’s the first book in a series.
Only queens with hearts can bleed.
This is not the story of the Wonderland we know. Alice has not fallen down a rabbit hole. There is no all-knowing cat with a taunting smile. This is a Wonderland where beneath each smile lies a secret, each tart comes with a demand, and only prisoners tell the truth.
Dinah is the princess who will one day reign over Wonderland. She has not yet seen the dark depths of her kingdom; she longs only for her father’s approval and a future with the boy she loves. But when a betrayal breaks her heart and threatens her throne, she is launched into Wonderland’s dangerous political game. Dinah must stay one step ahead of her cunning enemies or she’ll lose not just the crown but her head.
Evil is brewing in Wonderland and maybe, most frighteningly, in Dinah herself.
This is not a story of happily ever after.
This is the story of the Queen of Hearts.
In Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts is a through-and-through villain. But if I learned anything from reading Wicked, it’s that every villain has a story. This is the story of Dinah, the princess of Hearts at 17 years old. Dinah herself is a character that I couldn’t help but like and empathize with. She has a brutal, paranoid father, her brother is mad, and she’s got a crush on a boy she grew up with. She learns to grow up in the dangerous court and has to adjust her expectations dramatically.
“She was learning quickly that what was right and what must happen weren’t always the same thing.”
The world is depicted beautifully and whimsically:
“Pink snowflakes circled down from a gloomy gray sky as Dinah walked quite across the snow-covered courtyard. Her fur boots left behind huge footprints as the wind blew tiny swirls of the rosy snow around her ankles. Dinah blew out a breath of cold air and watched it freeze in front of her and fall to the ground with a soft tinkle.”
I found myself absorbed into the story quickly, and wanted to find out what happens to Dinah to make her the villain she becomes. At least, I’m assuming that she turns into a villain at some point — in which case, I couldn’t blame her at all. As a teenager, she’s a bit naïve, but she’s also brave, smart, and headstrong. I really enjoyed the way the seamy underbelly of Wonderland was explored in this book, and the concept of the Black Towers.
It’s such a unique take on a book that I have always loved since I was a child, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this saga.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 3
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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