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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Review: The Looking Glass Wars, Frank Beddor

The Looking Glass Wars is an alternate history retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass books. Beddor reimagines the children’s classic as non-fiction: Alyss Hart, a Wonderlander, comes to Earth in a time of crisis (her evil aunt Redd has attacked Wonderland in her quest to become the Queen of Hearts), and she finds herself in a far different reality. On Earth, she is just a young girl with no allies and a fading Imagination. When she is adopted by the Liddell family, and comes across the young deacon Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) she thinks she has found a sympathetic soul. She tells him her story -- which he then publishes in the drastically altered tale that we know. Disheartened, Alyss (now Alice) tries to adjust to life on Earth and forget about Wonderland. But all is not right in Wonderland, and the two worlds Alyss knows are about to collide.

For much of this book, I was fairly indifferent. It came highly recommended by a number of friends, and I am completely smitten with the Alice story and will read/watch* anything having to do with the insanely fabulous world Carroll created. So I really wanted to love this, and at times I did. But for much of the book (probably the first ½ or so), I just didn’t. I felt Beddor struggled to find the tone he wanted; it waffled back and forth between an imitation of Carroll’s light, irreverent style, and a more current, action-drama feel. Also, with attention divided between the two worlds, Wonderland and Earth, it never felt like either got the attention it deserved, and I never got to really live in either and experience it, which was disappointing. But there were moments when I got what I wanted, when the worlds became real and the action was compelling, and the tension was high and I was in it. I just wanted that to be more consistent.
Eventually, the book did find a middle path and start to come together, and I will say that I saw enough in it to like that I will certainly keep reading, and do not really regret spending the money on it. I am not saying this is not a good book, just that I wanted more, and didn’t quite get it.
On a side note, the card soldiers (idea and illustrations) was absolutely brilliant.

*And would you believe I missed Alice on SyFy? Remembered it was on when Ep 2 was nearly over. Really, desperately irritated with myself on that one. Esp. as the Mad Hatter in it is simply delicious. Must track it down and watch.


I felt that some of the choices Beddor made were just kind of iffy and it sometimes made the story less believable, or at least questionable. Perhaps the biggest was his choice of the starting age for Alyss, combined with the love interest in Dodge. In the beginning of the story, Alyss is celebrating her 7th birthday. Dodge, her best friend and future guard, is three years older. Now, for those ages, I can believe that there may be some infatuation on the part of each child, and I can even believe that they are devoted to each other in their child’s way. I’m okay with it when you set them up as future love interests -- I don’t mind seeing early where this is going, and knowing who to root for. But I don’t buy it when you try to set them up as already in love and acting like star-crossed lovers. It’s too weighty for their ages, and it just seems a little silly at best, and a little creepy at worst. Their interaction was amateurish, which I guess it at the heart of my complaints with the book in general.
The second choice that bothered me was how easily things happened. As someone who works in film, I would have expected Beddor to be a little more concerned with the journey and the struggles that develop a story and add tension. I would feel tension building and I would think something was going to be thrilling and crucial, and instead it would end too quickly. As a result of the idea of Imagination that Beddor set up, things came to easily and ruined the tension level.
I am looking forward to reading book 2: Seeing Redd, and I have high hopes that with experience, Beddor will improve and do the story credit; he’s a good storyteller, just not necessarily as good a writer -- yet.

Bonus Material:

Yes, The Looking Glass Wars is being made into a film. I think they should go the mini-series route, so they have the luxury of time to flesh it out. Info is here.

The Looking Glass Wars website has some pretty neat things, including previews of the Hatter M. graphic novels, an Imagination Gallery that is pretty neato, music "from" the book, and a number of games, one of which is called Pissed Off Monkey. If that doesn't make you want to head over there, I'm not sure what will...
You can also buy stuff

And lastly, here are a couple of trailers. The second gives more away, so if you don't wanna know, don't click:

There's one more that I thought was neat, and I like the voiceover. It's here.


  1. great review, i too, have been recomended this book and i will eventually pick up the series. A Movie? hmm.. could be good but like you said perhaps a scifi mini-series would be better.

  2. Sad to hear you missed Alice on SyFy. The Hatter was perfect of course and I really liked Alice. You should try and track it down!!

  3. Great review darling. I know I've said this already but I really missed you :)

  4. Aww, I missed you too. (she says all warm and squishy). I was going crazy not only not being able to post, but not being able to read posts. I opened up my Google Reader and the numbers were astronomical. I have a lot of catching up to do.

  5. I was loved this book but I'll admit that sometimes it dragged a bit, and I skimmed.

    So sorry you missed Alice on TV. It started a bit slow (and had some silly parts like Alice flying on a plastic flamingo) but it totally hooked me in. It was brilliant! And Hatter was the total bomb. I now have him as my screen saver! Try to find a re-run!


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