The Chronicles of Alice are a dark, adult, Victorian, steampunk, retelling. They contain violence, killing, cannibalism, human trafficking, rape, and sexual violence. Both graphic and implied. Although these are sensitive and controversial topics to write, they are not used gratuitously but rather to show the disturbing behaviours people inflict on each other and the horror of the situations characters are in.
Alice begins in with the mad memories of The Rabbit’s tea party in the Old City with her friend Dor. A tea party that Alice returns from two weeks later bleeding and bruised, and not the same Alice she was. Although she has escaped from The Rabbit and avoided being given to the Walrus, Alice returns home only to be institutionalised by her family who blame her for going to the Old City. 10 years later Alice in still in the hospital and the only company she has in her cell is the voice coming through the wall. A voice belonging to Hatcher, quite literally a mad axe man who is haunted by the Jabberwocky.
When a fire allows them to escape, Alice seeks revenge on her rapist and captor The Rabbit. On the way Alice finds out that all the crime lords of the Old City; The Rabbit, Caterpillar, Cheshire, Walrus, are Magicians. All of whom she must battle or barter to pass through their territory. Along the way Alice rescues as many other victims as she can without judging them for their actions or attitudes (vengeful mermaids).
There is a small amount of romance between Alice and Hatcher, but primarily it focuses on Alice’s revenge and Hatcher seeking Jenny (who he begins to remember once out of the hospital and no longer drugged).
The sequel Red Queen moves from dark and horror filled to more YA friendly retelling. It explores the romance of Alice and Hatcher as he looks for his long stolen daughter Jenny in the Red Queens realm.
Except the Queen they find is not the Red Queen, it’s the White Queen who is at constant battle with the Black King. Through enchanted woods, controlled and bewitched henchmen, and the Goblin, the magic they face here is far greater than that of the Old City’s Magicians.
Alice’s magic grows stronger as the story progresses but it doesn’t feel like she really understands her powers or herself, although that could be the result of years of in an asylum. We find out that Hatcher isn’t the only one with a missing child and Alice wants to rescue the children from the evil queen.
Cheshire and the Jabberwocky still linger in the background, can Alice truly break their ties. The romance of Alice and Hatcher is a dysfunctional love of two broken people struggling with their own issues rather than a sappy declaration filled love.
I enjoyed the Chronicles of Alice, I thought that the first book was a darker, stronger story but the Red Queen did not disappoint