Alice and Red Queen, by Christina Henry

2017-04-24-alice-and-red-queen-by-christina-henry
I've read more than a dozen retellings of Alice in Wonderland, and they all too frequently rely on the same ideas: Alice as an amnesiac; Alice as a traumatized young adult; Alice in a madhouse; Alice and the Mad Hatter in a romantic relationship. Christina Henry's duology—Alice and Red Queen—checks off every cliché on this list, but Henry at least delivers her recycled material with style and energy.

In Henry's world, Alice is a deeply damaged young woman living in a prison-like hospital. Her only human contact is the man in the next cell, who seems to be even madder than she is. When a fire allows Alice and her fellow inmate a chance to escape, they go in search of the demons in their pasts.

Alice and Red Queen are dark and dramatic, atmospheric and fast-paced. There is palpable chemistry between Alice and her protector, and I admire Henry's ability to transfer the innate creepiness of a character like the Cheshire Cat into a new (but still familiar) form. Unfortunately, this series features one of my least favorite literary conveniences: references to rape as a way of establishing a horror-story atmosphere. I am not asking for a crime-free story, and I am grateful that most of these attacks happen “off-screen”, but nearly every female character is sexually assaulted in some way. Henry shows promise as a writer, but I'm hoping her future work comes up with a better way to convey darkness and fear than by sexually assaulting half her cast.

Review based on publisher-provided copies.
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Posted by: Julianka

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