The second book in The Chronicles of Alice is scheduled to be published on July 12th.
Though it lacked the grittiness and extreme horror of Alice, Red Queen is a fantastic second effort by Henry. We’re reintroduced to Alice and Hatcher as they escape the City and make their way into the wilderness, on a hunt for Hatcher’s long lost daughter, Jenny. Magic, danger, and monsters wait on the path ahead, but those things are nothing compared to what Alice and Hatcher bring with them in their own damaged and twisted minds.
Cheshire, one of my favorite characters, gives a quick summary of the first book in the beginning of this one, in case you didn’t get a chance to read it:“Hatcher and Alice escaped from the hospital, and traveled through the Old City in search of their pasts and in search of a monster called the Jabberwocky who made the streets run with blood and corpses.” The girl shuddered. “I know about him… What about Alice? Did she have a happy ending?” “I don’t know,” Cheshire said.”
Henry weaves enough of the classic tale into her story so that you know that it is a retelling, but still manages to introduce enough original elements in to make it feel entirely new. Like the toll that magic takes on the people who wield it, something that Carroll never addresses: “Maybe power corrupts them,” Alice said. It was a frightening thought, one that made her suddenly reluctant to try any magic at all. She’d spent years under the influence of drugs that made her think she was insane. She was only just learning who Alice was, what it was like to be her own self. She would rather use no magic at all than become some one unrecognizable.”
The world that Hatcher and Alice inhabit feels like the real world in that, there are no guarantees of happily ever after for the main characters. It’s reminiscent of George R.R. Martin in that, Henry makes you feel truly concerned that either Alice or Hatcher are going to be struck down at any moment. But, Henry actually manages to tell a story in 300 or so pages, something that Martin can’t do. Not that I’m bitter or anything… : “The world gobbles us and chews us and swallows us,” Hatcher said, in that uncanny way she had of reading her thoughts. “I think happy endings must be accidents.” “But we hope for them all the same,” Alice said.” I do too.
Alice really comes into her own in this story. She’s brave, but fragile- a damaged hero but resilient. If you’re looking for a strong female protagonist, you’ll find one in this book: “Alice thought, my magic doesn’t seem to be good for much at all. And there is no one who can help me learn, for all the Magicians I have met have been mad or cruel or both. I was mad once too, but it doesn’t seem to have taken properly. I didn’t come out of the hospital with any powerful powers.” Or did she?
This passage summed up the book for me: “This is really all very strange,” Alice murmured. “One of the strangest things I’ve seen, and I have seen lots that is strange. More than my fair share, as a matter of fact.”
Highly recommended for adult readers who enjoy dark fairy tales, magic, and transformation through suffering. I’ve really become a fan of Henry and I can’t wait to see where she takes this story next. If you enjoyed this tale, you may want to try The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins or The Circle by Mats Strandberg.
Thank you to NetGalley and Ace Publishing for a free digital ARC of this book. And, thank you for reading!