Author: Christina Henry
Blurb: In a warren of crumbling buildings called the Old City, a hospital echoes with the screams of the poor souls inside. Inside, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.
Why I chose it:
I was browsing Waterstones and was drawn to the cover – I am a massive fan of Alice in Wonderland so knew I was going to give it a go.
Alice in Wonderland was my favourite childhood book so this was going to be something I hated or loved, this book is a great horror / fantasy re-imagining of the original story.
You start out with Alice in a ‘hospital’ in Old City with little memory of the events that led to her being there. You are introduced to her only friend Hatcher who is in the cell next to hers who also cannot recall his life before the hospital.
Hatcher is plagued by dreams of a dark monster called the Jabberwock. One evening the hospital catches fire and Alice and Hatcher manage to free themselves. During this fire the Jabberwock that Hatcher has been seeing is set free.
Hatcher knows the Jabberwock must be stopped and so they are forced into the Old City to try to hide and prepare for the inevitable fight.
As they delve into the city and move further through the story Alices and Hatchers memories come back to them. You slowly discover the horrors that occurred to both of them and how they ended up in such a hideous place.
The relationship between Alice and Hatcher was my favourite thing about this book. Although he looks after her he doesn’t treat her like a doll and expects her to stand up for herself (and she does). The romantic side of it is more suggested and is about the companionship and the fact that they’ve had to get thought this horrific time together.
Trigger warning – this book features a lot of sexual violence and that is one of the reasons that I thought the relationship they had was written so well. She doesn’t just fall into his arms and he doesn’t force anything but they are still there for each other and its quite clear that they just ‘are’.
I wasn’t a fan of how the author introduced magic into the story, it felt like it was just thrown in several chapters into it and I feel like it could have been background hinted at or just a part of the world as it was discussed earlier. I actually went ‘oh’ when I read the section were wizards were introduced as it just wasn’t something I was expecting at all – I had to reassess the world in my head.
The growth of Alice as a character from when she first escapes the hospital to where she is saving Hatchers life was done beautifully. As it was done slowly with small steps and slowly getting braver throughout. It wasn’t just a sudden transformation at the end.
I absolutely loved how they had each of the characters from the original story although with a horror twist. The caterpillar was a particular favourite because he was just so awful. Other aspects from Alice in Wonderland are dropped in throughout which I loved e.g. the rose maze makes an appearance.
This book has a magical and horrifying story. If you are ok reading about sexual violence and slightly darker things then what you have here is an excellent very dark Alice in wonderland spin off.