The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
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Vol 1, Issue #11
"Stand By For Mars!"
November 2006

The Thunder Child Book Reviews
by Joseph Umberto

The Looking Glass Wars

Frank Beddor

The Looking Glass Wars is a retelling of the story of Alice in Wonderland by Frank Beddor. Beddor has recreated all of the characters, plot points and events in a different light and cast the reconfigured characters in completely different roles.

In the kingdom of Wonderland there are two types of Imagination, Black and White. Each school of magic has its specific attributes, disciples and practitioners. The current Queen Genevieve and her daughter Alyss as well as the royal family are all practitioners of White Imagination. Genevieve's estranged sister Redd is the foremost practitioner of Black Imagination. Redd, who believes she is the rightful Queen, kills Alyss' father in the second chapter, over throws the current monarchy and beheads the queen. All the prosperity that Wonderland had under White Imagination rule becomes corrupt under Queen Redd's selfish rule.

Alyss is rescued from the bloody coup by Hatter Madigan, the Queens elite bodyguard. He takes her to the Pool of Tears, a mysterious transportation device that is connected to other worlds, times and dimensions. Having been separated from Hatter Alyss comes through the portal alone. She lands in London, England in 1859 and him in Paris, France.

Alyss eventually goes to an orphanage and gets adopted by the Liddell's. She is befriended by the family friend Lewis Carroll. Carroll listens to her stories of a fantastical world and publishes a variation of them as Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Hatter spends 13 years scouring the globe for Alyss. Many years later he finds a clue in the form of the books. Hatter tracks down Carroll and organizes a rescue right before she is to be married. By this time she has come to think of her childhood "dreams" as the wild imaginings of a child and completely untrue.

The final act finds the newly returned Princess Alyss leading a rag tag band of rebels against Queen Redd. Along the way before Redd's eventual overthrow Alyss must learn to reclaim her ability to conduct Imagination and learn to be Queen.

All in all there is a lot to recommend here, though it is not without its faults. It contains some very clever moments and the re-imaginings of the main characters are a constant source of enjoyment that keeps you on your toes. The characters are a little thin, but this is marketed as a YA book.

The biggest problem for me with the characters is that there is no gray area for them. If they are presented from the beginning as good or bad then they don't change, there are no gray area characters just black and white. The characters could have benefited from more depth. There do appear to be some holes in the plot. The story model is that of The Lion King with little or no variation, which some have argued is itself a watered down Hamlet.

I say it?s a simple tale simply told. Now that the primary arc is revealed, the predictable arc as it were, I?m really interested to see what the next two volumes will bring. Unlike other introductory novels of a multi-book sequence there aren?t many broader arcs that are left unresolved to be picked up at a later date, everything kinds of wraps itself up nicely.

The bottom line is that the story is flawed but recommendable. I?m especially curious about what the later volumes have in store. An observation that didn't affect my review is that The Looking Glass Wars is proposed as a multimedia platform. It?s slated to be a trilogy of novels. There are also plans to bring other aspects of the greater story to other mediums including video games, movies and comics.

One of the comics has already been released. Entitled Hatter M, it chronicles the 13 years that it took him to find Princess Alyss. I think it will prove to be an interesting experiment in not only marketing but also in world building. The first novel already contains great blank spots where things are left unexplained or are explained too quickly. The assumption is that those gaps would be filled in by the other media sources.

If one isn't aware of the other media forms though then the enjoyment of the one that you?re partaking in could potentially be lessened. Another possibility is that if one segment of the Looking Glass Wars buying market doesn't use or isn't aware of the other outlets then chances are they will not continue with the series. It?s a business model filled with possibilities but also the potential to fail.

My thinking is that of the four proposed media types, I would buy the future books and the comics, possibly see the movie and never play the video games. Needless to say, I'm going to be pretty disappointed if a key plot point for the novels takes place in the video game. So much for peering through the looking glass.

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