By Cynthia Ayala
Outside the city, the green lands of hope are gone, replaced with ash and sadness. This doesn’t stop Alice and Hatcher from completing their mission: find Hatcher’s daughter. But there are perils not even known to them. The White Queen has become mad, twisted and cruel, and the land suffers under the hands of the Black King. Only one person can stop them both and save the land and children in it, bringing Alice closer to her destiny.
Published on July 12, 2016, by Ace Books, Red Queen by Christina Henry is the sequel to her dark and gritty fantastical retelling of Alice in Wonderland.
Red Queen picks up soon after Alice and follows the characters on another bizarre and dark tale of fantasy and wonder. This is where Henry really starts to develop her characters and their relationships. Here Henry gives the reader a deeper sense of who the characters are and where they came from, especially Hatcher. There are multiple sides to who these characters are and they are evolving, they are becoming something more for the reader. Alice grows up a little more, becomes a stronger character in her own right. Her evolution pushed the story forward, propelling the plot and creating a wonderful, dark and tantalizing story. Alice is amazing in this novel and her softer side is what makes her stronger. In the previous novel it was her curiosity and rage that defined her and made her a stronger character, but here, as she evolves, there is something softer revealed in her persona, and it’s the kindness, the love in this novel that really develops her making this a great sequel to the previous novel.
As for the story itself, it relies heavily on the development of Alice and much of the wonder is left to the imagination of the reader. That’s not to say that there is no wonder in the novel but considering the previous novel was mostly about recreating a world with a twisted side, this novel takes that and introduces more characters from Wonderland and thrust them into the dark and twisted recreation that is just spectacularly well done. Henry puts her own imagination into the storytelling, into bringing these characters to life, and that is where most of the wonder is, in those creations and their mindset. It’s a dark tale, there is no doubt about that, but there is no nonsense in this novel. It’s a cohesive novel, it holds together very well and the characters really bring this story to life.
Admittedly, the ending, much like with the previous novel, does seem a bit rushed. Henry throws in some plot twists in the novel at the very end but they are closed as early as they are opened. There is a lot at the ending that could have been flushed out more to add more tension to the tale, but instead, Henry puts them out there and then closes the book on them. It’s unfortunate that they aren’t flushed out more, but at the end of the day, it’s still a riveting read. (★★★★☆ | B+)