Queen of Hearts is a recent book inspired by Alice in Wonderland that caught my eye with its snazzy cover and fun premise focused heavily on one character that I feared and found fascinating in the original: the Queen of Hearts. It is the story of Dinah, princess and future queen of Wonderland, who is written in a surprisingly likable way. Out of nowhere, her father drops a major bombshell: he has another daughter, her half-sister, and she is to be recognized as part of the family. This is the last straw for Dinah, who chafes beneath what is expected of her and what she longs for. With the help of her childhood friend, she starts looking closer at Wonderland and discovering things she didn't know before about her home, her people and their political landscape.
Here's the thing: I liked this novel, but I didn't love it.
I freaking loved the way Oakes depicted the world, because it was magical and whimsical. She managed to make it feel familiar, with recognizable elements and also newer things that were all her own. I was constantly excited to discover more, and my wonder at the setting never wavered.
I liked the characters well enough. They were relatively well-drawn, easily identifiable with key characteristics that made them stand apart from one another. Still, they were all pretty stereotypical: the defiant princess, the beautiful bastard, the powerful king, the crazy brother, the sweet friend, the beloved teacher. It wasn't something I hated, since it did work for the story. But you guys know that I love my character connections when I read, so I could have totally done with better development.
The story was, well, okay, with a fairly typical plot (except for one or two things I found interesting). I wasn't bored at all reading it, but I also wasn't chomping at the bit to read more whenever I had to set it down. The relationships were decent, if also underdeveloped, with my favorite one being the relationship between Dinah and her brother. What did end up souring the plot overall was the pacing. It was very inconsistent, with lots of major time jumps happening very frequently and in a way that constantly niggled me.
So, end verdict, as I said: I liked, but I didn't love. I'm glad I read it, especially because of the incredible world-building. But I don't know if I'd read more in the series, honestly, because the story only really was so-so in the end.
What is your favorite Alice in Wonderland adaptation?
I love the Disney animated version of Alice in Wonderland but I really, really, really (surprisingly) enjoyed the Tim Burton adaptation. It's a little out there, and a little kooky, and really strange, but that totally worked for me since I felt like Alice in Wonderland is a strange, whimsical story.
Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
Series: Queen of Hearts Saga #1
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Source: e-galley from Edelweiss (Thanks!)
As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.
When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.