The Looking Glass Warsby Frank Beddor. Grades 6 and up. Scholastic Audio, 2006. Read by Gerard Doyle. Accessed through my public library.
Summary: The “true story” behind Alice in Wonderland! Princess Alyss Heart is brutally cast out of Wonderland by her vicious Aunt Redd, who beheads Alyss’ mother (Off with her head, she cries!) and begins to rule over Wonderland with an iron fist. Alyss escapes from Wonderland and is exiled to another world entirely – Victorian London – where she is adopted into a new family, renamed Alice, and befriended by Lewis Carroll. At age 20 she returns to Wonderland to battle Redd, reclaim the throne, and lead Wonderland into its next golden age of imagination. (overdrive.com)
First of all, I want to make a plug for audiobooks. I just discovered this wonderful medium this summer, and it has totally changed my life! It’s so cool to me that I can actually be reading a book while I am doing other things. Because, as it turns out, I spend a lot of time during the day doing completely mundane things that are greatly enhanced with a story being read to me (walking to the bus, doing the dishes, etc.).
The Looking Glass Wars is a re-imagining of the story of Alice of Wonderland, and it is a very, very different story. This is not a book for purists, but if you are open to major twists on beloved stories and characters, this is a very fun read. I really enjoyed Gerard Doyle’s presentation of the story and felt that he did an excellent job portraying the voices of the various characters.
Alice is a likeable and authentic-feeling character and the re-imaginings of other beloved Wonderland characters (Mad Hatter, White Rabbit, Chesire Cat, etc.) are very creative and fun. What really set this story apart for me was the vividness of the fantasy world that Beddor has created. I can see in my mind’s eye the card soldiers and traveling by looking glass and it was all very wonderful and fantastical.
I think this might be a case where the audiobook version of the story could actually be better than the printed version. At times Beddor’s writing feels a little superfluous or stilted, but Doyle read it in a way that made it all feel quite natural and perfect for the story, so I don’t think it was as jarring as it could have been if I had just been reading it on my own.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves retellings of classic stories as well as anyone who loves fantasy. I think the book has a appeal for both boys and girls, though it will probably be mostly girls reading it, which is sad because it is also full of great action and several tough male characters. I would also recommend giving the audiobook version a try because for me it was a truly enjoyable experience.