Following directly on from the events in Alice, the first book in this series, Alice and Hatcher have escaped the Old City only to discover that the lush green fields they were expecting to find are actually a ruined landscape blasted into ash and littered with bodies. With the nightmares of the past behind her, Alice is shocked to discover new threats await that are equally as deadly; an enchanted village where trespassers are, quite literally, eaten alive; a hideous goblin with the power to turn everything into a diabolical illusion; a cruel Black King, twisted by fate, intent on destroying everybody in his path; and, most terrifying of all, the mad White Queen who has robbed a village of its children so that she can draw upon their lifeforce. But at least Alice can rely on Hatcher who, despite being a dangerously unpredictable psychotic axe-man, would never leave her side and would definitely never ever turn on her… would he?
There is a lot to admire about Red Queen. To begin with, you don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy this one, which makes a refreshing change (although, after reading this, you will want to read the first book because Christina Henry’s writing is so good you’ll want to stay in this world as long as possible). Secondly, if you’re a fan of Lewis Carroll’s original stories, you’ll enjoy the way Henry has updated his characters, especially the authentic inner voice she gives Alice. Some of our heroine’s asides are so on-the-button that you’d think Carroll had written them himself. In fact, the best way to describe this book is, well, it’s like a collision between Lewis Carroll and Angela Carter. Henry has done for Alice what Carter did for fairy tales in her excellent The Bloody Chamber (aka The Company of Wolves) – taking what we love and are comfortably familiar with and updating it into something dark and adult while still essentially remaining true to the spirit of the original conception. Die-hard fans of Carroll’s work will no doubt appreciate the care and attention she’s given to his universe, even if there’s the occasional moment when a slight Wizard of Oz tone sneaks in. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If there’s a weakness, it’s in the ending. Although everything is very neatly tied up (with a third adventure obviously on the horizon) and the resolution does work within the rules of the story, it still felt as though something was missing. We can’t say what without giving some major plot spoilers away, but when the story ends it leaves the reader with a strange sense that the climax doesn’t really match the power of the rest of the book.
But, having said that, we still can’t wait for the next one - Red Queen is definitely worth slaying a Jabberwocky for!
RED QUEEN / AUTHOR: CHRISTINA HENRY / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW