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Queen of Hearts Perfect Paperback – February 14, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Readers get a peek into the story behind the darkly twisted world of Wonderland before Alice arrived. Fifteen-year-old Princess Dinah, heir to the throne of Wonderland, tries to navigate her way to power around the ruthlessly brutal King; her half-sister, Vittore; her much adored "mad" brother Charles, who is the direct heir, but not able to take on the responsibilities of the throne; and an interesting hierarchy of characters who are either in support of or in opposition to her becoming the "Queen of Hearts" once she turns 18. In The Crown, readers catch a glimpse of the causes of the future Queen's anger-management issues and mistrust of people. Surrounded by few friends and numerous enemies—with the shape-shifter and king's advisor Cheshire being the most dangerous of all—Dinah lives in constant fear and is forced to hide her true feelings for mere survival. In The Wonder, Dinah is in exile, hiding from the king's assassins, and purported to be a traitor and murderer. Oakes expertly expands the children's classic into a complex and compelling series of plot twists that uncover the future Queen of Hearts's true origins. The author fleshes out some of the quirks in Carroll's work and adds more depth to the source material's secondary characters. Familiarity with the original isn't necessary, but will add richness to this tale. VERDICT Complete with a mad tea party in the woods, this cinematic series has just the right amount of fantasy and epic suspense to keep even the strongest of hearts on the edge of their seats.—Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA
"Oakes has created her own world here. Her Wonderland is darker, more cutthroat and somehow more real." - Amanda Reid, Forever Young Adult
"A wonderfully entertaining twist on an old classic." - Kirkus Reviews
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First things first, this isn't the Wonderland we have all come to know and love. Colleen Oakes changes some things up and makes her Wonderland more grounded in reality, although still whimsical. The White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat are now human advisors to the royal family. The Mad Hatter is now the brother to the Queen of Hearts. Just a few little changes that made me want to read this story even more to see how it ends.
The story follows Dinah, the future Queen of Hearts. When the story starts Dinah is kind of timid and a little spoiled. She grows on you though. Her father is really cruel to her and treats her badly.
Her father introduces her half sister, Vittiore, to the court. Vittiore is the exact opposite of Dinah, and this seems to make their father's hatred for Dinah even stronger than before.
One night at a party, someone leaves a strange message for Dinah on her plate. This sets off the chain of events that leads to the stunning ending of the first book in this series.
I cannot wait to read the second book, Blood of Wonderland.
This book is perfect for fans of Beastly, Splintered, and of course Alice in Wonderland.
And, well, I still really enjoyed this one. I know, I too am almost as surprised as I think you are.
This is a retelling which takes only small elements of the source material and weaves them into this entirely new and intriguing story. Some names and imagery will be recognizable to anyone familiar with Wonderland, but it's not anywhere near overdone to the point where you're sitting there wondering, "Why do I feel like I've read this a hundred times already?" As a Wonderland fanatic, I so appreciated how fresh this story felt overall.
Dinah is the Princess of Wonderland, and she can't wait to claim her throne at the age of eighteen. She has always resented her father, the King, and his ruthless ruling style. When she's queen, she's determined to make Wonderland a more peaceful land under her firm but just rule. However, a new arrival to the palace, beautiful and beloved by all, has her on her toes. Her eventual position as Queen may no longer be as secure as she once thought, but she sure as heck won't be giving up her crown without a fight.
"The people of Wonderland respected the king, but only because he represented a force to be reckoned with . . . and feared."
We spend the entire book seeing everything from Dinah's point of view and primarily getting to know her, but this book still paints such a vivid image of a number of the supporting characters. My personal favorite, naturally, was the Mad Hatter. I won't go into it too much--since the reveal of his character was so good--but he was just done so well. The reason for his madness and the scenes in which he's swinging between anger, joy, and random snippets of Carroll-style poetry are my absolute favorite. Hands down.
Of course, seeing as this will be a two-part series, there are a few characters who remain shrouded in mystery at the end of this first book. They appear to only have one layer of crazy out the outside and little else going on. But you know there's more there than meets the eye. It's only a matter of digging just a bit deeper, as I expect we will in the sequel. And, oh, I just can't wait to see how all this character-based conflict is going to play out.
"She was learning as quickly that what was right and what must happen weren't always the same thing."
I don't know about anyone else, but twisted fairytales are my absolute favorite. And what better fairytale to twist and add a touch of darkness to than a prequel story for the Queen of freakin' Hearts? "Off with their heads!" is one of the most memorable lines from my childhood, as I would regularly sit and watch Disney's Alice in Wonderland over and over--a bit obsessively, really. So, yeah, brutality was expected. From the King's regular public beheadings to the exploitation of criminals held in the jails known as the Black Towers, this book surely delivers (though in a far more grown-up manner).
There were only a few bits and pieces of this book that I wasn't totally buying, but they weren't huge issues for me. I mainly only had two issues: I didn't love how conveniently it seemed some conflicts were resolved, and I didn't always buy it when a character would make an unusual decision based on "a feeling". But, like I said, these weren't at all deal-breakers for me. They just felt like small hiccups in an otherwise brilliant and intense story.
"My fight to live does not begin now. I have been fighting all my life, I just didn't know it."
Overall, this was a really fun retelling about a character I've loved since childhood. Dinah may not be as animated as Disney's Queen of Hearts, but she is one sassy young lady with endless potential. Her growth throughout this book has me wondering how she could ever end up even slightly resembling that sort of crazy at any point in her future--I'd surely love to see how that works out. But then, I wouldn't mind it if she ended up going down a different path altogether. I'm all in either way.
If you're in the mood for a bit of a darker wonderland retelling, I would definitely have to recommend this one. I'll admit I haven't read too many others yet, but this one is surely my favorite of the bunch so far!
Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
Book One of the Queen of Hearts Saga
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.
Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
What I Liked:
I had no idea this was an actual retelling/story based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland! For some reason, I thought this was a prequel trilogy to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Either way, I was on board with this book. I didn't know much about it beforehand (which isn't a bad thing, in this case). Obviously I didn't like it as much as I'd hoped, but it was worth my time, and I think I may read the next book (and perhaps the third) in the series.
Dinah is the crown princess of Wonderland, the next Queen of Hearts. Her mother died years ago, leaving Dinah and her mad younger brother Charles with the King of Hearts (their father, and King of Wonderland). But the King has never liked Dinah - in fact, he has always hated her. When the King introduces a complete stranger to the palace, and says that she is his daughter and a Duchess of Wonderland, Dinah cannot accept this. Her new half-sister is pretty and fragile and delicate, and not at all like Dinah (or Charles). But there is something afoot in Wonderland, and it's all coming down to Dinah's coronation as Queen.
Dinah was a hot and cold character for me - sometimes I liked her, sometimes I didn't. In the very beginning, she's a bit spoiled and spineless, always afraid of her father but also trying to impress him. This is before he brings her half-sister Vittiore to the palace (fyi, I do not for a second buy this - that Vittiore is his daughter). When this happens, Dinah is pretty enraged. She absolutely hates Vittiore, especially because their father dotes on Vittiore and now openly hates Dinah. To Dinah, it's clear that Vittiore is weaseling her way into Dinah's place as Queen of Hearts. Right?
I liked Dinah more when she was enraged and ready to rip off her sister's head (sorry! It's true!). She seemed less ditsy and naive, and more aware and demanding (like a queen should be). Finally Dinah starts acting more like the queen she hopes to be, with more spine and fire. This Dinah, I liked.
I never read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, so I really can't draw parallels from the original to this story, with a few exceptions. Cheshire is Dinah's father's chief adviser, and a slimy, deceitful man. The White Rabbit is Harris, Dinah's tutor and guardian. I have no idea who Wardley would be in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but Wardley is a boy that Dinah grew up with, whom she is in love with (sadly, I'm pretty sure he thinks of her as a sister). The Mad Hatter is Charles, Dinah's younger brother. He's insane and he makes cool hats.
I think I enjoyed the story, once I got into it (that took a while though). There is an undercurrent of dread woven throughout the story, and we slowly start to see Wonderland's issues as the story goes on. I was pretty invested and rooting for Dinah more towards the end. The end is not entirely shocking, but it's not a safe and "happy" ending. We can't expect the happy ending since this is the first book in a trilogy (I think it's a trilogy?), but the ending is cliffhanger-y. Which is why I'm curious enough to want to read the next book - the cliffhanger has me hooked! Agh!
What I Did Not Like:
Things I didn't really like: at first, I didn't like Dinah. She's spoiled and naive and so clearly trying to please her father, a father that does not love or even like her. He wants her off the throne, that's for sure. I wanted to punch him! And Vittiore too - she seems innocent, but I personally think she isn't the King's daughter at all (this is my *opinion*, and not something concrete). I had been hoping that Dinah would have Vittiore meet an untimely (or perhaps timely) end! Whoops?
The beginning of this book, maybe up until fifty percent, was pretty boring. I wasn't interested, I wasn't invested, I was barely paying attention. I'm not sure it has anything to do with my not having read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but there is that. Things started to get good when Dinah had a real purpose!
Hopefully we get to see more from the romance? I'd love to see Dinah have SOMETHING positive in her life - she has it bad, from start to finish (especially at the end of this book)!
I think the King, and Vittiore, and Dinah's hatred of them (which was justified) kind of poisoned the story for a while, but once the story grew to be about more than the King and Vittiore, I started to get more invested.
Would I Recommend It:
Ehhh. Well. This book was kind of meh for me. I'm giving it three stars, but I'm not sure I'd specifically recommend it. It's not that good, but it's not terrible either. If you weren't already interested, then it really might not be worth the time! The fantasy aspect is cool, and it seems like a good retelling (I can't really comment on that though, since I never read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), but ehhh. Not a life-changing or must-read book.
3 stars. I actually think I want to read the next book - especially since it's technically already available (the first two books in the series were published by indie/small press before HarperCollins picked it up). I wonder if I could rustle up a copy of book two, somewhere on the Internet...