So, I'd heard of this book before, and when I saw it in the bin marked "free" at my old library, I kind of thought I might put it in my middle school classroom for students to read. Then I realized: what might I be giving my students? So I read it.
I cannot think of enough negative things to say about this book.
First, I have to admit something: I've never even read any of Lewis Carroll's books. Not a one. So I'm no Alice purist. But Mr. Beddor is just straight-up mean-spirited. If you're going to write a metafiction (which is perhaps putting lipstick on the Looking Glass Wars pig), you certainly owe a certain reverence, or even just a bit of politeness, to the source material. Casting Lewis Carroll himself in the book as a bumbling, nervous idiot is just poor form.
Dayenu, that would have been enough.
Let's get to the meat. Character naming. King Nolan? This is only slightly a tougher name than Lord Poodlepants. Princess Alyss? I have an article
Mr. Beddor should read, but let's just leave it that Alyss will probably not become a neurosurgeon. And so on. There were moments of charming creativity there (I'll admit, calling the elite card soldiers "the Cut" was cute), but really.
I have an ARC, so I will hope the writing and grammar improve. But things ultimately got so bad that I started bookmarking pages specifically with the purpose of listing them here. ". . . and out of the vacuous dark stepped a girl." Vacuous does not mean what he thinks it does. ". . . with the play of the suns on their caps and the multihued shadows they cast on the valley floor, the Alyssians were greeted." The subject of the beginning part of this sentence? Mushrooms. Not delightful headgear being worn by our heroes. But, sadly, the misplaced modifiers kill us dead. Heartbreaking.
The dialogue! This is the sort of book in which we get full quotation marks for stupid things, like a character's "yeah" of assent. Also, is it just me, or do you fall totally out of the story when the author bothers to include things like "whoa" and "duh" on a regular basis? Maybe I'm too picky. Also, there's this really bizarre scene with the assassin "the Cat" going all Travis Bickle on a bunch of trees. Full on "I don't see anyone else here, so you must have been talking to me." How are we, as the readers, supposed to respond to this? Are we supposed to think a (bioengineered? animatronic? I have no damn idea?) cat in an alternate dimension is the inspiration for Taxi Driver? (Remember, this book takes place in (the equivalent of) the 1850s-1860s.) Are we supposed to think he's witty in quoting a kind of played out line of dialogue he has no way of knowing? This takes place maybe 70 or 80 pages into a 300+ page book and it stands out to me now. I have no idea where Mr. Beddor was going with this, but he's the creative mind who produced "There's Something about Mary," so we know he's up on pop culture.
We meet Hatter Madigan, who has nothing at all to do with the Mad Hatter except a similar name and the ownership of a top hat. I'm of the impression that we're supposed to think he's terrifically cool, given his being real quiet and being good at fighting. After all, pop culture is full of this kind of stuff -- we love quiet dudes who are tough. The problem is this: he has no actual personality. We see him brood by a fire once. We see him chuck around his hat a lot. We get no dialogue (or monologue) explaining anything about why he's supposed to be interesting. (I also have the sense he may be supposed to be a little something for the ladies, but once again, this is my reading of a book that makes no damn sense, and hell if I can figure out why or how, unless we're just supposed to remember that quiet, tough guys generally = James Dean or Dirty Harry.)
The worst thing Mr. Beddor could think of about Jack of Diamonds was to give him a big butt? Seriously? The man is clearly a creep and everyone is dumb enough to trust him, against all odds and against any normal human behavior. Are all the characters idiots? Are they supposed to be fooled by his giant hiney? (PS: How do you SPELL the word pronounced "hiney?" Because I thought it would be funny here but can't quite type it.)
Last one, I swear. And this is totally leaving out the big villain Redd, who deserves to be left out for sucking so badly. But. "Wondertropolis?" This sounds like some sort of lame facebook-based game where you'd click on things in exchange for points. From the second I read it, I WANTED Wondertropolis to fall. (When I was growing up, I lived near a day camp called "Camp Wonderfun." I felt the same way about that.) And the Wonderlanders in Wondertropolis? Did Mr. Beddor never say these names aloud? They're freaking tongue twisters. I hate Wondertropolis so bad. And it's a magical land fueled by imagination! With a "Heart Crystal" (which you would totally click on in the Wondertropolis facebook game). And the characters have magical powers of imagination. This is lame when it's hawked by Figment at Epcot, and he's cute and has all of Disney behind him. But when you have two characters battling it out with their all-powerful imaginations? You're getting into territory best left unentered.
Anyway. I hated this book. A lot. It's not going into my classroom, ever.