Everybody loves a good Alice in Wonderland retelling, right? Reading about the strangeness, the madness, and an entirely bizarre world filled with bizarre characters should be an incredible experience. So when I picked up Queen of Hearts, a retelling of how the Queen of Hearts became the queen we all know, I was hoping for a slightly mad journey through Wonderland.
Did it live up to my expectations? Well, not entirely. Some things worked, but other parts just annoyed me.
Although it wasn’t as Wonderland-ish as it could’ve been, there were plenty of tarts and croquet games and chopping off of heads. I also liked the fact that the book didn’t pull its punches – it was killing off characters here, there and everywhere. In that respect, it definitely surprised me a couple of times. Then again, it wasn’t exactly killing off important character that I really cared about, so… I guess so many deaths weren’t really necessary.
I also really liked the relationship between Dinah (the future queen of hearts) and her brother Charles, otherwise known as the Mad Hatter. Although I didn’t really like Dinah most of the time (I’ll get to that soon), I felt like her scenes with Charles did show a totally different, caring side of her. These scenes were definitely my favourite parts of the book.
I also liked the relationship between Dinah and Wardley. They were pretty cute, and it was clear that Wardley cared about Dinah and that he’d help her in any way possible, although I’m pretty sure he’s into someone else…
My main issue with this book is Dinah. I just didn’t like her. And I know this is a retelling about the Queen of Hearts, so really it make sense that I don’t like Dinah – but my dislike wasn’t because she was horrible, or nasty, or anything like the future queen. She was so whiny. She wasn’t interesting to read about, and I have no clue how this girl ever turns into the Queen of Hearts.
The Dinah/Vittiore relationship confused me too. At the beginning of the book we meet Dinah’s bastard sister Vittiore who Dinah instantly dislikes for the entire book. I can understand the resenting Vittiore at the start – Dinah’s father like Vittiore more than Dinah, Vittiore’s prettier etc etc. But… Dinah doesn’t act on her feelings at all. She sits around thinking about how much she doesn’t like Vittiore, but doesn’t speak to the girl, doesn’t try to get to know her, doesn’t do anything horrible to her. She does nothing. I just didn’t get the point of Vittiore even being there.
Writing-wise, there are a lot of time jumps in this book, which completely threw me. It felt as if I was missing a lot of development because so much time passed.
As I mentioned at the start, you read a Wonderland retelling for Wonderland. And although there were tarts and croquet and chopping off of heads, there was nothing else. We saw none of the crazy and magical Wonderland, there was no strangeness or mystery. Dinah stays in the castle for almost the whole book, and I was gutted that we didn’t get to see any of the incredible world I was expecting.
So, final thoughts? There were a few bits I did like, but overall this didn’t live up to my expectations at all. It looks like I’ll have to go find another retelling to satisfy my Wonderland cravings.
Have you read Queen of Hearts? What did you think? Were you disappointed with the lack of Wonderland? Which Wonderland retellings would you recommend?