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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Book Review: Alice by Christina Henry

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by Christina Henry
Paperback, 304 pages
August 4th 2015 by Ace
A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

Following a horrific, violent, and enigmatic venture into Old City, sixteen year-old Alice is unable to fulfill the requirements of sanitized citizenry within New City. And so, our ruined heroine is hidden away in an asylum for an indefinite term to lead an existence of medicated drudgery. Ten years of captivity pass, and when fateful events enable Alice’s escape, she embarks on a deliciously dark quest that will inevitably uncover memories locked within her traumatized mind. Accompanied by Hatcher, her dangerously damaged partner, Alice ventures into the nefarious depths of Old City seeking retribution, rescue, and redemption.

Nothing has, or every will, capture my imagination the way the classic Alice stories did. Alice has followed me my whole life. I use to imagine my closet led to Wonderland. In my twenties, as a penniless student, I spent over $50 on The Annotated Alice; I had to have it. I have an Alice statue, complete with toadstools, in my garden. I take my daily tea in an Alice teapot. I could go on. So, for me, this was a highly anticipated reviewing opportunity and, for what it’s worth, my perspective is that of a true Alice enthusiast.

Fans of Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories will adore the evocation of familiar characters, but will absolutely relish the fresh reboot of the classic norms. I was enthralled throughout by the vivid description and characterization in Henry’s original adaptation. I was particularly touched by the relationship between Alice and Hatcher; mostly tender, but at times fierce, the connection between the two is beautifully captured. I love Alice’s honest acceptance of Hatcher as a tragic hero: “She was surprisingly undisturbed by the knowledge that her new friend was an axe murderer.” The two seem to be soul mates adapting to a cruel and unusual environment. Although born and bred in shiny New City, Alice was always destined for Hatcher and their shared quest: “She’d wanted danger and darkness, just a taste, and in an instant everything she had was swept away forever.”

Part demented fairy tale, part social commentary, this book is a smart, well-crafted story with multiple layers. Threads of feminism, social diversity, and social class conflict are woven throughout the story and make it, not only entertaining, but socially relevant to a contemporary readership. This is not a children’s story. Elements of the book are downright ghastly. For example, The Walrus eats (literally, like, ingests) his female victims whilst he rapes and murders them. The seedy underbelly of Old City is all at once shocking, woeful, and wondrous. Henry’s imagination seems to know no bounds. And I loved every moment.

Five Curious Sheep

Bianca Greenwood

About the Author:
CHRISTINA HENRY is the author of the national bestselling BLACK WINGS (Ace/Roc) series featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle. She is also the author of the forthcoming dark fantasy ALICE (Ace Trade).

She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.


  1. I want to read this so badly, since before it even came out. This is my favorite of all the fairy tales!!! A friend of mine read and reviewed it and says it's incredibly good. I've been trying to win a copy for a couple months, but no luck so far. I think I'm going to do a suggest a book at my library and see if they can get it.

  2. your review captured me…although the walrus thing almost made me turn back and run the other way…however, it really sounds like an interesting read. And coming from someone who is bound to the original version and liking this so much, gives me hope that it should be worth the read…thx!

  3. Definitely a must read for any Alice fan. I know there are lots of us out there!
    Don't let the walrus thing turn you off. It really works within the story and functions as a bit of an urban legend, for a while, that helps generate suspense. It's just so fitting for the setting and characterization. I did, after all, pluck one of the more shocking details for my review ;)