I’m going to keep this review as brief as humanly possible, not because I don’t have thoughts on the final book in the Looking Glass Wars, but because this book is impossible to talk about if you haven’t read the first two books (and really, why are you reading reviews for this if you haven’t read the other two books?). But in “ArchEnemy” Alyss finds herself ruling over a queendom still suffering from a lack of imagination as the effects of book two are still being felt. There are factions of dissent Alyss never knew existed in Wonderland, and her enemies are still out there, waiting, and closing in… This book is almost non-stop action, which is what I expected given how things ended in the last book and what needed to happen this time around. But I also thought, given this was the final book in the series, that a lot of character work would be done as well and, unfortunately, there wasn’t.
I will say that this book is incredibly easy to read. The chapters are short, often ending on cliffhangers that make you keep going. The equivalent of shoveling popcorn in your face during an action movie. Which is really what this reads like, and if this series was made into a movie or show, I’d absolutely watch it! The author has such a clear vision for what this version of Wonderland looks like, the clothes, the weapons, the choreography of the action scenes, that it really does come through on the page (unless you don’t like that, then you’ll be confused or just skimming a lot). But the author put so much energy into that, into bouncing between characters as things get more and more dire, that the actual character development was incredibly stilted, or not there at all. This felt the most glaring, to me, for Alyss and Dodge who, arguably, I should have cared for the most and should have had the most growth given their relationship.
Too much page time was spent with the villains, and not enough on the people fighting to put Wonderland back together again. When the attention is split that much, and so little is spent on character description of any kind in favor of weapon and action descriptions, it felt, at times, like big things were happening “off screen”. Plans were developed the reader doesn’t see, except when the characters are about to execute the plan, or after it’s been enacted. The plot felt light, relying too heavily on oracles making things happen “because” and the rest of the characters flailing about, rather than being active participants in the fate of the queendom. That being said, I did really like how no imagination in Wonderland made Earth suffer. It was an interesting way to raise the stakes for Alyss, though it amounted to little. Same goes with how those with Imagination initially liked that it went away, how not having that burden to constantly create was creating its own burnout for them, but at the end of the day, they still couldn’t function without it. I loved those touches and wish more had been done with them!
All in all, I didn’t mind this book. Like I said, it’s easy to read, a very popcorn action adventure that took very little of my brain power to follow, which is kind of what I like in the summer months. But for how strong this series started this final book just wasn’t the climax I was hoping for. It’s not bad, it just needed more when it came to character building and resolutions in my opinion. The author had an amazing idea for this series, I just think the plot and subplots got away from him in favor of the visuals. I still think this series will be a lot of fun for younger readers after they read Through the Looking Glass. So, just like it’s predecessor, this final book in the Looking Glass Wars gets 3 stars from me because I think it’s going to be one of those stories and series I forget about, and don’t think about ever again
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