Have you ever wondered what it’d be like if Wonderland was real? If the story by Lewis Caroll was just a poor retelling of a traumatized princesses’ desperation to hold on to her memories regarding the home she had to flee, and has no idea how to return to? That’s precisely what “The Looking Glass Wars” is all about. Using Caroll’s narration style and twisting his world, Beddor brings to life an alternate telling of “Through the Looking Glass” where Alice is actually Alyss Heart, next in line to the throne, and her aunt Redd (The Red Queen) has been driven mad with lust for power and brutally wrestles control from the young princess. Mad Hatter is not a riddle loving tea addict, but an elite bodyguard for Alyss known as Hatter Madigan. The Cheshire Cat is now a shape shifting assassin known as The Cat, and the magic of Wonderland is based on the powerful imagination of its rulers. It’s really rather clever in terms of retellings with wonderfully dark twists that are perhaps more suitable for older fans of Alice in Wonderland, who aren’t so purist in their love that they won’t mind the liberties Beddor takes.
Reading “Beyond the Amarathine Veil” often had me believing I was reading a fan fiction of The Witcher video game series—which isn’t a bad thing, I love those games—mixed in with some classic sword & sorcery and Dungeons and Dragons. Our main character, Tristan, is a former Templar, once bound to protect a brilliant sorceress. Now, he’s a monster/bounty hunter sporting two swords—silver for monsters and steel for people—and keeps company with a charming bard, smart tongued rogue, and a gruff knight. Seriously, it has all the makings of some of my favorite types of games. Tristan, who commands a small amount of magic himself, has now been tasked to bring peace to his kingdom by marrying a noblewoman from its rival kingdom. An uncertain arranged marriage soon blossoms into more as Tristan does his best to keep his bride-to-be safe, and ensure peace between their nations. With stakes that high, you just know it’s a recipe for disaster. Which I normally love! But this wasn’t as fast paced as I generally like for these kinds of stories.
“Furthermore” feels like a mesh between The Secret Garden and an Alice in Wonderland retelling, something only compounded by the main character being named Alice, as well. In the land of Ferenwood, everyone is blessed with an abundance of bright colors, from their eyes, to their hair, to their skin, and the more color they have, the more magic they can command. Alice is almost completely white, except for a bit of brown around her eyes. She has always hated this; hated that she wasn’t as colorful as everyone else. And when her father vanishes (three years ago from the story's start) she hates her lack of color and her talents even more. With a mother who ignores her and seems to not like her, and with a town that rejects the talent she offers them, Alice runs away with her “friend” Oliver to bring the only person who ever understood her and loved her just as she was back: Father.
“The Streets of Nottingham” is a quick little fantasy adventure novella that follows the story of a young boy as he races to bring his childhood sweetheart back from the dead. Along the way, he meets the paranormal god-like figures that have given shape to his village/world, and struggles to get to the place that is foretold in all the ancient scrolls, and yet no one has ever been to in order to save his friend… It’s a titillating premise and Simwinga has a lovely talent for being able to craft a story that feels like an ancient folk tale mixed with some wonderful fantasy elements. But, as is sometimes the case with novellas, I found the length of this story to be the biggest detriment to it, for the author can tell a fun, almost lyrical story, but I always found myself wanting a bit more.
“The Guardians Crest” is the third book in the “Guardians of Zion” series, and like the previous book, this particular volume makes the most sense if read in order, so you know the players etc. If you haven’t read the first two books, go do that now and then come back to this review, as there might be some mild spoilers for those books lurking in this review. Now, as is customary, the author starts the book with an introduction that 1. Kind of reminds the reader where the heroes left off and 2. Tells you a bit more of what this book is about and a little reasoning as to why Chrobak choose to start the novel the way he did: going back to when Thomas was first discovering his faith and powers. This time, however, we’re focusing on his little sister’s experiences, and the author also explains why he chose to include some of the demons this time. Normally, I’m not a fan of introductions like that because I don’t want someone to tell me what I’m about to read, but, for this book, I appreciated it because it was necessary for one very important reason: we don’t visit Thomas and where book two left off until about half way through this novel.
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