I made the mistake of not reading “Seeing Redd” closer to when I finished the first book in this series. Which is my bad, but I really would love for more series to normalize having a recap of sorts because it took me a long time to remember what was happening in this Alice in Wonderland retelling. In “Seeing Redd”, Alyss is trying to navigate her way as the new queen of Wonderland while her queendom recovers from the brutal rule of her aunt, Redd, who Alyss usurped in a battle of imagination. There are new threats Alyss now faces in the form of a manipulative neighbor king, and the unsettling knowledge that Redd, while defeated, is probably not gone. This book, like this whole series, is supposed to be about Alyss and what she has to do to keep her throne, and her head, but rarely does “Seeing Redd” deliver on that.
I still find the world that Beddor has molded based on the original Alice in Wonderland to be highly enjoyable. I love the mix of technology and whimsical fantasy magic in the form of imaginative powers. I really love the Milliner race of people who are these awesome steampunk elite fighters; none more so than Homburg Molly and Hatter Madigan. But the same thing I struggled with in “The Looking Glass Wars” is back in force for “Seeing Redd”: too many characters getting POV chapters that detract from the actual main characters who the book is supposed to be about. We get so little of Alyss and her allies in this book that I was pretty disappointed. What do we get instead of Alyss and seeing her struggle with the weight of ruling a queendom? You get a lot of chapters focused on Redd and Arch, who do not deserve as much page time as they were given.
The author doesn’t seem to do a great job with villains, especially compared to how well he does with the battles and weapon types he introduce the reader to (which I liked!). But both Arch and Redd read like these two-dimensional villains who just don’t live up to the political machinations and intrigues they could otherwise help improve upon. Some of the plots Arch was involved in were clever with how he plans them out are really interesting! But it gets ruined when he reads like a sexist, ten-year-old boy that hates girls simply because. His sexism was never used as a talking point for why it made him a weaker ruler, but instead it was used as a… joke? He just passes silly decrees about how boys aren’t allowed to have feelings in his kingdom. It was a missed opportunity to show complex characters, especially when it could have been used as a powerful juxtaposition between how Arch and Alyss are as rulers.
Unfortunately, this book ends more with a pause than an actual cliffhanger. It falls into that true “middle of the series” book trope where the entirety of the book and plot is merely a set up for what needs to happen in the third book, so I feel like a lot was missing, even with how long this book was getting. Did I still enjoy "Seeing Redd"? Yes, just not as much as the first book. Will I continue the series? Yes, because I do like the world and really like Hatter and Molly! I just won’t wait as long to read the third book because I know there won’t be a recap of any kind… But this is why I’m giving the book 3 stars, it was fine but not as good as the fist, and suffered from not having nearly enough Alyss.
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