This is not the Wonderland you know. This place is darker. Not much Wonder at all, in fact. It is full of dirt and blood and death. And insanity. Henry does a very good job of letting you know that all is not right in Alice’s mind.
The characters from the childhood tale are all here, but they are twisted. Alice begins in a hospital in the Old City. Unlike the New City, where everything is bright and clean and wonderful, the Old City is dark and dirty and full of crime and death and blood. Girls are often abducted by ‘Bosses’ and given to other men to rape and use. (Rape plays a big part in this book, and yet the actual word ‘rape’ is not used until page 88.) Alice was placed in the hospital after she strayed into the Old City and was taken by the Rabbit. She was raped and scarred, but managed to escape. While the Rabbit scarred her face, the experience scarred her mind as well. Her companion in the hospital is Hatcher, a man who is mad in his own right. Hatcher has a connection to the Jabberwocky, a monster that Alice assumed was all in Hatcher’s head, but turns out to be all too real. Alice and Hatcher go on a journey to find a way of destroying the Jabberwocky.
Like in our source material, you’re never really sure whose side Cheshire is on. And the Caterpillar is truly deplorable, as is the Walrus. These are all men instead of the animals they are, although if they had been actual animals they may have been more humane. The very end has a lightness that is different from the majority of the novel. We know where we’re going next, but the possibilities are quite vast. And there are still many questions that are left unanswered at the end, questions that may never be answered. For most of the book I was unsure if I wanted to pursue the sequel, but now I might after finishing and seeing the potential of the greater story.