Fairy tale and classic story retellings are becoming pretty common these days but for good reason. In this latest reimagining, author Colleen Oakes has written the story of how the villain in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland became evil. In Queen of Hearts, released today, we meet Princess of Wonderland, Dinah, when she's a teen. Over the course of the novel we learn what happened to make her the villainous queen we know. I wasn't too sure what to expect with this book but I ended up really enjoying it.
Here's the synopsis:
Blossoming Love. A Father’s Betrayal. A Kingdom with a Black Secret.Fairy tales are a staple in a lot of children's lives and, once they're grown, they want to have a way to revisit those stories. I, like many others, want grown up fairy tales. Sure, we can rewatch the Disney classics or reread the original material but having a story that is directed to young adults or adults challenges us a little more. The success of previous reimagined fairy tales include novels like The Lunar Chronicles, TV shows like Once Upon a Time, and movies like the upcoming Maleficent. What the best retellings do, I think, is create interesting backstories for characters, particularly ones who you may not think of. One of the things I love about Once is that we get to learn why Regina, the evil queen, became evil. Oakes does the same thing in Queen of Hearts. I loved reading about Dinah's youth and seeing how she gets on to the path to evil, at least how Oakes imagines it.
As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.
When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.
Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinah’s furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath. Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
But be warned…not every fairytale has a happy ending.
This is the story of a princess who became a villain.
I'm one of those people who only has the Disney Alice in Wonderland story to refer to when Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is brought up. I've never read Lewis Carroll's novels. I haven't even seen Tim Burton's film. So, I have no idea what the original material is like and how true Oakes' work might have been. But, I don't think that totally matters. I think true Alice fans can love Queen of Hearts, as can readers like me, those who only have a slight idea of Wonderland. Even those who only know the basics will recognize some of the Wonderland characters and I really liked that. I know I never thought about the history of the Queen of Hearts but I feel like Oakes' novel gives readers something they didn't know they were missing.
I love that Oakes doesn't shy away from a really dark storyline. I like this because fairy tales didn't start out all warm and fuzzy like Disney has made us think. Since this is a young adult title, she wrote a story that is more serious and darker than we may have previously encountered. There's murder, adultery, torture, prisons, beheading, and really dangerous sounding horses (they're huge and have spikes on their hooves!). There's also a king who's not going to win any Father of the Year awards any time soon, a younger brother who's crazy, and unrequited love. Intrigued yet? It might sound like there's a lot going on but Oakes weaves everything together well and tells a magnificent story.
I'm really glad I gave Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes a chance. I'm also really glad that it's going to be a series. I think Dinah's story deserves to be told over a few books. Read this book if you're a fan of fairy tale and classic story retellings or if you're an Alice in Wonderland fan. It's a short novel and I think you'll be happy that you gave it a chance!
Happy reading :)
Colleen Oakes is the author of the Elly in Bloom series and the upcoming YA fantasy Queen of Hearts Saga, both published via SparkPress, a BookSparks imprint. She lives in North Denver with her husband and son. When not writing, Colleen enjoys swimming, traveling, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. She is currently at work on the last Elly novel and her second YA fantasy series, Wendy Darling.
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*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*