Book review: Blood of Wonderland (Queen of Hearts Saga, #2) by Colleen Oakes

Fairy tales retellings seem to still be on the rise these days. Initially, I was excited when I picked up “Queen of Hearts”, book one, last year. I saw it in a bookstore and it seemed fairly short, so I got a copy from the library.

This trilogy is a YA fantasy story about Dinah, the princess of Wonderland and the future Queen of Hearts. Everything that happens to her due to the cruelty of her father, King of Hearts, and other circumstances leads to her becoming the Queen of Hearts that we know from Alice in Wonderland. I was excited about the idea of the plot, but, unfortunately, I was left being hugely disappointed by the writing and narrative. The only saving grace of book one was that it was an incredibly easy read. So easy that, in fact, I kept thinking that it should have been made into a middle grade novel.

I was rather critical of book one in my video review. I gave the book only 2 stars on GoodReads, and even that was probably too generous. I, honestly, had no interest in continuing the series. But I still ended up picking book two from the library as it became available, because I wanted to see if I was right about Cheshire or not.

And I was right. Which both delighted and disappointed me - delighted because I was right and disappointed because I expected more complexity from the plot.

Overall, I think that book two is slightly better than book one. Perhaps, because the beginning of book one, in which we were basically explained nothing about King of Hearts or why he treated Dinah the way he did, had a very jerky narrative. Book two does give us more backstory for Dinah and her parents, but it was still weakly written and even big revelations miss the grandeur or plausibility. I think the weak plot and lack of character development is what really putting me off this series. Besides the author tends to jump forward in time only to recapture the past events through characters’ musings or thoughts a lot. I am sorry, but it is just pure laziness. Sometimes it can work pretty well as a stylistic device, but when one third of the book is devoted to meaningless wandering through woods and descriptions of flora and fauna, while the meaningful chunk of politics is dropped - that is just a bit not good.

After finishing book two, I think I would still be interested in reading the final novel, which is coming out later this year (the release dates of the novels got me thinking that the books were rushed and not edited properly, as book three is coming out the same year as book two), only to see if my ideas about the plot would be proven. Even the romance between Dinah and Wardley is pathetic. Moreso, the reason for their separation. I personally think that the only logical explanation (and I am sorry if it is a spoiler) of Wardley’s (choice of) words is that he is gay, and in this case Dinah is coming off as a slightly homophobic. Am I reading too much into it? Perhaps. But else am I left to do when the characters behave illogically, the author fails to show us things and the plot itself has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese!

My overall rating for book two is 2.5 stars. Giving the author half a star for at least trying to fix some gaps created by book one. Not surprised but still disappointed. I really wanted a good retelling set in Wonderland.

Personal rating: 2.5 stars

"There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than reality." - Seneca

We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell - Oscar Wilde