Author: Christina Henry
Series: The Chronicles of Alice, #1
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd.
Release Date: August 4th 2015
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo with the screams of the poor souls inside.
In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blonde, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place-just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.
Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.
And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
When I discovered there was an Alice in Wonderland inspired book I had yet to read it went to the top of my to-read list. I hadn’t read many reviews for Alice before picking it up myself, but the ones I did see were five star glowing reviews. So I brought Alice, and the sequel Red Queen, started it, and found I loved it as well.
Although, before I go any further into this review, as a trigger warning there are quite a few mentions and references to rape in this book. So if that’s something you’re uncomfortable with or don’t want to read then I would give Alice a miss.
Alice has been locked in an asylum in Old City for ten years now, the only company she has is her neighbour, Hatcher, who she speaks to through the mouse hole between their cells. Alice isn’t sure what happened to her ten years ago. All she remembers is that her and her friend Dor went into Old City, and two weeks later only Alice emerged; injured, bleeding and rambling about a rabbit. Ever since then Alice has been locked away, until the asylum is set on fire.
Together with Hatcher Alice flees from the burning asylum and the two run into Old City; escaping from the Jabberwocky, who also escaped when the asylum burnt, and the doctors who would only lock them away again. However once in Old City it seems Alice’s problems have only just begun.
Alice and Hatcher are the only two who can stop the Jabberwocky; they are the only ones who saw it escape and the only ones with the power to go up against it. They travel through Old City; through the streets of the Walrus and Mr Carpenter who are in the middle of a brutal turf war only to find their way to Cheshire, and then through his maze and into the halls of the Caterpillar searching for the sword that can kill the Jabberwocky. All the while though Alice’s past is catching up to her, the Rabbit who took her ten years ago is closer than he’s ever been, and he knows ‘his Alice’ is back in Old City once again.
Alice is not a weak character but she has been beaten down by her years in the asylum and the horror she faced before, even if she can’t properly remember what happened ten years ago she knows it horrific. Once out of the asylum she follows Hatcher because he seems to know the way, and after ten years speaking to him through the walls he is the only connection she has, the only person left who will look after her.
However the more time she spends in Old City the tougher she is forced to become. Weakness has no place on the streets and Alice needs to make some tough decisions. Every time she fights back though it’s to protect someone else, be it Hatcher or one of the innocent girls taken by the Magicians who Alice feels a kind of kinship with.
Hatcher was driven mad by what happened that led him to the asylum, but like Alice he has forgotten much of his past. He is attached to Alice, he goes out of his way to protect her be it saving her from the fire at the asylum or offering to kill her rather than letting her be taken again by the Rabbit. Hatcher hasn’t been in Old City in ten years but he remembers more than he thinks. He leads them around the city with a knowledge that can only come from someone who’s lived in the darkest shadows.
Unlike Alice Hatcher doesn’t hesitate to kill if he feels it needs to be done, and sometimes even if it doesn’t need to be done; but Hatcher knows in Old City you need to be fast, tough, and brutal. Still he is a kind man, and Alice knows he will never hurt her no matter what he does to other people.
I feel like the relationship between Alice and Hatcher started off as two people latching onto the only person they had in an asylum, but as they spent ten years only talking to one another something grew between them. However their relationship was only really hinted at in this book. Alice can’t be sure whether her feelings for Hatcher are real, or manifested out of loneliness for the only man she’s been close to in ten years; and she is still very much broken over what happened to her when she was sixteen to even think about another person in that way. There are hints at their feelings but it doesn’t really move beyond that. Instead it gives both characters a chance to adjust to being in Old City once more, and a chance to grow a little outside the asylum and together in this new situation they find themselves in.
Alice is a very dark story, and the setting is no different. While I would say this book is inspired a little by Lewis Carroll’s original tale there are no similarities between Old City and Wonderland, so if that’s what you’re looking for then you’ll need to look elsewhere. Instead Alice and Hatcher find themselves in a place where girls are stolen and sold to cruel men, where turf wars are fought and where it’s the bystanders who are killed. Old City is a place where there’s cruelty everywhere you look and where it safer for Alice to disguise herself as a boy than walk the streets as a girl. There used to be magic in the world, and it is still around evident in the threat of the Jabberwocky. It is believed Magicians have died out but the deeper Alice and Hatcher travel into Old City the more they realise Magician’s are very real, but they have been twisted and turned malicious by their powers.
Alice is not an easy read, in fact I kind of hesitated to class it as young adult in the tags; I’d probably say it’s more horror than fantasy as well. Either way it is an amazing book. The story was brilliantly written and, although the world it’s set in it dark and horrific, it was brilliantly developed.
What did you think of Alice? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.