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October 7, 2017

Halloween Reads Part I - Alice by Christina Henry

by Elisabeth Scherer

I have written before about my love of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I'm always looking for new takes on classics. I dove right into Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and loved Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars series. In some cases, the spin-offs aren't stellar. For me, that list is much shorter.

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Alice by Christina Henry
August 2014; Ace; 978-0425266793
ebook, audio, print (291 pages);
Fantasy, Adult, Horror, Retelling
When my birthday came this year my husband gave me this book Alice by Christina Henry. The back cover of the book describes it as a dark and twisted version of Alice in Wonderland.

I packed it in my must take along bag for our 22-day cross country trip and as we settled in for the long ride I cracked it open. I couldn't put it down.

The first thing I will say is this is NOT a book for kids. This a VERY dark world that grown-up Alice lives in. There are adult themes in this book that would give the average kid nightmares. I found it is perfect for a book to review during the month leading up to Halloween.

At the beginning of the book, we find Alice in an institution in the Old City. Alice was a proper girl from the New City where everything is shining, kids obey their parents, and do not break the rules. Alice runs away to what she thinks is going to be an adventure of exploring the Old City. She goes missing. When she finally returns there is blood on her legs, she is obsessed with talk of a rabbit, there is a gash across her face, and some unexplainable powers her mother would like Alice to suppress. So her parents tucked her away into the institution in the Old City and they continue with their lives as if Alice never came home.

A fire breaks out at the institution and Alice escapes. With her, something darker and more powerful is also released. Alice goes on a journey to find out what happened to her and who is responsible.

Christina Henry writes a tale that is realistic but disturbing. The warrens of the Old City, as well as the men in charge of each sector, are the places and people no one should want to meet. She takes characters from Wonderland and distorts them to fit in her horrific "wonderland" menagerie.

If you have a hard time with dark subject matters this book also isn't the book for you. It is a bleak outlook on life in the Old City and every page I could feel the evil and horrors lurking around the corner.  This would a modern interpretation of a Grimm's fairy tale of Alice in Wonderland. It also has a ring of Edgar Allen Poe and the darkness with which his stories have looming. The Old City runs on crime. Much of this book talks about prostitution, slavery, fight clubs, rape, murder, and other darknesses. Alice must find her way through the city and find her strength to fight on.

I would say I like the ideas that the author to include famous characters that come to mind when you think of Alice. The Rabbit, Carpenter, Walrus, Dormouse, and of course the Cheshire all make an appearance. There are even hints of the Mad Hatter in the main male character in the book Hatcher. I found the book well written with twists and turns. The atrocities abound and I think horror/dystopian readers would agree that this book is a great Halloween read.

Check back soon for my review of the sequel to this book: Red Queen (Chronicles of Alice #2).

Buy Alice at Amazon

Elisabeth Scherer grew up in a very small town in Minnesota but now lives in the lovely Pacific Northwest where she spends most of her time raising her two young children. She and her husband have a large collection of books that takes a good space of their small condo. When she's not reading she has a variety of hobbies that include crocheting, drawing, baking, cooking, and movie watching. She is currently obsessed with making French Macarons and other baked deliciousness! You can also find her blogging at

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  1. Did you know there is another retelling by Christina Henry called The Red Queen. I just requested it and Alice from the library and can't wait to dig in! Happy reading!