“The Looking Glass Wars”
by Frank Beddor
read by Gerard Doyle
produced 2007 by Scholastic Audio
Approx 9 hours

What if the story of Alice in Wonderland was a true story? All the surrealism, the absurdities, the nonsense was just to make it more digestible to us.   That’s the approach Frank Beddor uses in his take on the Lewis Carroll classic.  In this book Princess Alyss (yep, that’s the way she spells it) is celebrating her 7th birthday in Wonderland.  Her mother is Queen Genevieve Heart and the ruler in the Queendom of Wonderland which is ruled with imagination and is the source of imagination for all other worlds.  Her Aunt, Redd, has been in exile and uses the celebration of Alyss’s birthday to distract the citizens as she and her card army invade.

In this story the characters in Carroll’s book are fictionalized version of the real Wonderland characters.  The Reverend Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll’s real name) writes the book after listening to Alice, who cannot seem to convince people it is spelled “Alyss,” and changes some of the names and events for the book.  The White Rabbit is actually Alyss’s tutor Bibwit Harte (anagram there), the Mad Hatter is Hatter Madigan, a member of the Millinery which is Wonderland’s military, and is almost a dark character who is Alyss’s bodyguard but has the abilities and weapons of an assassin.   The parliament of Wonderland is ruled by representatives from different card suits; clubs, diamonds and spades.  Alyss’s best friend is Dodge Anders who is the son of a guard who seems to be a real and dedicated friend, but the Jack of Diamonds is destined to wed Alyss and is always causing trouble for the young Dodge.

While Redd’s army invades Wonderland, Alyss and Hatter escape with the help of Dodge Anders as  Redd kills Alyss’s mother and father and takes over the  throne.  Dodge’s father, the captain of the guards is killed by The Cat and Redd then orders The Cat to kill Alyss and Hatter.  Alyss and Hatter barely escape to “our” world through the pool of tears.  The problem is that Alyss ends up in London and Hatter ends up in Paris.  Hatter then spends the next 13 years trying to find Alyss, and finally discovers where she is after Carroll’s book is published.

During this 13 years Alyss is at first taken in by some street urchins, where her power of imagination is used to beg for money, but the powers are fading the longer she is away from Wonderland.  She is caught by authorities and sent to an orphanage where she is constantly made fun of because of her imagination.  She is then adopted by the Liddles where she meets Reverend Dodgson and he publishes her stories.  Because he changes the stories Alyss refuses to ever see him again.  Alyss also renounces her imagination and chooses to become “normal.”

Hatter finds Alyss but is chased down by authorities  because when he finds her she is engaged to be married to Prince Leopold and Hatter is loaded down with weapons and seems a threat to the Prince.  When he arrives back in Wonderland he is shot and cannot return but Dodge Anders, now grown up volunteers to retrieve Alyss so she can battle Redd and restore Wonderland.

While still maintaining a resemblance to the original story Beddor creates a fun adventure with imagination and thrills.  The reader, Gerard Doyle, does a superb job acting out this book giving each character their own voice and through some fun audio tricks creates some special effects for a few of the characters and events.   Definitely a must read for any Wonderland fan.

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