Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book Review: The Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Summary:

Not every fairytale has a happy ending.
This is the story of a princess who became a villain.
***
A Father’s Betrayal. A Kingdom with a Black Secret. A Princess Slowly Unraveling.

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 Dinahs 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.

NOTE: I received the eARC via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

The prologue almost had me regretting starting to read this novel. Yet, I'm happy I gave it a chance. It lead me to explore a story, never told from this POV before. Reading about the vulnerable girl Dinah, the expectations placed on her, the treatment she got from her selfish father, shone a different light on the famous Queen of Hearts that Alice came to meet.
This is the beginning of a transformation that will inevitably lead to the phrase “Off with their heads!”

Writing style:
Clean, disturbingly enticing. At times it brought chills on my skin.

Story line:
I was slightly confused by the prologue – it was cruel and didn't fit this part of the story. I also think that it sort of gave things away. But I understood the kind of setting it gave so the reader could expect what was to come. After the prologue, the events developed one after the other in a sequence that made me eager to turn the pages.

Themes:
- parental neglect and what it could lead to
- how a threat to one's life could overturn a kingdom
- family and friends are important
- a good, kind heart doesn't really guarantee a good fortune

Characters:
In the beginning I thought that Dinah was just a spoiled brat. She certainly acted like one. Whatever she wanted she got. All except for her father's approval. Then I saw the fire in her personality, how unyielding she was of what was good and right and I knew she'd grow to be one fierce woman. To be honest, I really liked how well she was developed and how she grew in this novel. I almost hate to see her become the heartless Queen of Hearts that I know from Alice in Wonderland. Still though, with the way her fortune turned out, it'd be either that or death.

Dinah's father was a ruthless, selfish person. A king who had little self-esteem, he preferred to rule his subjects via means of instilled fear instead of legitimate means. I was unsure as to why he'd wish death on his children... I mean, one day he's sure to die, so who's to succeed him if he were to kill both Charles and Dinah is unclear to me. However, that seems to be a trend in stupid rulers in fiction and reality so who am I to question the ruthless behavior of this one character? He played his part well, and to me, that's all that matters.

Weaverly was a young man solely devoted to Dinah, even with risk to his own life. He was her best friend and even though she had romantic feelings for him, I'm not quite sure he shared them. What I do know about this knave of hearts is that he was loyal to his princess and in the end, that's what truly mattered.

Dinah's half-sister wasn't someone I even cared to remember the name of. Yet she plays an important role. She's weak, she's threatened and she has no friend or ally. That's why the awful king controls her every breath and she can do nothing about it. I did feel a bit sad that Dinah didn't spare the girl a single glance, but the circumstances didn't allow it. Still, the girl was nice and tame and very, very afraid.

In conclusion:
I believe this is a great prequel to Alice of Wonderland. Of course we can't be sure if it's anything close to what Lewis Carrol had in mind, but still. It's a good story and I recommend you read it if your book tastes are towards the dark kind of YA fantasy.

My rating is: