“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”
This riddle, in its lack of an answer and its nonsensical madness, epitomizes Wonderland, a whimsical and colorful place where nothing makes sense and all the inhabitants are crazy. Alice visited Wonderland at 7 years old and met the white rabbit, the mad hatter, the Cheshire cat and an entire cast of other characters, who led her through a magical journey beyond anything even her colorful imagination could ever dream up.
When she returned home after her foray into Wonderland, Alice was immediately institutionalized, deemed “mad”, and put on medication that would “help her discern between fantasy and reality”. 10 years after her visit, Alice has just come to the realization that Wonderland was simply a figment of her imagination when she is visited once again by the perpetually late white rabbit. When she is again pushed down the rabbit hole, what she finds on the other side is nothing like the world she remembers. In fact, it appears that there’s no longer any “wonder” in Wonderland. Wonderland, now under the rule of the Ace of Spades, has turned into a dismal world devoid of imagination; each of its inhabitants and elements systematically having their wonder removed in an effort to make Wonderland resemble Alice’s world.
In order to restore Wonderland to its former nonsensical glory, Alice must travel beyond Wonderland and team up with a cast of characters formerly thought to only reside in fairy tales. With them in tow, she has to form an army to stop the Ace of Spades once and for all. Her first direction on her quest? Find the second star to the right and follow it straight on til morning!
I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for a good fairy-tale, so the recent boom in their re-tellings has been especially thrilling for me. The fairy tale industry has blossomed in several arenas lately. From Once Upon A Time, to the Lunar Chronicles, to the video below, fairy tales are being retold and reformed in a million different ways.
While each of these is fabulous in its own right, what made Alice Takes Back Wonderland unique is that it doesn’t add so many elements that it makes the original story unrecognizable within its retelling. Alice Takes Back Wonderland maintains the integrity of the stories we grew up with, know, and love.
I loved the fact that in expanding upon Alice’s story, David Hammond introduced a menagerie of characters we’ve come to recognize from Disney, Hans Christen Anderson, The Brothers Grimm, and even ancient mythology. Not only does he reintroduce us to these former heroes of our childhood, but he tells a story in which each of these character’s lives is intertwined with that of the others. Although not a complete departure, the storybook characters Alice meets when she endeavors to take back Wonderland do differ slightly from those we’ve grown up with. While he is introducing new content to these stories, and certainly shining characters such as Robin Hood in a light in which we may not have previously seen them, Mr. Hammons does so in a way that doesn’t retract from, but rather adds to, the classic fairy tale quality and feel of the stories.
At first, as anyone likely would be, I was slightly thrown off by the changes. However, the reasoning for it was awesome. It was so awesome, in fact, that as the story went on, the character and plot differences only added to the fairy-tale quality and therefore my love for the overall book. You see, fairy tales, while presented in our world in books, pictures and cartoons, are simply echoes. They echo another world altogether that as we age, we forget exists, idealize, and convince ourselves is just a figment of our own imagination.
Speaking of differences, can we talk for a second about setting? David Hammons brings us back to Wonderland and Neverland; both of which we are familiar with and could practically draw from memory, but in the course of the story, he also introduces us to the land of Grimm. As you can imagine, this is where many of the other tales we are familiar with take place. Given that we have little cohesive context of what this magical place looks or feels like, Mr. Hammons did a fabulous job of showing us. While going into too much detail would spoil it for future readers, I will say this: Imagine that a unicorn was playing MineCraft. What would that look like? Ladies and gentlemen, there you have it….the land of Grimm. It was all colors, and crystals, and imaginative architecture…in a word, it was beautiful. It was everything one would imagine Grimm to be and more.
While this novel isn’t at all similar to anything I’ve read of late, or even comparable to any of the other novels that I’ve given to full five stars to, from the beautiful cover, to eye-catching chapter transitions, and of course the gorgeously woven story in between, it was exquisite. I read in the author’s biography that C.S. Lewis is a personal hero of his, and I think he’s done Mr. Lewis proud in the writing of this wonderful book.