Arch Enemy Review – The Final Battle For Wonderland Has Begun.

ArchEnemy (The Looking Glass Wars, #3)

 

 

Hey readers,

 

So, I’ve finally finished the third book! Took a lot longer than I thought and once again I’m feeling like I didn’t actually enjoy it all that much. Though it hardly remind me of the first book, I just wasn’t caught up enough in the story to get really into reading it. It seems predictable in parts too and there’s not many twists. I knew how things were going to work out, but I felt that the journey getting there wasn’t exciting enough. It’s still a typical good vs evil plot and the out come stays true to this. However, I’d have liked a little more….I don’t know imagination? Though that seems rather ironic since this book is all about saving imagination!

 

For me the second book was my favorite, because I got into the story a lot more and it felt better written then the first. The third isn’t badly written, it just seems lacking and in places seems more screenplay like the novel like. I guess it really isn’t my kind of book, but I can see why younger readers would be taken by it. The one comparison I can think of making is to Treasure Island. I read this believing it would be more adult then it turned out to be and granted I knew it was a children’s book, but I still believed that there would be a lot more depth to it, but by the time I’d finished it I felt really disappointed. I then picked up Flint and Sliver by John Drake and found it to be just what I was hoping Treasure Island would be. I was hoping that The Looking Glass Wars would be an adult version of Alice, but this is far for the case.

 

I don’t dislike this trilogy, but for me it just has a few problems and I think the way it’s written is one of its main issues. There’s nothing wrong with the characters and even in the third book they are well developed and continue to grow as they learn things. They also have key roles to play, which helps to move the plot along. I still also like the connect with Earth that the plot makes. We once again get the Liddell family and Lewis Carroll appearing and its nice to this consistence with characters. The introduction of new characters gives it a fresh edge and adds some more helping hands to the war efforts. I guess some more depth into the characters would have been nice, but I know how hard it is to do this when there are so many of them.

 

In my last two reviews, I don’t think I really talked about Beddor’s use of sound effects. These often appear throughout the book and echo the sounds you would hear if you were witnessing the item in action. Though these are really thoughtful and do add something to the visuals on the page, I did feel they were a bit childish and probably more comic book suited. They were over-used and I got a bored with seeing them. Normal sound description works fine within most books and for most readers and I just felt that in some places the sound effects weren’t needed.

 

My other problem with Arch Enemy is the fighting scenes. I got a little bored of the fighting towards the end. I guess the constant repetitive action scenes weigh the plot down too much and though this is mixed in with other events happening, the chopping back and forth left me feeling a bit dizzy. When I think about the Drizzt books and how they deal with fighting scenes, I can see the difference straight away. It feels a lot more choreographed and the writer is very knowledgeable about how his character would use his weapons in battle. I just didn’t get the same feeling out of Arch. The writing of these scenes didn’t feel rushed, but for me a lot more could have gone into them. As the final battle was reaching it’s end, I didn’t get much satisfaction out of characters completing missions they had set themselves. However, I did like the idea that Dodge felt no sense of close at the death of The Cat, who he’d been trying to kill to get vengeance for the murder of his father.

 

The obstacles that Alyss faces are good. She is fighting two enemies now and must decided what’s best for Wonderland. She does think like a queen throughout, beside from one point, where she drops everything to go and rescue the Liddells’. She is then trapped on Earth because Arch has had the Pool Of Tears drained and the water evaporated. Lucky, Molly is there and able to create another portal which allows them back. I thought Molly could have been more used, but since she needs the time to get over the events of the second book, its understandable why Beddor didn’t use her more. Once again, I’d have liked to see more of the relationship between Alyss and Dodge, though they do get to gather at the end. In some parts you can see where Beddor has tried to fit this in, but I felt that a lot more could have been made out of it. More detail about their feelings and the struggle for them to be in love when there was so much else going on, could have added another layer to the story.

 

One thing I’ve found that I did really like about the trilogy was the art work used on the books. I was drawn to the images because they looked different and interesting. My copy of the third book is in hardback and on the pages dividing the book into pages are art works of Wonderland scenes. It reflected the art used in Alice. I don’t know if the hardback versions of 1 and 2 did this as well, because the paperbacks didn’t.

 

The ending works well, though I think I did want a little more out of it, but the characters have learned what they have to do and are able to complete their tasks. Beddor also seems to have issues killing off characters and I don’t like how he handled this, because it felt like characters who should be dead escaped it. I guessed also what would happened to the caterpillars- well anyone who’s read Alice will also know it.- It did feel like a nicely rounded off ending, but maybe it would have suited a more open ended one?

 

Overall, I found Arch Enemy a struggle to get through. It just didn’t grip me and it just lacked in the key areas of writing and adventure. For the last book in a trilogy, it feels pretty flat and predictable. The trilogy over all isn’t that bad and some parts I did find interesting and readable, but I just got bored of the repetitive fighting scenes, lack of real development in Alyss’s and Dodge’s relationship and the jagged jumping between characters. I would tell people to read this and come up with their own conclusion about it, though I would tell them that its not a re-telling of Alice or an adult version of the story.

 

Seeing Redd Review – ‘The Evil Redd Heart Has Returned.’

 

 

Hey readers,

 

I’ve fallen a little behind with things again and I’m still struggling to write and get my mind back in gear. Writing on here does help some what and its a good way to pass time. Especially when time feels really stretched out and boredom is your constant companion. I thought since I still had Seeing Redd sat on my old TV stand, that I’d write my review up before I gave it back. If you’ve not read my review of the first book which is below this post, then you might want to do that. I don’t plan to compare things in great detail, but this is the second book of the trilogy and it does pick up from the ending of the first one. This also means that I won’t be looking at the characters or the setting in as much detail as I covered them last time. Seems like its going to be a short post then!

 

The book opens with a prologue about Redd wondering through her Looking Glass Maze and finding her sceptre which gives her access to her full powers. Redd wants to take back Wonderland and get rid of Alyss- her niece for good- and now it seems she is able to do just that. That part happens later in the book and we actually open with Alyss, Bibwit and Homburg Molly exploring the re-built Heart Place. Alyss is having a hard time getting use to being a Queen and spends sometime wishing she was back on earth or else she was a child again. But as much as the responsibilities of being queen get to her, she deals with them all really well. It makes her a much stronger character in in this book. The fear of Redd attacking again has Wonderland on the alert, but they face a new enemy this time around in the form of King Arch, who rules over one of the neighbouring countries. Arch tries to make everyone believe that Redd is actually back and he does get away with it until she actually appears.

 

At the end of the first book Redd and the Cat escape to earth and we get some chapters showing what she’s up too. This keeps a similarity  to the first book and we also get the Lewis Carrol character again! So, that was a nice touch. Redd is gathering members of a new army, so she can go back and try to win the throne again. There’s an handful of new characters here, including an old friend of Bibwit, who is tells Redd about her own looking glass maze. This is mostly sub-plot though and I’m hoping that the real battle will take place in the 3rd book. Less time is spent with these characters because the focus is mostly on Alyss counting Arch.

 

There is also more relationship development between Alyss and Dodge, but for me this just gets lost almost the main plot. I’d like to see more happening with them, but I guess there wasn’t enough time or space for that. I know its not a romance novel, but some love does move things along and everyone can easily connect with it. There is also another relationship here between Hatter and Weaver, which I thought worked at well and give another side to Hatter. The twist about Molly being their daughter is no great surprise, but it was fun to see the characters reactions to the news.

 

Molly developments a lot and becomes one of the main characters. She is used by Arch to blow up the travel system and also made to go against the queen as she blames herself for what happens. So, instead of spending most of the book by Alyss side being her bodyguard, Molly is capture by Arch and spend most of her time thinking about what she’s done, questioning her nature and abilities and then meeting the parents who abandoned her. She helps fight for her freedom towards the end and is able to escape. I really like Molly and she is possibly my favourite character.

 

I enjoyed this book much more then the first one because I felt it was better written. The narrative structure was a lot tighter and snapper. The pace was also faster and I got into the story quickly. There is less of the Carroll-isms too and the tone of the vocabulary becomes much more of Beddor’s own. Which does suit the narrative a lot better. The language also feels more adult aimed, though it still has a teenage age group. That helps to improve the quality as well. Also I found that the plot gets freer of making references to the actual Alice In Wonderland, and that helps it a lot to become a story in its own right. The fantasy, action/adventure genre is still present, but I found it less awing and nothing really new is added to the settings. The fighting scenes are still really good and we get to see much more of Alyss using her powers too.

 

I’ve got high hopes for the next one and I’d like to write about it so that I can have all three together. This means it might be another month before I write a new post. But since I’ve been reading books in-between each of them, I’ve lots more writing to be getting on with, though I’ll try and not publish everything all at once!

 

Image from: www.booktopia.com.au

 

The Looking Glass Wars Review – The True Story Of Alice In Wonderland

 

 

 

Hey readers,

 

With April still feeling like February, I thought I’d spend more time curled up reading, then enjoying the Spring time air. My boyfriend lent me this, believing I’d like it and strangely enough I’d read Alice In Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking Glass last month. I’d been meaning to write about them too, but I’ve fallen behind with posting up reviews, but they’ll be written soon enough. I’d heard of The Looking Glass Wars before and been interested in them then. However, it’s only now that I’ve got my hands on a copy and read it!

 

This is actually the first book in a trilogy and I do want to read the other two to see how Frank Beddor continues the story. Actually, as a person this author is pretty interesting, as he is a producer, an actor and a freestyle skier. He was inspired to write by a pack of playing cards he saw in the Museum Of London. He explains about this in the ‘forward’ to the novel and how he was actually told this story by a card dealer. Also that the true story of Wonderland ‘involves bloodshed, murder, revenge and war.’1 So, yeah, a very different story to Lewis Carrol’s then. 

 

To be honest, when I first started reading this, I found it hard to get into. Part of the reason might have been that I did have the Alice In Wonderland characters and plot in my head. I’d so recommend that you forget everything you’ve ever known about Carrol’s stories before you start reading this. The Looking Glass Wars is not a re-telling of the classic story, more it uses Alice in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass as a loose base for the main characters and the setting. Saying that, I was wondering that if this book didn’t have the Alice connection, would it have been published and been able to have achieved the readership it has? 


Standing alone as a fantasy story, this novel does seem to work. The set up and introduction of Wonderland and characters is very clear. (You don’t need to have read Carrol’s stories either or even be aware of them! Which is a good sign of any novel using another as its base) The story has taken on its own life driven by the goals of the characters and it’s very easy to become lost in the world of Wonderland. So, there is a lot more going for this novel then just the Alice connection. 

 

The other reason why I struggled to get into it, has to do with the way the narrative is written. Granted, most of the novels I read are aimed at adults, with the vocabulary to suit and unless I’m looking back on classics from my childhood, I don’t really pick up children or teenage literature. (Maybe, I should start to though as there are good stories aimed at the under 16’s out there). I thought from reading the forward, that this novel would be aimed at an only adult audience, but it’s actually aimed at teenagers whilst including adults. This really does show in the way it’s written because, there is a simplified feel to the tone of the vocabulary. The other problem I had with this is the Carrol-isms that appear. I understand that Beddor wanted to connect with Carrol’s writing. It does work because of the setting and it is the narrative voice’s language. However, in places I didn’t think it was necessary and it stalled the flow of the narrative because it wasn’t a constant feature in the vocabulary. Prepares, that’s just how I feel about it and other people didn’t have a problem with it.

 

That happens to be my only criticism about this novel, because the rest is great. The story is about Alice Liddell telling Rev. Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carrol) about her true identity as Princess Alyss Heart Of Wonderland. Even though she has told this story to countless others, they’ve not believed her and dismissed her words as make believe. In Dodgson she is led to understand that she has found a believer at last, however and as the prologue tells us, this isn’t the case and Dodgson has written her story completely differently. We then get Alyss’ story, which leads into the plot of the novel. Alyss is celebrating her birthday, which gets interrupted by an attack from her Aunt Redd. Alyss escapes, but ends up in the Pool of Tears portal and arrives in 1800’s England. From there she tries to get back to Wonderland, but as time passes she starts to believe that she made it all up. However, she does make it back to Wonderland with the help of her friends, but it’s no longer the place she left behind. Under her evil aunt everything has changed and Alyss must fight to claim back her Queendom.

 

At the heart of the novel is the traditional good vs evil theme and this is the main plot. The good side is The White Imagination and the evil side is The Black Imagination. Sub plots and other themes help to make this novel stand out. One of the sub-plots is having a self-believe in the power of your imagination. This is the key to Alyss succeeding her goals in the novel and she is often questioning this power. The theme loyalty is an underlying presence throughout, because Alyss’ followers try to stay true to her and keep the belief in White Imagination. War is a strong theme in the novel, because it grips Wonderland hard and brings a lot of unrest. Family and friends is an important theme, because most of the characters loss family and friends during the first half of the book and then forge new ones in the second half.

 

I really enjoyed the story because it was a mix of reality and fantasy. Like Alyss, I was left question what was real and what wasn’t. The narrative is split between Alyss and her friends points of views. This means that when Alyss returns to Wonderland, the reader already knows what has happened and this makes the switch back more easy. The narrative also has a good pace to it and I really liked the fighting scenes, which do appear often and are well written. There is also enough detailed description for elements to be pictured easily, but it still allows use of your imagination. I also found some lines very quotable and they stuck in my head, such as this one;

 

‘It’s unconscious. To will something into being, the willing of it must be so deep down that no self-doubt is possible. The imaginative power itself must be given, a thing already proven that cannot be disbelieved.’2  

 

The characters are very different, if not completely, from Carrol’s story. Alyss does start off as a seven year old girl and she then grows into a young woman throughout the book. She is a strong willed character, who wants to do the right thing and stand up for her beliefs. She works well as the heroine, because she has to discover her true identity and embrace it. That’s something readers can connect with. I hope in the next book she does a little more fighting, as I would have liked to have seen her doing that more then taking a back seat or being rescued from it.

 

Though Carrol hardly appears, I feel that his character was spot on. For some reason, I can just imagine him actually being like that and it was nice for Beddor to deeper the connections too. In a way Carrol is actually the reader of the novel, because Alyss is the narrative voice which tells him the story. It also shows the nature of writers and how they change and adopt things to suit their needs!

 

Dodge is Alyss friend and also love interest. I liked his character because after the major turning point in the story, he dramatic changes and this feels very realist. He becomes fixated on revenge and very little else. It might show that he is one track minded, but for the nature of his character this works. He’s also more stable then Alyss as he trusts in himself to reach his goals, whilst she is often doubting her abilities.

 

The Mad Hatter has always been my favourite character and then tea party scene is my favourite part of the book. Beddor has given the Mad Hatter and the March Hare very important roles as the Hatter is in charge of royal security as it were and the Hare is Alyss’ tutor and explain-er for the readers. Hatter reminds me of a steampunk styled character has he is full of hidden weapons. Hare does come off a bit boring, but his role as a tutor suits this. These characters are good supporting ones and help to move the plot along.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed The Looking Glass Wars as it wasn’t what I expected. It felt like a refreshing read, even though in some ways it was re-telling the good vs evil story. The plot of the story is really good and it does allow readers to question the power of their imaginations. The characters are well written and I enjoyed their development. I’m so looking forward to reading the next two!

 

 

 

Quotes from:

 

1. Beddor Frank, The Looking Glass Wars (London, Egmont Books, 2005) pg. 0

2. As Above. pg. 274

 

 

Image from;

http://bookmonkeyscribbles.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/the-looking-glass-wars-by-frank-beddor/

 

Websites:

http://frankbeddor.com/

http://www.lookingglasswars.com/home.html