It’s Book Review Wednesday again, and boy do I have a treat for you. Today we’re looking at a book like you’ve never read before…
In the Land of Wonder, the ruler is known as the Red Queen of Hearts, as she does not have a Heart of her own and must instead consume those of her subjects in order to feel. But the power the Hearts provide her begins to fade. Her advisor, an almost-cat named Chess, counsels her to find the Heart of a Hunter. Desperate for sustenance and haunted by dreams, the Queen agrees.
When the Hunter is found, she discovers he, too, is incomplete, and appoints him her Knave of Hearts. He serves her faithfully, searching to find the Queen’s true Heart. But her dreams continue to plague her, sapping her strength. It is only when she confronts them that she learns the truth and discovers exactly where her Heart has gone.
My Review: 4 Stars
I’m not going to lie, this was an odd one–but in a good way!
The book started out GREAT, but the setup made it sound more like a vampire story than anything else. You immediately sense the people’s fear of the Red Queen, but then that fades away once you get to know the queen.
It’s like a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland, with a touch of the Pied Piper of Hamelin mixed in. The story is quite good, particularly the ending. I don’t want to spoil it, but I found it to be a far better ending than I expected.
That being said, there are a few issues with the book. Nearly every sentence has a proper noun that shouldn’t be there. Things like The Pipe, The Law, The Binding, The Heart, etc. are all made a big deal, and it actually made it hard to read.
There was no real sense of the place, nothing to engage the senses. There was no sights, sounds, tastes, smells, or feelings. You kind of get a general idea of what the world is like, but the story is missing out on something to keep you grounded and interested in the story. It was a bit too ethereal for my tastes–I like stories I can sink my teeth into. By the end I understood that the book was supposed to be like that, but it was a bit hard to read throughout thanks to that.
Here’s a Taste
Chess gestured to the guards, who pulled the large doors apart. The Queen and Knave stepped forward to the threshold while Chess announced them.
“Presenting his Excellency the Hunter, Royal Knave of Hearts, accompanied by her Royal Majesty, First of Her Line, Bearer of the Powers of Blood, the Red Queen of Hearts!”
At the long table located directly in front of the doors, the Royal Guests came to their feet or hooves or paws and bowed low as the Queen and Knave approached. When the Queen reached the table, She gestured to the empty place on Her left, which was reserved for the Knave. As he took his place, She spoke to the waiting throng.
“Thank you All for coming to my very first Grand Ball. It has been a long time since we celebrated anything in the Land, but I believe it is time to begin a new tradition. In the meantime, I would like to thank my Special Royal Guest, the Angry Hatter, for his attendance.”
She nodded at the Hatter, who was seated on Her right. He nodded back, his brows drawn together in his habitual scowl.
“Now, let the Feast begin.”
At Her words, the assembly sat back down while the Cook entered with a large tray, immediately followed by a dozen guards holding trays of their own. They spread out around the long table and placed their burdens down – creamy crab and cheese bisque, sprinkled with sugared cactus. The Cook herself placed her tray at the head of the table where the Queen sat. Chess, who had an appointed seat but preferred to float about as he willed, reacted with delight.
“I do so love sugared cactus!”
With that, the Guests dug in while course after course was presented: wild turkey braised in eggplant sauce, garlic washed whitefish, creamed mushrooms, roasted peppers stuffed with potatoes – the list was endless. The Guests proceeded with abandon, eating merrily and snatching amazed glances at the Queen, whose perfect countenance glowed. She sat with perfect composure, drinking pear wine sparingly and talking to the Knave and Chess when he deigned to appear near to them.
On the Queen’s right, the Angry Hatter sat talking animatedly to the White Hare, his voice pompous with self-importance.
“Well, naturally, one must not ever be late. To trifle with Time is to be caught in-Between! And when you’re Between, you’re not quite Here nor There nor Then!”
He started cackling, hands shaking as he took a sip of tea.
Curious to hear more, the Queen turned Her head and addressed him.
“Then tell us, Hatter, what you know of Time.”
Immediately, all other conversations at the table stopped as everyone looked expectantly at the Angry Hatter. Pleased with the attention, the Hatter cleared his throat, pushed out his chair, and climbed upon the table.
“As you all know, Time is the Enemy. It passes, making our tea cold!”
He stomped his foot in outrage, the boot clicking sharply against the table’s glassy surface, rattling plates and glasses down the entire length of the table.
“Time Changes! Sometimes It slows, sometimes It runs, but never does It stand still.”
He punctuated his last word with another stomp, followed by more clattering dishes. But no one moved, entranced as they were by his performance.
“But oh! When you protest! When you stand atop a grassy hill waving your hat and cold tea, then Time notices! It laughs at your defiance. It takes and takes, leaving you absolutely no Time to wash between the Now and Then!”
His voice suddenly quieted to a whisper.
“But I’ve perfected my song, so perhaps Time will let me free at last.”
The Hatter took a great deep breath before opening his mouth wide and beginning to sing – quite out of tune.
“Twinkle twinkle little tree
Come and take a sip with me
Up above dear Chess flies
Like a Turtle when it cries
Twinkle twinkle little Hare
Throw the Doormouse off the Chair!”
The Hatter took another breath, ready to begin the next verse, when the Doormouse woke on the last line and sat up quite indignantly.
“If you ca’n’t be civil-”
“I deny everything!” blurted the March Rabbit.
The Hatter’s face abruptly turned red in outrage, but instead of yelling, he deflated completely, as if he couldn’t quite remember what he had been singing about. He slumped back onto his seat, grumbling to himself.
“Always in a twinkling. Can someone tell me, why is a desk’s raven like a writing?”
At that, Chess rolled his eyes completely into his head and flopped backwards onto his chair.
Once again, at the Queen’s calm voice, everyone present fell silent.
“Yes, great Queen?”
“You were speaking of Time.”
As if Her words revived him, the Hatter sprang back onto the table.
“Ah, yes, Time! I have a verse for that, too:
Twinkle twinkle little clock
Shaking, stirring, bang! Tick-tock!
Up above the Hands that Swing
Like a Griffin when it sings-”
As the Hatter continued his song, a warm breeze flew through the Great Hall, bringing scents of honey and lavender and laurel and laughing crowds. The setting sun broke through the clouds, lighting the Hall in tones of gold and ochre. Around the table, various Royal Guests stood up in surprise. The orchestra, hidden in one corner, took that as their cue to begin a rousing number. As people and animals swept onto the dance floor, a grinning smile and pair of golden eyes appeared over the gathering – Chess was well-pleased with his work.
The Angry Hatter spluttered, upset that his concert had been interrupted. A guard came by with a fresh pot of tea and dropped it before the gesticulating man. Placated, the Hatter grabbed the March Rabbit in one hand and a cup in the other before wading into the crowd to join in the dancing.
At the head of the table, the Queen sat next to the Knave, gazing wonderingly as the False Spring around Her bloomed. She was almost able to ignore the blank Nothing in her chest. Spring had come, and however False it was, for the moment, the Queen was nearly content.
About the Author
C. M. Bratton writes novels, novellas, short stories, and scripts for film and stage. These stories represent a mix of fantasy, science-fiction, suspense, magic realism, psychological thriller, and yes – comedy! C.M currently has eight books published and one comic. She also was a co-writer on the film, “Sanitarium,” starring Malcolm McDowell, Lou Diamond Phillips, & Robert Englund, which has also been turned into a comic book series of the same name.
In addition, C.M. is a trained performer, with B.A.s in Theatre Arts & Spanish from Yale University, & an M.A. in Drama from TWU. She performs/records all of her audiobooks. Keep updated at www.cmbratton.com with links to upcoming books, blogs, projects, & events. C.M. loves all feedback and/or story suggestions!
Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/C.-M.-Bratton/e/B00MCVGU8Q/
Visit her website: www.cmbratton.com
Connect with her via Facebook: www.facebook.com/writercmbratton
Tweet at her: @writercmbratton
Check our her blog, “Left of Write”: britekurl.blogspot.com