“It was easy to accept the presence of magic in the world, and that animals could talk if you knew how to listen to them… It was easy to accept the pleasant and nice things, but monsters, especially ones from children’s stories, were somehow more difficult to grasp.”
Red Queen was another beautiful novel in Christina Henry’s The Chronicles of Alice Series. While it lacked in severity of dark and twisted elements, unlike the first instalment Alice¸ there were still plenty of sinister forces at work to create a truly ominous atmosphere.
Picking up where Alice ended, our two protagonists return in the sequel as they embark on a journey to find and rescue a person from Hatcher’s past. Along the way, they encounter a dreary forest that is tainted with evil magic and terrifying creatures, all under the sovereignty of the malevolent Red Queen.
The gorgeous writing is one of the main aspects of the book that I relished. Henry has a way with expressing the most haunting images and emotions with utmost simplicity. While it felt like an “easy” read, there was nothing here that didn’t make me uncomfortable in one way or another. Stories that can make my physically uncomfortable, yet keep me intellectually engaged are some of my favourite kinds of stories.
If writing isn’t something that you focus on too much, then how about character growth? In book one, we learn of Alice’s tragic and traumatic history that almost drives her insane. As she pulls herself out of her past to walk towards a future, there is plenty of emotional and psychological baggage within her mind to hold her down in fear. Like most stories with “damaged” heroines, I was expecting her to turn to a male saviour to find meaning for her survival. I was wonderfully incorrect with that expectation. Alice conquers her own fears—especially the darkest of them all—to find her will to live, to give her existence meaning outside of Hatcher and away from her abuse. This series has created a disturbingly brilliant female protagonist who is a fighter; a woman who doesn’t let her abuse, or mental illnesses, define her role.
My only quibble with Red Queen is the background of our said titled villain. Where Alice was refreshingly and daringly different, this novel falls into a bit of a cliché with our Queen’s motives. I won’t go into detail as to what those motives (or backstories) are to avoid spoilers, but in my heart, I feel that a completely different foundation for the Queen’s reign would have been a lot more complimentary to the universe that Henry had originally placed us in. There is this build-up of anticipation for something incredibly frightful, or far worse than the happenings of Alice, yet the result fell so short that I became a bit saddened.
Regardless of that one foible, I still recommend this title (this duology, actually) to anyone who loves a damn well-written piece of literature. This fantasy retelling is adult in nature, grim, captivating, and poignantly unforgettable.
4 goblins out of 5.