Red Queen

August 16, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

queenRed Queen by Christina Henry

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Alice was a lightweight book I read last year that used the Alice in Wonderland world to great effect as a backdrop on a dark urban fantasy about magic, magicians, and a gritty, uncomfortable city. I say “lightweight” because it wasn’t heavy on plot, though it had a strong effect on me. Where Henry took her ideas was a much darker place than I would have expected, which is saying a lot, considering I went into it with visions of American McGee’s Alice in my head. The story was strong on imagery and atmosphere, and when I found out the book was the first in a series, I started looking forward to the sequel.

Red Queen is that sequel. The story takes us outside of the city where Alice took place, a setting she and Hatcher, her companion, expected to be lush and green. Instead, they find a world of ash, where everything they expected to find has been burned, including some of the women they helped free from the evil magicians in the previous book. Still on the search for Jenny, Hatcher’s daughter, they continue east, where they soon find themselves in the realm of the White Queen. What they find there is no less dark or disturbing than what they found in Alice.

Alice took its horror in the form of violence toward women, using some of the more frivolous characters from the original mythology as the instigators. The Walrus, the Caterpillar, and the Rabbit were turned on their heads, and Henry does the same with Red Queen, swapping the personalities of the White and Red Queens. She also turns her focus of horror to children, who are being kidnapped to serve the White Queen.

Like the previous book, the plot of Red Queen is simple, with the author focusing more on the language, setting, and atmosphere to carry the story. Henry gives the reader a recap of the previous story without making it an explicit recap; she wraps the summary up in the narrative of the book, bringing back relevant bits of the previous story where they work best in the current one. It’s well done, and I found it useful since I didn’t remember all of the details from Alice.

Red Queen is on par with Alice, and anyone who liked the first will like the second. Plus, both stories stand alone as well as they do as individual books. I’m eager to see how Henry will conclude this series.

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