Monday, January 2, 2017

QUEEN OF HEARTS BY COLLEEN OAKES - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

Happy New Year! I am so excited to share my very first read of 2017, Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes. 


I think it's no secret that I love a good retelling. While I don't have much experience with them, they are always such fun to read. This Alice in Wonderland retelling was no exception!
This book inspired by the classic follows Dinah, Princess of Wonderland and future Queen of Hearts. After her mother died, she is set to rule with her father on her eighteen birthday. He will stay king until she marries, at which point he will step down and allow her husband kingship. While the story is set in Wonderland, there are a few differences from this story to the original.

Dinah's father, the King of Hearts is a ruthless leader who despises Dinah and her brother, Charles. Charles was born mad, and the only thing that has soothed him since the death of his mother was making hats for the kingdom (thus, the Mad Hatter). Dinah's tutor is Harris, a portly, white-haired man concerned with timeliness, and the various levels of guards and officials are called Cards, Heart Cards guard the palace, Spade Cards are reformed criminals who survived the tortures of the prison system. Within the first chapter, we are introduced to Dinah's half-sister, the king's illegitimate child, a girl named Vittore who has beautiful blue eyes and golden hair, vaguely reminiscent of an Alice figure. And of course, the king's trusted advisor, Chesire.

The story pretty much just follows Dinah and her various life events in the months leading up to her coronation. Her father is seeming less and less likely to give up his crown and Dinah struggles to accept her new sister.

I would have to say, plot-wise, this book isn't super strong. But I didn't think that really took away from the story. I was enchanted by the day-to-day and magical atmosphere Oakes creates. I could see how some individuals find this story a bit lacking, but I thought it was fun and light-hearted. I am also reading this on the heels of a massive high fantasy novel, so I welcomed the simpler storyline with open arms.

I will say that Dinah's father was really intriguing to me. This past year I have read a lot of stories about villains and how they've come to be who they are, and I think the level of anger and just downright resentment he had for his daughter was really well done. I hope we get a bit more information on his past as to why he is the way he is, as I'm sure Dinah will have some things to say to him.

In terms of retellings, I thought Oakes did a great job. She included all the beloved characters of the classic, and I really enjoyed the spin she gave on them, especially Charles, the Mad Hatter. I think in terms of AIW retellings, it was lukewarm. I didn't really see a lot of development of Dinah, who is the main character - especially into the hardened tyrant she is in the original. There were glimpses, but I think things could have gone a little further. I think if you are looking for a decent retelling, this is a good one, but if you want a more gripping and developed retelling of the classic story, you should check out something along the lines of Heartless by Marissa Meyer.

Even with the flaws of this book, I still very much enjoyed it. It was a quick read and the ending left me ready for book two. I don't know if it's too much of a cliffhanger, I think we can pretty much assume what will happen.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book as a fun twist on the classic, but not necessarily for its plot. Either way, I really enjoyed it and cannot wait to pick up the next book.