Book: Ever Alice
Author: HJ Ramsay
Published By: Red Rogue Press
Expected Publication: 1st August
Bechdel Test: PASS-Rosamund & Bess have a conversation which doesn’t revolve around men in Chapter 4.
I received this book from Red Rogue Press, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
As always thank you to Red Rogue Press and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book.
I honestly requested this book on a whim, the author being a debut that I had heard very little about, I just liked the idea of a retelling of Alice in Wonderland focusing on what happened after Wonderland, it sounded like a creative concept and worth a try. I did enjoy parts of it, but I felt like it wasn’t as well executed as it could have been and it took me much longer to get through than a book of this length really should have. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
Alice’s stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows—it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she’s willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block.
I’m not really sure quite where to start with this review, because this was a very strange book, as you would expect from a book about Wonderland. As I said at the top, I liked the concept, I think the idea of following Alice after Wonderland is a good one, but I don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been. For one thing, the pacing was all over the place, it started off with short, one or two page chapters and then later on in the book the chapters were much longer, it felt very uneven. Time skipped ahead quite often, months at a time passed which was hard to follow.
Alice as a protagonist I also had mixed feelings on. I liked that she was a younger protagonist, 15 rather than 16 or 17 because I feel like YA so often skews towards the upper end of the teenage spectrum, and ignores the 13, 14, 15 year olds, so it was nice to see that. But I felt like she lacked agency, she wasn’t driving the story, the story was just happening around her and if she hadn’t been there, then I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference.
Rosamund, also, as the Queen of Hearts felt incredibly flat. She didn’t feel like a three dimensional villian, she felt like a caricature and there was little insight into her motivations. She could have had potential, and I liked the idea of her being haunted by the heads of those that she’d had executed, but she just wasn’t fleshed out enough. The same was true for pretty much all the characters in this book for me, I didn’t feel like I knew any of them by the end of the book. I liked how she genderswapped Tweedledum and Tweedledee though. I found the inclusion of the Marilyn Monroe character quite jarring though, considering that Alice is from a Victorian world, it felt somewhat anachronistic.
The plot weirdly felt both slow paced and like too much was going on? It’s hard to explain, but basically, there were a lot of subplots, Alice is trying to kill the Queen, the Mad Hatter might be a traitor, one of the Queen’s maids dies, there’s so much going on and yet none of it is focused on enough to really gain attention, which meant I was never really engaged by what was going on. I also felt it was kind of monotonous, even when exciting things were happening, the narration felt somewhat detached.
I did think the author captured Wonderland’s whimsy well, though the Wonderland-esque phrases, using opposites, got on my nerves at times. Still, there were lots of little weird details I liked, like putting butter in tea, playing croquet with hedgehogs, etc. It could definitely have been much better described though, I’m not a very visual reader so I don’t really picture things in my head anyway, but even I could have used some better indicators of what Wonderland looked like!
There were certain issues I had with the writing of the book as well. The book is obviously trying to use British English, but it tries to hard with the overuse of words like Mum and there are occasional instances of American slang slipping in. I found the chapter titles hard to follow, each one in Wonderland was in a different “flower” year and they are italicised which made them difficult to read. Generally, the writing was okay and added to the whimsical feel but it did have jarring moments and there were quite a few uncorrected proof errors, though I’m sure those will be fixed in the published version.
I didn’t really get the inclusion of the romance, if it can even be called that, it was more of a crush really. It’s hinted that Alice has a crush on the Queen of Hearts’ son and that he likewise likes her, but it never really goes anywhere and I found it kind of pointless really.
There are some content warnings for this book, for mental illness (unspecified), fat shaming, and mentions of lobotomy.
The ending was somewhat anticlimactic, and incredibly confusing. The author attempts at a plot twist, but I felt somewhat betrayed by it because a) mental illness should NOT be used as a plot twist and b) it just felt jarring and didn’t really fit with the rest of the story. I think the author spent so much time on the buildup that she rushed the ending which was a real shame.
Overall, this Alice in Wonderland sequel had so much potential, but with underdeveloped characters, a confused and slow paced plot and an anti-climactic ending, it definitely under-delivered on all that it promised and I don’t think I’ll be reading another book from this author.
My Rating: 3/5
My next review will be of The Priory of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon.