Recommended for ages 12+
Dinah is princess of Wonderland, set to rule by her father’s side once she turns 18. Her awful, cruel father; the father from whom she seeks approval, finding only anger and distance. She’s thrown into a whirlwind of castle intrigue when her father introduces the kingdom to his long-lost daughter – a bastard child from another woman – a daughter he treats like the daughter he always wanted. Whispers worm their way through the kingdom, and Dinah needs answers, needs to stay one step ahead of her father and his cunning counselor, Cheshire, or she risks more than ascending the crown. It’s time Dinah learned about the very dark secrets that permeate Wonderland.
For years, the Queen of Hearts has been the villain of Wonderland. Think of the Queen, and what’s the first phrase that comes to mind? “OFF WITH HER HEAD!” From Disney’s cartoon villainess to Helena Bonham Carter’s giant-headed monarch in the Tim Burton films, The Queen of Hearts is not a woman to toy with.
That’s the beauty of flipped or fractured fairy tales, though: it’s all up for tinkering. Here, we’ve got the villains and the good guys flipped, and some characters we’re just not sure about. This is the first novel in a planned series by Colleen Oakes, and much of it is exposition and worldbuilding. We get a lot of Dinah’s point of view; her feelings; her digging into goings-on when you peel back the skin of Wonderland. Her father is a pretty one-dimensional bad guy, but I’m interested in Dinah: is she going to end up on the throne as the Queen of Hearts that we all know and love to hate? Is the rot that’s seemingly eating away at Wonderland eventually going to turn her into a villainess? Or will the Queen finally get her happy ending, even if a few heads have to roll to get there?
There’s a lot of build-up and machinations set into motion in this first novel, but Ms. Oakes caught my interest. I want to see where this goes, because at heart, I’m a sucker for a good fairy tale. Booktalk this with your other fairy tale collections: your Marissa Meyers books, the Dorothy Must Die series, Betsy Schow’s Spelled, Sarah Cross’ Beau Rivage books – this is a trend that’s still going strong. Collections with flipped YA fairy tales should add this one.
Colleen Oakes is the author of the Wendy Darling series. Her author website offers more information about her books, plus news and events.