A Change of Heart

New Alice in Wonderland-inspired trilogy more than just a novelty

Photo courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Photo courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

By Desmond Kamas

“Q

ueen of Hearts,” the first book in a new trilogy by Colleen Oakes, is a new twist on “Alice in Wonderland.” It follows Dinah, the Princess of Hearts and heir to the Wonderland throne, as her perfect world is revealed to be ruled by conspiracy and fear. Although Dinah may be no Alice, the original cast reappears in interesting ways: The Cheshire Cat is Cheshire, the king’s shady adviser. The white rabbit becomes Harris, Dinah’s bumbling personal assistant. Each new interpretation from the original “Wonderland” theme adds constant delight to even some of the more menial parts.

Dinah herself is a strong character who refuses to be placed into categories. Her father, the King of Hearts, represents stereotypical masculinity – he eats and drinks excessively, rages constantly and rules under a blanket of fear. Dinah’s step sister, Vittoire, is the paragon of feminine expectations. She is petite, perfect and delicate, stealing the hearts of the men in the court.

Dinah, however, finds her place in between the two. She dresses more practically, but not without fashion, and learns sword-fighting and survival techniques alongside soldiers. When she is caught by an intruder to her chambers, she deftly escapes and pulls a sword on the offender.

Oakes’s characterization of Dinah feels real. Dinah isn’t a Mary Sue – she has flaws. She acts irrationally at times, especially toward her stepsister, and faces the largely avoidable consequences much to the frustration of the reader.

Dinah’s romantic interest, a stable boy, isn’t the fantastical stereotype either. Although he acts as the expected emotional supporter to Dinah, the romance itself is more natural. It progresses not in a sweeping, cliché flow, but in ragged steps. Dinah’s uncertainty and blind hope is more relatable, as readers can tell her perception is flawed, while she navigates the strange gray area between friends and lovers.

Unfortunately, the book ends on a cliff-hanger, as might be expected in a modern young adult-targeted trilogy, and may be the strongest point against the book. The ending felt unnatural, but it certainly would not stop me from reading the next book.

“Queen of Hearts” is an amazing read. While the “Wonderland” inspiration does not lead to expected storylines, it is a great supporting theme. The story is constantly intriguing, and rarely feels drab or contrived. Readers can wait eagerly for the next installment in a “wonderful” new series.

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